NOT SCRIPTURE BAPTISM
Abridged and Edited by
Note: To the disappointment of many, my editing and abridgement of this work
with be extensive. Originally, this is nearly a 400 page book; a length which
few could endure to read on the internet. Secondly, the footnotes are, to say
the least, extensive and excessive. They refer to many sources in which most
people today would not have access too. Most of these will be omitted, for they
consist of nearly a quarter of the book. Those that need references will have to
refer to the original if they wish to document these resources. Thirdly, the
language used is somewhat dated and archaic. It is a book published in
This was without a doubt a thorough and academic work of immense research in its day. My abridgement is not a judgment of the value of this work as a whole, but a reflection of what modern day readers will tolerate, and what the internet age would see as an acceptable length for an online book.
Perhaps the best and most unique part of this book is how Mr. Thorn exposes the tactics and misdirection of the Immersionists of his day. Bold claims are made for immersion, but in every case it is shown to be bold propaganda and ignorance at best, or slick deception at its worst. In many cases an argument is made for immersion and is claimed to be triumphant, yet when equal evidence of the same value is shown, it is dismissed as being an inadequate argument.
On a positive note, this massive work on the subject does a very good job showing the arguments and methods of the Immersionists. Ironically, it is just as relevant today as the day in which it was written! Anyone who has listened or read the debate around the subject has seen these arguments, all of which are revealed to be applied in a predictable, one-sided way; or are proven to be nothing more than the wind of confident dogma!
Take a look and see if you have
not heard these very same arguments! Have you fallen for such dogma and flawed logic as
the true Scriptural means of defining baptism?
SHALL STATE, EXAMINE, AND CONFUTE THE ARGUMENTS OF THE BAPTISTS IN SUPPORT OF
THEIR EXCLUSIVE SYSTEM OF IMMERSION BAPTISM
arguments may be arranged in the following order:—
natural conclusions of common readers.
history of the Christian church.
The meaning of the Greek verb “baptize.”
The import of four Greek prepositions.
circumstances of the first N. T. baptisms.
Several allusions to this scripture rite.
The immutable nature of scripture precedents.
arrangement, it is presumed, will do perfect justice to the cause of our
opponents, as it embraces a summary of all the arguments adduced in defense of
their scheme. A few observations, however, must precede the more immediate
consideration of them.
render many of our future observation and pertinent, it will be requisite to
bear in mind my opponents deny in toto
the validity of affusion and aspersion baptism—whether
administered to infants or adults— and, consequently, pronounce every
denomination of Christians, besides themselves, un-baptized. The ultimate
aim of all their publications on this topic is the establishment of this
proposition. Pedobaptists, in general, have conceded the validity of dipping,
either as one species of baptism, or as an
admissible substitute for the primitive practice; at the same time contending,
that pouring or sprinkling, was an Apostolic method; or is now perfectly
consonant with the will of the Institutor. We believe, however, and shall
attempt to prove, that modern immersion is no
Christian baptism at all, and that pouring or
sprinkling is exclusively right. A frequent recurrence to this statement will
aid you in understanding and applying the ensuing remarks.
II. Our esteemed
brethren, would fain make us believe that their practice is supported by
positive precepts and the plainest examples. This, however, we deny; and contend
that it is upheld only by conjecture and supposition—and defended only by
vague statements and illegitimate deductions. It is represented to the world, by
its panegyrists, as beauteous in form, and invulnerable to the boldest attacks;
while, in truth, it charms but few, and when touched by the wand of
demonstration, crumbles into dust. 'I do not ' remember,' says Mr. Elliot, in
his ' Dipping not Baptizing,' ' it is any where said that the person
baptized was covered ' with water, or put under it; and, had this been the case,
' I hardly think the scripture would have been entirely silent ' about it, but
in some place or other it would have been expressly
mentioned; especially if it be a circumstance of such
' importance as some persons suppose and contend for.' The whole system of immersion
rests on perhaps and possibility; and, should we
be able to adduce a much higher degree of probability against them, their cause,
in the estimation of all candid judges, must be lost. For, as an opposing writer
justly remarks, 'if in favor of a proposition, not within the ' limits of the
strict sciences, a person should adduce a high probability, he would be thought
to establish his conclusion.’
In defending their mode, our opponents incessantly evade the principle of
fair argumentation; and constantly support their notions of baptism
by a species of reasoning inapplicable to every similar investigation.
They pronounce, with unqualified assurance, the divine right of dipping; and
behind the impregnable battlements of an unyielding positivity, are proof
against every assault of rational investigation and indubitable facts. In other
ceremonial matters, positive institutions are modeled or omitted to suit their
country and age; but, in this, one iota must not be abated from their fancied
form of apostolic order, though decency and health implore it with melting
supplications. We feel no need of this inconsistent and ever-shifting method to
maintain our cause. Fair, candid, and straight-forward interpretation of
scripture, is all we desire—is all our system demands.
The particular ground on which the more intelligent of our brethren erect their
dipping hypothesis, is altogether contracted and sandy. The supposed primary
meaning of a Greek generic verb, and of four Greek variable prepositions, are
the chief, if not entire, basis of their system; as they repeatedly assert, and
as will be hereafter verified.
say the primary meaning, for
they admit that the terms in question, are applied to other actions besides
immersing. We say the supposed
primary meaning; for they have not proved that the act of dipping is an
inherent, original, and essential property of the words in dispute—as will
also be established in our future observations. Now, we contend that these
abstract terms can never settle the question. They tolerate both an application
of the element to the object, and of the object to the element—admit of either
dipping or sprinkling—but confine the rite to neither. The apostolic practice
can only be gathered from circumstances, antecedent, collateral, and immediately
following. This view of the case, we purpose not to overlook in any part of the
discussion; believing it the only one which is truly legitimate, or properly
calculated to bring this long litigated topic to a fair and amicable issue.
will also be found that Baptists, especially in conversation, take a very
contracted and partial view of the scripture testimonies respecting this topic.
They collect a few isolated texts apparently in their favor, and dwell upon them
continually—at the same time passing over, either purposely or ignorantly, a
hundred others which form a part of the evidence to be examined by the candid
enquirer. John's baptizing in Jordan and Enon—our Lord's coming up out of
the water after baptism—Philip and the Eunuch
going down into the water and coming up out of it—Paul's expression, ' buried
with him by baptism into death,' and the
like—are repeatedly adduced with all the exultation of a most signal triumph.
But they forget to tell us how John baptized in the wilderness where Christ took
up his abode— or how he performed the ceremony in the open air on vast
multitudes of men and women, so as to consult decency and health—or how the
three thousand were baptized in the city of Jerusalem in
the afternoon of the day of Pentecost—or how we are baptized by the Holy
Ghost—or how sprinkling under the law became designated baptism—or
how baptism symbolizes
with the crucifixion of Christ, &c. Let them look at the subject in all its
parts and bearings, and then argue—but not before.
It is sometimes, indeed, amusing, though mortifying, to debate with many of our
opponents—for, say what you will, they are sure to be always victorious. If
you adduce analogical illustrations, they pronounce them far-fetched and
irrelative—if you contemplate the subject in detail, and pursue its various
ramifications, they call it a childish splitting of hairs, and unworthy of so
grand a theme—if you puzzle them by the production of facts and demonstrations
they assure you that the plainest evidence may be perplexed and mystified by a
subtle and disingenuous disputant—if you prove, that it was not likely that a
system, so liable to affect the modesty and health of many pious people, should
have been instituted by Christ, as a constant and universal sacrament in the
church, they redden, and declare you are ridiculing a ceremony of divine
appointment, and. therefore ought not to be reasoned with any longer—if they
feel at a loss for reason or argument to establish any position in favor of
their scheme, founded on some particular passage, recourse is immediately had to
what we very naturally deem the erroneous expositions of certain Pedobaptists,
whose opinions are of no greater weight in our judgment than their own—and if,
perchance, they are for a moment foiled in debate, they arise with renewed
vigor, encouraging themselves in the delightful thought, that greater men and
wiser heads maintain, and, they doubt not, can defend, their practice.—But, we
must hasten to investigate the first particular mentioned in our arrangement,
NATURAL CONCLUSIONS OF COMMON READERS
is a common and favorite topic with our respected opponents, that the mode of baptism
should be understood in the sense in which plain readers of the New
Testament regard it—and that the scriptures would be sadly defective in
amplitude and simplicity, if such persons could not, by this means alone, arrive
at a correct and satisfactory conclusion about it. 'The round-about
logic-labor,' says Mr. Booth, 'which the ploughman has to perform, if he would '
not pin his faith on the sleeve of the learned, is incredible. 'On this plan of
proceeding, a plain unlettered man, with ' the New Testament only in his hands,
though sincerely ' desirous of learning from his Lord what baptism
is, and ' to whom it belongs, is not furnished with sufficient documents
to form a conclusion. No. He must study the ' records of Moses, and well
understand the covenant made with Abraham. He must study the antiquated rite of
' circumcision. He must know to whom it belonged, and ' the reasons why. Then he
must compare it with baptism ' in this, that, and
the other particular—after which, he must ' draw a genuine inference,
respecting the point in hand, ' &c.'
This notion is constantly reiterated by
the disciples of this sagacious instructor. 'Read, say our reverend brethren,
to their flattering ears, read only the New Testament, and then decide for
yourselves. You need no exposition of men on this subject.' You are as competent
judges of its nature as the most learned and laborious researchers into the holy
oracles. In this way multitudes have been convinced that we are exclusively
right. Many of them have thus become Baptists even against their will. We must,
however, examine this position.
This assertion of our opponent's makes nothing for their cause, but induces a
result quite the reverse. It is plain beyond dispute, that if the judgment of
the populous is formed by simply reading the New Testament in the vernacular
tongue, their position is untenable; since a vast majority of common readers
decides against their practice, by adopting a contrary one—nor is it fair to
charge them with acting inconsistently with their creed, till unquestionable
evidence of the fact be produced. If they are previously biased in favor of
either system, as most of them undoubtedly are, it becomes very difficult,
perhaps impossible, justly to say how they would have determined, if left
entirely to themselves. Had all plain people, without being prejudiced either
way, pronounced immersion baptism only agreeable
to the word of God, there might have been some plea for the assertion; but, as
the case now stands, there is certainly none. The truth is, that by merely
reading the scriptures alone, one cannot come to a settled judgment in this or
similar matters. They are first catechized by their private instructors, into
the meaning of the word baptize, and then, attaching the communicated notion to
the term, believe and act accordingly. May it not be asked, whether it arises
solely from a simple and unbiased perusal of the scriptures, that the hearers of
Baptist ministers, and the children of Baptist members,
almost wholly and exclusively become Baptists? If they are not prejudiced by the
expository lectures of their respective teachers, how does this phenomenon
happen in the religious world? Of what value, then, is all this parade about the
natural conclusions of common readers in favor of dipping? Nor is one at a loss
to account for the prevalence of our opponent's principles and practice among
those who, though really intelligent and pious, exclusively attend their
ministry, or read only their publications on this subject— much less are we
surprised that those “common folk” that only read their pamphlets, only hear
their declamations, and often witness the important position of those that
undergo the ceremony—should long to be equally religious, equally submissive,
and equally signalized among their neighbors. If we were to see an opposite
result, we would see this as far more mysterious and unfathomable. From such a
positive and reiterated statement of how they prove this doctrine, thousands are
fully convinced that immersion is
proper, but by the same standard should be convinced that the heresies of Islam
and Roman Popery are equally correct: this is what is proven by the logic of
their approach to arriving at “truth.”
must be a stranger to the church and the world, who is not fully convinced, that
the generality of people read their Bibles with the spectacles of their teacher,
and understand them in the sense which his sagacity or ignorance dictates.
It is manifest to the weakest capacity, that the conclusions of common English
readers are founded entirely on the terms and phrases adopted by the translators
of the sacred writings. This sentiment is, in fact, conceded even by the
last-cited author. 'Let but the word baptismos be fairly translated into
plain English, [namely, to ' immerse,] as the other words of the sacred statute
are; and the most illiterate person,
if he can read his own language, may find both the qualifications for baptism,
and the proper mode of administration, expressly contained in the law
Now, on this principle, if in one country
the original word baptizo is rendered to dip, in another to pour, and in
a third to sprinkle, the plain illiterate ploughmen of those respective places
would conclude accordingly, and dip, pour, or sprinkle, in conformity to the
letter of their different Bibles. In like manner, if the prepositions, we shall
subsequently investigate, in connection with the baptism of
Christ and the Eunuch, were taken to and from the water, instead of into and out
of the water, as they fairly might be—would they not conclude, that the
baptized probably never went into the element at all to receive this rite? The
translators of the authorized English version of our Bible were evidently biased
in favor of immersion through their long
association with the Romish church—' the ancient practice of which,' Messrs.
Birt and Dore tell us,' was to dip,’ or, in consequence of their veneration
for the fathers of the third and fourth centuries, in whose time immersion,
with various other unscriptural rites of baptism, was
practiced in many cases as, at least, a prefatory part of the ceremony; and they
consequently gave the verb and prepositions the sense which accorded with, what
we presume to designate, their mistaken sentiments. Of similar perversions, our
opponents loudly complain in other notorious instances, ‘To those who would
object to an examination of the original language of scripture for illustrating
the subject before us, we would reply, in the language of Dr. Pye Smith—' It
would seem superfluous to 'express a caution against arguing from any
translation of the scriptures as if it were the original; but, it must be
confessed, that not only unlearned Christians, but some men 'of respectable
education, have fallen into this egregious ' error? '—It will be
rendered apparent, that the most generally appropriate translation of the word
baptize, as religiously employed in the New Testament, is to sanctify,
consecrate, purify, initiate, or some other term of an equally indefinite sense.
Supposing, then, the verb had been thus rendered, in the narratives of scripture-baptism,
would the illiterate ploughman, in that case, arrive at the invariable
conclusion, that it means always and only to dip or immerse the whole body ?
Certainly not—especially if the prepositions were translated in harmony with
such a general import of the verb. Hence it is evident, that the opinions of the
illiterate depend on the words employed by the learned; and this argument in
favor of dipping amounts to nothing.
If the decision of common readers be correct in one instance, why not in all things
in Scripture? Who is able to arbitrate all the doctrines of God precisely within
the range of their unaided comprehension? And if every thing in theology be
really so plain to the judgment of the ploughman and mechanic, as to render
their decisions a criterion of biblical truth, on what pretence of necessity or
advantage are all their lectures on divinity, or commentaries on the scriptures,
or of what utility are all their volumes and pamphlets so industriously
circulated on the baptismal controversy, or why do they support colleges and
educate men to explain the Messiah’s Gospel? On the ground that the word of
God is so very plain to the lower classes of our countrymen, all this
bookmaking, academic tuition, and oral instruction, go for nothing—in fact,
they do mischief—for as the learned and ignorant mostly see things in a
different light, on the presumption that the latter are good judges, the former
must be bad ones. The truth is that ignorance places a person in a state of
mental dependence on the knowledge and integrity of his intelligent
fellow-creatures. As one of our opponents judiciously remarks, 'an illiterate
man determines on the matter from the testimony of others, whom, 'by his
condition, he is obliged to trust.'
And if this be the case in the present day, how much more must it have been in
former and feudal times, when a Bible would have cost the poor man the entire
proceeds of fifteen years' labors —when barons and bishops could not, with few
exceptions, write their names"—and when an ability to read, as late as in
the sixteenth century, conferred on the greatest culprits pardon, or, in law
phraseology, the benefit of clergy' But even
admitting the mental competency of the poor for eliciting the mind of the Spirit
with unerring precision, it must be conceded, that the time usually and
necessarily consumed in providing for their temporal wants, and the tiredness of
mind generally induced by their physical labors, almost entirely prevent their
solving the difficulties found in the scriptures; among which, that involving
the mode of baptism, is certainly not the least.
It should be further remarked, that this capability of comprehending the
scriptural mode of baptism, is not confined by our
antagonists to persons of certain specific attainments in knowledge.
Any illiterate person, who can read the New Testament,
or, which amounts to the same thing, who has ears to hear another read it, is
perfectly qualified to form an unerring conclusion. Apparently piety is not
requisite. An individual, seriously desirous of knowing the primitive practice,
whatever his motives are, is, with the New Testament in his hand, a competent
umpire in this controversy. Hence the poor illiterate Pedobaptist is every way
as good a judge in this cause as Mr. Booth, or any of his colleagues or
successors, however great their literary attainments, or deep their piety toward
While every thing really fundamental in faith and morals may be easily gathered
from revelation by pious, intelligent, and attentive readers in common life, the
modes, customs, and ceremonies, to which constant allusion is made in the Old
and New Testaments, must be matters of doubt, and frequently of inexplicable
difficulty, to such persons. The Greek or Jew, who lived in the times and places
in which the scriptures were composed, understood the references to rites and
manners daily practiced before his eyes, much more easily than the abstract
doctrines of inspiration. But plain, uneducated Englishmen, whose climate and
customs are widely different from those of the east two or three thousand years
ago, can comprehend the doctrines best. Indeed, without the assistance derived
from early or contemporary writings, and the later researches of the
enterprising and observant traveler—even ministers themselves must remain
exceedingly ignorant of many expressions found in the holy oracles. Nor are our
opponents backward in availing themselves of such auxiliaries, and that to the
greatest extent, of which Dr. Gill's Exposition of the Bible affords us
remarkable and splendid illustrations. Hence Taylor's ' Fragments to Calmet's
Dictionary,' Harmer's ' Observations on Various Passages of Scripture,' and
Burder's ' Oriental Customs,' shed more light over many obscure portions of
inspiration, respecting ancient rites and ceremonies, than all the erudite
conjectures of every schoolman in Europe. How absurd, therefore, is it to talk
of the untutored ploughman construing the difficulties of the sacred volume with
all the unerring judgment of infallibility.
To reply, as some of our respected opponents have done. That this obscurity of
scripture, respecting the definitive forms of positive institutions, would, if
true, greatly impeach the wisdom and benevolence of its author—is an objection
void of the smallest weight, and made only amidst the desperate perplexities of
an untenable, though darling, position. That there are inexplicable difficulties
to illiterate minds, palpable facts have placed beyond the possibility of
rational debate. And those who would presumptuously arraign the wisdom and
benevolence of God, for not making his word otherwise, must contend with heaven,
and marshal their notions against the knowledge of the Omnipotent. They might as
justly reason, that Jehovah ought to have imparted human skill and information
alike to every youth without parental or other tuition—or, that the superior
bounties' of providence should have been afforded equally to mankind, though
thousands exert greater energies of mind and body than others, to secure them.
How would the objector have rebuked the Son of God for speaking in parables,
that his audience,' seeing, might not perceive, and ' hearing, might not
understand the mysteries of the kingdom!' (mark
4:11, 12.) Has not the Savior established a gospel ministry for
instructing the ignorant—and afforded them minds capable of being thus
educated in the revealed will of their Maker? And has he not thereby perfectly
justified his procedure against the charge of wanting wisdom and benevolence in
denying the idle and ignorant every advantage afforded to the industrious and
cultivated portions of his rational creatures?
When our opponents condemn as extraneous and improper any reference to human
authorities, for elucidating the import of the Greek word baptize, or to the
customs of the country in which the scriptures were written, for attesting the
analogy of our proceedings with the intention of the sacred writers!—they
display a very considerable degree of ignorance, or destitution of candor. They
must know, one would suppose, that this is the only method by which, under
certain provisions to be hereafter mentioned, all ancient and foreign writers
can be fairly understood— and this is a principle adopted by all the
compositors of lexicons designed to explain the New Testament. The slightest
inspection of the valuable works of Parkhurst, Schleusner, and others, will
evince the truth of our observation. They also involve in their censure some of
the most eminent and holy men of their own denomination, "who have adopted
this plan in hope of supporting their interest. Even these very objectors
eagerly refer to writers Heathen or Christian, Popish or Protestant, whenever
they discover the least plausible hint or argument in maintenance of their
sentiments. A fair and rational investigation of the subject, is all we require,
and the use of those legitimate means in our defense which our esteemed brethren
employ in theirs, and in conducting and determining all similar enquiries. To
deny us these, betrays a feeling which they can best explain. In fact, as one of
their recent writers observes, 'every competent and impartial judge will admit,
that the ' true signification of a Greek word must be determined by 'its current
use among Greek authors, especially when that ' use of the word is supported by
the universal consent of ' the most distinguished scholiasts and
There are some of our opponents who even object to any reference to the Old
Testament, for illustrating the topic under discussion. They would make us
believe, that Christianity is totally different from Judaism, and forms a new
and distinct religion in the world, and that to go back to the ancient
dispensations, in order to understand a Christian rite, is unnecessary,
presumptuous, and ridiculous— and yet our reverend brethren, who are truly
ministers of the gospel, frequently select texts from Moses and the prophets,
and preach the gospel from them. They often refer to those writings to explain
or confirm the sayings of Christ and his apostles—and laboriously investigate
the Old Testament for the sake of enforcing the New. They, in fact, as
frequently direct our attention to the institutions of the Old Testament, in
supporting their views of baptism, as do the
Pedobaptists themselves. Mr. Booth, whose sentiments on this head have been
previously cited, stands foremost in adducing this species of referential
argumentation. Such allusions are proper and requisite. For how is the epistle
to the Hebrews to be understood without any knowledge of the Levitical economy?
And how many other portions of the New Covenant are inexplicable without a
reference to the prophecies of the old? Did the apostles never explain their
rites, doctrines, and duties, by an appeal to the Scriptures of truth, before
any part of the gospels or epistles were written? In 1 Cor.
5: 7, 8, the apostle says, ' Purge out ' therefore, the old
leaven, that ye may be a new lump— 'therefore let us keep the feast—not with
old leaven, neither ' with the leaven of malice and wickedness—but with the '
unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.' ' Who,' says a learned author,' can
adequately understand this reference 'unless he has some acquaintance with the
pains taken by the Jews to cleanse their houses from leaven! And how '
many things are there in Christianity, on which a plain 'unlettered man needs
almost perpetual assistance! And, if it be an allowed practice in other matters,
with what propriety could Mr. Dore assume, as in the place before quoted, that,
'in this case we have nothing to do with the Old 'Testament—as baptism
is an ordinance, not of Moses, but of Christ.' Are our Baptist friends
afraid of the light which the law and the prophets shed over this Christian
ceremony? If not, why make that objection?
But, as the position we are combating, strikes at the root of all ministerial
expository labors, it may be proper to enquire whether the illiterate ploughman
would be the person selected by our opponents to lecture on the Song of
Solomon—to unfold the mysteries of the Apocalypse—to establish the
fulfillment of ancient prophecy—or to explain the numerous metaphorical
expressions of the sacred writings. To reply, that the doctrine of baptism
is of simpler solution, is also begging the question. Besides, the
instructions of the pulpit are enforced by the strongest commands and the
clearest examples in the word of God. When Christ gave his final commission to
the apostles, he bade them teach all nations. (matt.
he arose from the dead, he expounded the scriptures to his disciples in
their way to Emmaus. (luke
24:27.) Paul went into the synagogue at Thessalonica, and reasoned
with the audience out of the scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ
must needs have suffered. (acts
17:3,4.) In the same manner he instructed
his hearers, in his own hired house at
HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Baptist brethren assure us, that the plainest and most ample evidence is
derivable from ecclesiastical history that dipping was the universal mode of
administering baptism in ancient times. A
triumphant reference is made to the Greek church, in which trine immersion
is practiced; and to the rubric of the Church of England, which enjoins
dipping as well as sprinkling. The validity of these allusions we shall now
proceed to examine.
We would enquire, if our opponents are agreed among themselves, or have formed
individual opinions, respecting the precise manner in which this rite was
performed in the primitive churches, immediately succeeding the apostolic era?
Let them answer, if they can, the following questions: —Were the people dipped
only, or also sprinkled ?—Were they naked or dressed?—Was single or trine immersion
practiced?—Was the ceremony administered in natural reservoirs of water
or in artificial baptisteries?—If in fonts, how were they constructed?—Who
officiated on the occasion—an ordained minister or acting deacons?—Let them
also say, whether in the first two or three centuries after the apostolic age,
the mode of baptism was the same at all times and
in all places?—If not, which portion of Christendom preserved incorrupt the
original institution?—And on what age of the period in question do they fix,
as affording the purest model for the imitation of the present generation?—
Before historical evidence can be pleaded with any degree of propriety, it is
but fair to inform us, what history is meant, and what it teaches. This being
settled, and, of course, conceded by us as indubitable truth, it is requisite
that those who maintain their cause from the example of the ancient churches,
should establish a precise conformity to the model they adduce—else their
decisions must be vague and arbitrary. But the difficulty of this kind of
argument will be seen from a remark of Augustine, who lived in the fourth
century. He says,' that, in his time, ceremonies were grown ' to such a number,
that the estate of Christian people was in a worse case, concerning
this matter, than were the Jews; ' and he counseled that such yoke and burden
should be ' taken away.' It is further evident, if Mosheim's observation be
correct. He tells us that' there was such a variety 'in the ritual of the
primitive churches, as to render it very difficult to give such an account of
the worship, manner, ' and institutions of the ancient Christians, as will agree
with ' what was practiced in all those countries where the gospel ' flourished.'
Add to these testimonies that of Mr. Gibbs, who says, 'we know that the spirit
which, in very early times, introduced innovation and will-worship, is
gratifying to the depraved principles of human nature; and from this course has
arisen that mass of error which has beclouded the moral hemisphere of
But, to prove that our opponents are as much at variance with the ecclesiastical
modes of baptism, as with apostolic precedents, we
will refer to a few particulars mentioned by Mr. Robinson, their own apologist
and historian. He tells us,' there were no baptisteries within the churches
'till the sixth century'—when erected without, they were ' generally dedicated
to St. John the Baptist—They were 'octagon buildings with cupola roofs,
resembling the dome 'of a cathedral, adjacent to the church, but no part of it.
'All the middle part of this building was one large hall,' capable of containing
a great multitude of people.—The 'sides were parted off, and divided into
rooms, and, in some, ' rooms were added outside, in the fashion of cloisters. In
'the middle of the great hall was an octagon bath, which, 'strictly speaking,
was the baptistery, and from which the ' whole building was denominated.—In
Tertullian's time, 'the candidates for baptism made
a profession of faith twice,' —once in the church, before the congregation,
and then 'again when they came to the water.’—The primitive Christians
were baptized naked!—or had only something wrapped round the middle—were
rubbed all over with oil, and 'turned their face towards the east.'—The men
were baptized apart from the women.—The Greek church baptized by trine immersion,
or three dippings—and, after 'the immersion, water
was poured on the head.—There 'were catechists to instruct the catechumens
previous to 'baptism, and deaconesses to assist in
baptizing females." '—The water was blessed and exorcised, and the
candidates abstained from certain kinds of food forty days previously.—They
also baptized children.—In the Romish church, the boys were placed on
the right hand of the 'presbyter and the girls on the left. In the
administration, 'there were crossings, prayers, burning of incense, singings,
blessings, torches at midnight, exorcisms, and exorcised 'salt was given to the
children.'—The administrator, if a 'pontiff, wore wax or oil-skin drawers and
a surplice, and, 'if a deacon, he took off his
shoes.'—Much more might be cited of a similar character—but this is enough
to maintain our position. Where now, we ask, is the conformity between the
practice of the ancients and that of our opponents ? Where shall we find such
baptisteries as those just mentioned? Where shall we hear the double confession
of faith common in the time of Tertullian? Who among our brethren are baptized
naked? Where is trine immersion practiced? When
are children baptized by our opponents? When do they exorcise the water and
dress in wax or oilskin drawers?—To reply that, though all these things were
mere circumstances and the superstitious devices of the age, yet that dipping
was scriptural and apostolic, is a mere subterfuge and begging the
question—for why might not that be a mere circumstance as much as pouring, or
the confessions, or driving the evil spirit out of the water, or baptizing
children, or a treble immersion? Let our brethren
establish a perfect agreement between their mode of baptism
and that of the early Christians, subsequent to the first century, and we
will allow them all the advantage they can fairly derive from antiquity. Till
this be done, their reference to the fathers amounts to just nothing at all.
If historical evidence may be considered a correct criterion of the scriptural
mode of baptism, there can be no just reason for
withholding a reliance on its decisions respecting the proper qualifications of
the candidates. Now, will our opponents submit the issue of the controversy,
'about the proper subjects of this rite, to the practice of antiquity? Most
assuredly not! When pressed, or, more correctly oppressed, with the testimonies
of the fathers in favor of infant baptism, they
endeavor to extricate themselves from the difficulty, by assuring us, that they
place no dependence whatever on the practice of the post-apostolic churches. The
following declarations of several of their best writers will demonstrate their
views on this subject: —Mr. Dore—;'What
is not commanded by Christ, or practiced by his apostles, is virtually forbidden
as will-worship; ' and they who introduce or practice it, do not in this
respect, at least, hold the head.'—Dr. Gale—'Though I have a great
respect for the primitive fathers, and all 'learned men, yet their loose
expositions and misapplications of scripture, are not to be endured.'—' We
should ' have no other rule of faith, or judge of controversies, be'
side the sacred word of God—for, if once we admit of any 'other,
we directly give up our cause, and expose ourselves 'to all the impositions and
inconveniences which are the 'inseparable
attendants of Popery's—'
If Mr. Wall should 'be able to make out his assertion, that the whole church,'
after the apostles' time, did allow of affusion, we may 'nevertheless
think ourselves obliged to understand it as an ancient corruption—for error
should not be privileged by age.' —Dr. Gill—'
We, who are called Anabaptists, are 'Protestants,
and the Bible is our religion, and we reject' all pretended apostolic tradition,
and every thing that 'goes under that name, not
found in the Bible, as the rule 4 of our faith and
practice.—'There never was such a set '
of impure wretches, under the Christian name, so unsound in principle and so bad
in practice, as were in the apostles' days, and in the ages succeeding, called
the purest ages of Christianity."—Dr. Stennett—' We
cannot know anything about the precise nature of positive institutes, their '
true design, the proper subjects of them, or the right mode of their
administration, further than the scriptures teach.' —The primitive fathers
were, it is true, pious men; but ' they were most of them very weak,
injudicious, and credulous—miserable interpreters of scripture, and very ill
informed as to many transactions before their own times.'— Mr. Gibbs—'Can any consistent Dissenter imagine that
the great Founder of Christianity,
who condemned the effects of tradition on the minds of the Jews, in turning them
from the commandments of God, would himself authorize this method of instruction
under the gospel dispensation, and thus prepare the way for the subversion of
his own system?—The nature and consequences of traditional instruction, are
arguments against its having 'originated with any inspired instructor.' —Mr.
J. Stennett —'The pouring of the water only on the head of the person to
be baptized, which Mr. Russen affirms to have been 'the practice of some of the
primitive martyrs, confessors, 'and goodly bishops after the apostles, is no
rule to us, un' less we could be sure these good men were infallible."—
Even Mr. Robinson, the historian, declares, that the fathers are
miserable evidence of the truth of facts, as 'well
as incompetent judges of right.'—On these remarks no comment is
necessary—especially after reading the following extract from the Appendix
to Dr. Gill's Reply, &c.—'Admitting infant baptism to
have existed, not only in the first century after the apostles, but in the time
of the apostles, unless it could be also demonstrated that it was practiced by
the apostles themselves, 'there could be no evidence produced that it was not a
part of the " mystery" of Antichrist, which, even then, had "
began to work," and the influence of which, even in the life-time of the
Apostle John, had been widely diffused.—For our Baptist friends to appeal to
history after this is preposterous—and Mr. Robinson's volume, at this rate, is
only fit for waste-paper!
But, the assertion that antiquity is in favor of dipping, any more than of
sprinkling, is entirely without foundation. The practice of the early ages after
the apostles, as far as hitherto developed, stands in direct opposition to this
dogma. Any one has only to read Robinson's History of Baptism,
and he will presently discover the difficulty the writer labors under,
the shifts and contrivances he is obliged to make, and, as pronounced by
competent authority, the perversions he sometimes displays, in order to present
any thing like a precedent for the practice of his fraternity. In fact, he has
indirectly established our view of the case. For, justly considering carved work
and pictures of baptism, made at the time, the
surest criterion of ancient modes and ceremonies, he has been at considerable
pains and expense to procure engravings of several of them—and, what is very
remarkable, all the sculpture and paintings of the greatest antiquity, represent
the baptized (not as drawn in the frontispiece of his volume—but) as painted
in the enameled window of the Baptist academy, at Bristol, standing up to the
knees or middle in water, while the officiating minister pours a little of the
element on his head. Let any person impartially peruse Walker's Doctrine of
Baptisms," Taylor's Letters to a Baptist Deacon, and, the ninth chapter of
Wall's History—and he will not hesitate to conclude that dipping was not the
only, if ever the ordinary, method adopted by the churches after the first
century. The narratives and monuments of antiquity, render it plain that when
adults were proselytized to Christianity, if they were immersed at all, they
immersed themselves, by walking into the water to a certain depth—after which,
the minister approached, and poured water out of his hand, or some kind of
vessel, on their heads. . This twofold mode is still practiced in the Greek and
Abyssinian churches ''—the first, as a preparatory rite, and the second, as baptism
itself. The former, indicative of putting off the old man, and the
latter, of putting on the new—and answering to the bathing under the law,
where the ceremonially unclean washed himself in or with water, and was
afterwards affused or sprinkled by the priest, and pronounced sanctified. While
we are on this topic, it may not be unimportant to remark, that our opponents
have adopted a mode of baptism diverse from all
other churches under the sun. This, indeed, is admitted by Mr. Foot, in passage
previously cited. In fact, if Mr. Robinson's history can at all be relied on,
and, if the testimony of competent judges may be received, pouring or sprinkling
is a part, if not the whole, of baptism throughout
the churches of Christendom. Even the Syrian churches, and those of St. Thomas,
in Ceylon, and the East Indies, who appear to have lived separate from all other
Christians, have no other fonts for baptism, than
small basins capable of containing about a quart or two of water each.
After a careful examination of what the advocates of immersion
have adduced from primitive history in support of their system, it
appears that they have completely failed in making out a clear and substantial
case. The following facts comprehend the substance of their researches:—
No clear case of immersion is given us from the
Greek and Latin writers, till they mention the immersion of
infants. Consequently, our opponents can derive no historical evidence in
support of immersion, which is not equally
relevant to infant baptism. The citations of Mr.
Joseph Stennett and others, from the works ascribed to Barnabas and Hermas, who
lived in the first century, are not only defective, but totally invalid—as may
be seen by referring to Dr. Mosheim's account of those publications.
advocates of dipping, have given us no authentic proof of immersion
baptism having been adopted till about the close of the second century,
when, as Mr. Gibbs assures us, 'numerous ceremonies,' of human invention, 'had
inundated the church,' till the notion of baptismal regeneration had become
pretty general, when fasting preceded the ordinance, which consisted in trine immersion,
and was accompanied by the use of sponsors, oil, spittle, crossings,
exorcisms, and other rites, since designated Popish. So that our antagonists
have no better authority from primitive history for a single dipping, than for
these superstitious appendages.
They have adduced no Latin work of the second century wherein the word baptize
is rendered, merge, immergo, submergo, demergo, or any other which
unequivocally means to dip, or plunge under water in the ceremony, and as the
act of baptism,—in the passages cited, it being
generally translated by tingo, and sometimes by lavo and abluo.
In their extracts from the Greek authors of this period, we find the
original words and phraseology of scripture employed to express this rite—and,
when others are used, they are so indefinite as to leave the mode quite
Assuming that our opponents have brought forward all the available evidence from
primitive history in favor of their scheme—and that our positions harmonize
with the character of their citations, which we believe to be the fact, it may
be inquired, what tenable argument can they derive in support of immersion
from the post-apostolic generation of believers? To argue, that people
were dipped, after the church of Christ was inundated with human inventions,
after this very sacrament had confessedly lost its original simplicity, and had
become clogged and clouded with numerous superstitious appendages, will go for
nothing with any intelligent person—especially with those who declare that
'they reject all pretended apostolic tradition, and every thing that goes under
that name'—who say ' the loose expositions and misapplications of scripture,
by the fathers, are not to be endured'—and who aver that' they cannot know any
thing about the precise nature of positive institutions, their true design, the
proper ' subjects of them, or the right mode of their administration, 'further
than the scriptures teach.'
Here, perhaps, some man will say, How comes it to pass that so many critics and
commentators have held that immersion was the
primitive mode of baptism—was common in the
post-apostolic ages—and became so prevalent in subsequent periods. That
many great and good men of most denominations have made
this concession, it would be disingenuous to deny—though not to the extent and
in the unqualified manner our opponents would make us believe. To account for
this sentiment, we have only to recur to the early introduction of dipping—the
dark ages in which it originated—the veneration in which the authors of it
were held by their successors—the uncommon stress laid on tradition—and the
credulity of mankind, in considering that divine which has antiquity on its
side. One generation has believed its predecessor; the error became ramified as
the gospel extended, and took a firmer hold on the minds of the people the
longer they cherished it—so that even now many good men believe that to have
been practiced by the apostles, which evidently did not take place till
weak, injudicious, and credulous interpreters of scripture perverted the right
ways of the Lord. Nor is the case of immersion alone
in this predicament. Other notions are equally prevalent in the Christian world,
which had no better origin.— As we remarked before, antiquity equally remote
may be pleaded for baptismal regeneration, three orders of officers in the
church, and various other things, which are deemed unscriptural by our
opponents; though held by as many writers and people as have ever conceded the
apostolic mode of baptism to
have been only dipping.
Though it is said the usual mode of baptism in
after times was by immersion and affusion
conjoined, yet there does not appear to have been any uniformity of operation.
Comparatively, little is said by the fathers on this subject—but still enough
to show that pouring and sprinkling simply, were valid administrations—and,
for aught we know, a mere immersion might have
occasionally been deemed sufficient. Though we lay just as little stress on the
practice of the ancients in this matter, as our opponents do in another branch
of this controversy; yet to meet their assertions, we shall make a few extracts
Our Baptist brethren have toiled a good deal to ascertain when and why
sprinkling was introduced as a substitute for immersion. Several
dates have been fixed on, and various reasons assigned for this perplexing
mutation. The enquiry, however, is founded on the assumption, that dipping was
the original mode; but which ought to have been first satisfactorily
established—a task, though frequently and zealously attempted, has not yet
been accomplished. It is manifest, from all we know of the temper of former
times, and the religious notions of mankind generally, that sprinkling or
pouring was not likely to have been substituted for a total immersion.
The corruptions of those ages consisted in doing things more largely and
ceremoniously than previously instituted among the simple rituals established by
Christ or his like-minded disciples. The least acquaintance with primitive
manners, places this position in the clearest light. The fathers were for doing
things effectually, with all the parade and significant pomp imaginable —and
not for abridging the act or design of any original appointment. With them, as
the early fathers, whom our opponents describe as 'weak, injudicious and
credulous, miserable interpreters of scripture, and incompetent judges of
right,' read of ' being born of water and buried with Christ in baptism,'
they thought it necessary to transform this sacrament into something like
water bringing forth a saint, and a funeral procession with a subsequent
interment, and, to complete the representation, a resurrection to a new and
spiritual life. These 'miserable interpreters of scripture,' like the first
English Baptists, as Mr. Robinson remarks, misunderstood the import of the
texts, and instituted a rite in accordance with their own ignorance. This is one
of the most plausible reasons to be assigned for the augmentation of a ceremony
originally simple and easy. With them, as remarked before, all was enlargement,
ostentatious, and imposing—to abridge or simplify a scripture institution, was
not the order of their day, nor in consonance with their notions.—0r,
probably, they reasoned in the following manner :—' If the Christian purification
be a cleansing, the more general and complete,’ the better—therefore,
a total washing, or even the putting of the subject under water, must be more
complete and 'expressive' than sprinkling, pouring, or shedding it upon the
candidate for this ordinance.—Or, finally, the early Christians, perceiving
that the purifications of the later Jews was, as our opponents contend, by a
total washing or immersion, thought it improper to
be outdone in the extent of their lustrations, and were consequently dipped
themselves —this would be the case with those especially 'who flocked ' to the
church from the polluted embraces of heathenism; and thus dipping continued
during those ages when, and ' because, externals made nearly the whole of
religion; and still continues in the Greek church, there is reason to fear, '
from a similar cause.'
our opponents point out any other ceremony prevalent in the primitive churches,
to which ignorance and superstition did not make many additions—in the
performance of which, there was not a great deal more parade and
ostentation—and to the design of which, they did not ascribe an unscriptural
importance? In this very sacrament, we have the most decided proofs of our
position. Our opponents believe, if their practice speak truth, that only one immersion
was commanded—whereas, in many of the oriental churches—Mr. Robinson
being judge—there were three, with a subsequent pouring. There was, also, the
addition of oil, exorcism, consecrating the water, particular vestments, and so
forth, almost without end. We have, therefore, no hesitation in saying, that
dipping was prefixed to affusion or substituted for it 'in the second and third centuries, when a flood of superstitious ceremonies,' then deemed
improvements,' inundated the church; and that aspersion was revived in the
western world with the restoration of knowledge and the reformation of religion.
Our brethren will establish the contrary, if it be practicable.
The great stress laid on the immersions of the Greek church, seems to be
founded on the erroneous supposition, that this extensive communion is composed
entirely of the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Greece, using
precisely the same language which was current at Athens two thousand years
ago.—' What,' says Mr. Pearce, 'seems most incontestably to prove, that, to
baptize, means to dip, is the practice of the Greek church, whose members,
reading the New Testament in the original and their maternal tongue, must
certainly be better qualified to judge concerning the meaning of a term, than
foreigners; and they have uniformly, from the apostles' times to this day, practiced
baptism by immersion.' This
plausible evidence is mere assumption in the first place, and contrary to fact
in the second. To say that the Greek church has practiced immersion,
and immersion only, as performed by our opponents,
from the apostles' time to this day, requires proof which the esteemed author
has not adduced—indeed, it is contradicted by the Baptist historian; and to
contend that the Greek of the New Testament has ever been, and still is, the
maternal tongue of,
what we denominate, the Greek church, or the language of the nursery, is
contrary to truth. As justly might a Baptist contend, that the Romish religion
was professed only by the lineal descendants of the ancient Romans, speaking the
pure Latin of the Augustan Age. Even the inhabitants of Greece, properly so called, are, in a great measure, unacquainted with the language of
their forefathers, and are obliged to have the original New Testament translated
into Modern Greek, before they can understand it.
is ever varying, especially when spoken by several disorganized tribes. In the
course of time, most languages are completely metamorphosed. Even from Spencer
to Pope, a period of about one hundred and forty years, and, in an established
government, a revolution has taken place in our own, which one would have hardly
thought possible. 'It is well known,' says Dr. Jenkins,' that when a language is
branched out into different dialects, those dialects may diversify the
signification of words considerably from the strict and natural sense of the
original' —'The scripture,' says Dr. Gale, 'is the rule, we know, of our faith
and practice, and was designed for that; but not to be the standard of speech,
which is continually altering, and depends upon custom.' Besides, if the
practice of the Greek church is to settle this question, and if her ministers
may give their opinion, then to baptize consists in three dippings and one
pouring—a mode as much at variance with one dipping as with one pouring; and
that communion may, with equal propriety, be referred to, in support of our
mode, as of that of our opponents.—We say nothing of the subject, as it is
notorious, that not only the Greek church, but every other on the face of the
globe, except our Baptist brethren, baptizes infants as well as adults.
is further observable, and relevant to our position, that most of the eastern
churches, like the Roman, have both an ecclesiastical and a vulgar tongue. In
our opponents lay a paramount stress on the conduct of the eastern churches
generally—and of the Greek church in particular—may be further seen by the
following remarks of Dr. Cox:—'This is an authority,' says he, 'for
the meaning of the word baptize, infinitely preferable to that of European
lexicographers—so that a man, who is obliged to trust human testimony, and who
baptizes by immersion because the Greeks do,
understands the Greek word exactly as the Greeks themselves understand it; and,
in this case, the Greeks are unexceptionable guides, and their practice
is, in this instance, safe ground of action.'—But we have shown before, that
the Greeks use trine immersion with a subsequent
affusion—that they baptize children, and give them the Eucharist—the water
is exorcised, and so forth, as previously specified.—Here is, then, the
'highest authority in existence—an unquestionable guide— 'and a safe ground
of action,' in almost every particular, at variance with the practice of our
opponents.—If the Greek church, which, if possible, is more superstitious and
corrupt than the Latin, be such a faithful and true witness in this matter, as
the learned doctor declares, why do not our opponents dip their candidates three
times, and then pour water upon them?—and, as the word oikos, rendered
house and household in the New Testament, is as much a part of their maternal
tongue as the verb baptizo; and as the Greeks understand it to include
the children of a family —we ask, if this be not equally safe ground of
action? This gentleman, however, might have known, that the avowed, and even
current use of the terms in the Bible, is no infallible criterion of the
practice adopted even among those who are designated Baptists. Our opponents in
England say, that to baptize, is always and only to dip the 'whole body,' and
yet they do less than is enjoined—as they only dip the upper part of the
candidate—and more, as they raise it out of the water, which is not included
in the act of dipping.—The German Baptists render the verb to baptize by tauffen,
to dip—and yet they only pop the head of the person under the water—and
the Dutch have translated it doopen; and yet the Dutch Baptists only pour
water on the person baptized. So that if the practice of the Greek church were
in accordance with the views of our brethren, it does not prove that they
understand the word in the sense contended for by the Baptists—and might have
some other ground of action for immersion.—Let
it be also observed, that when a proselyte from Paganism or Islam, being an
adult, is baptized in the Greek church, he is not dipped at all—but, as a
gentleman, who had witnessed the ceremony, informed the preacher, he stands in
the water, and has a trine affusion from the officiating priest.—He also
remarked that, in the Greek church, sprinkling is perfectly valid—as those,
who have been baptized in this manner, are never immersed on subsequently
entering its communion.—How correct an exemplar of the mode adopted by our
brethren!—and what excellent authority do they derive from this ancient
establishment!— and what ‘safe ground of action' !
to use the language of the said divine, with a very slight alteration, we say,
the eagerness with which our [Anti] Pedobaptist friends seize upon the most
trifling circumstance, and press into their service the most obscure and remote
signification, which can at any time, or in any instance, be found to attach to
any phrase or monosyllable, when they are pushed for solid and fair evidence.
reference to the rubric of the Church of England is equally unfortunate
for our opponents. If the practice of that communion be at all good criteria of
the proper administration of this sacrament, then the subjects are infants as
well as adults, sponsors are necessary, the sign of the cross is indispensable,
and the operation renders the baptized ‘a member’ of Christ, a child of God,
and an inheritor of the 'kingdom of heaven.' Besides, as in the rubric of the
Greek church, there is an exception, even in the words of the prayer-book
itself, for weak and sickly subjects who are to be sprinkled or affused—a
consideration which never enters into the system of our respected opponents. 'By
king Edward's first book, the minister is to dip the child in the 'water
thrice—first, dipping the right side—secondly, the left—the third time,
dipping the face towards the font.' Is not this good authority, and worthy of
all acceptation? No, alas! our brethren regard the founders of our Episcopal
hierarchy, as but half awakened from the slumbers of Popery, as having composed
a liturgy loaded with Romish superstition, as being every way incompetent
umpires in disputes respecting the revealed will of God, and practically
erroneous, even in this rite, as to the mode and subject of baptism."
And yet, when the least shadow of support can be obtained from this
establishment,' the eagerness with which ' our friends seize upon it,' and the
tenacity with which it is held, are surprising. Does not this manner betray a
weakness in fair and solid argument, and a determination, at any rate, to
maintain a favorite hypothesis'? When our brethren, with so much significance
and complacency, point at a few antiquated fonts, in some of our old churches,
as striking testimonies in favor of immersion, they
seem to forget that none but infants, literally infants, could possibly be
dipped in them.
MEANING OF THE GREEK WORD BAPTIZO
Baptist friends assure us, in the most positive terms, that this word is always
and exclusively employed so as to support their practice—as a few passages out
of multitudes will evince.—Dr. Gale says, it signifies 'only to dip or
' plunge'—and that, after having extensively examined the subject, 'he did not
remember a passage where all other senses are not necessarily excluded besides
dipping.' — Dr. Jenkins says,'we maintain that baptizo always
signifies to dip the whole body.—Mr. J. Stennelt tells us, that 'the
word baptizo signifies, and only signifies, to immerse, 'or to wash by immersion''—and
that 'to baptize persons signifies no more nor less than to plunge or dip them
in water.'—Mr. Maclean assures us, that baptizo signifies
'properly to dip, plunge, or immerse; and that in distinction from every other
mode of washing, as well as from sprinkling or pouring, which are expressed in
the original by other words; and no instance has yet been produced, either from
scripture or any ancient Greek writer, where it must necessarily bear another
sense.'—Mr. D'Anvers says, 'baptizo, in plain English, is
nothing else but to dip, plunge, or cover all over.''—Mr. Gibbs assures
us, that 'the verbs bapto and baptizo are not generic terms,
denoting the application of water in any way; but that they are confined
to the specific mode, dipping, may be proved by a reference to their use in
the works of classical Greek writers, who certainly understood their own
language better than any other in later times—and the Pedobaptist cannot cite one
authority from these writers in defense of his explanation of the
terms.'—And Mr. Booth declares, ' that to immerse, plunge, or dip, is
the radical, primary, and proper meaning of the word.'—In this specific sense,
they contend, it must be invariably understood when employed to designate the
rite under immediate consideration. They also pronounce the import of this term
the pith of the whole enquiry.—Dr. Gill says, 'those that are
baptized,' are necessarily dipped—for the word baptize signifies always to
dip, or to wash by dipping.' —Mr. Anderson tells us, that' if we can
ascertain the meaning of the term [baptize] that he employed [in Matt.
28:19] it will help us to a certain conclusion.'—Dr. Gale says,'
the meaning of the word baptizo must be considered the main branch of our
dispute.'—And Mr.Robinson tells us, that whether 'John baptized by
pouring on water, or by bathing in water,' is to be determined chiefly, though
not wholly, by ascertaining the precise meaning of the word baptize.'
this view of the case, our respected opponents have made uncommon efforts to
prove that its meaning is exclusively in favor of dipping, and ever stands as an
impregnable bulwark of their system. They incessantly refer to the Greek fathers
of the church, heathen writers, different translations of the scriptures,
lexicons, the concessions of Pedobaptists, reason, analogy, inference, and the
like—to make us sensible, that baptizo means only to dip, plunge, or
immerse the whole body—or, that this is absolutely and unequivocally its
radical, primary, or proper meaning. In this sense, of absolute immersion,
it appears our opponents have translated the word baptize in their
versions of the New Testament into the languages and dialects of the East. If,
in this main branch of our dispute, they have failed to establish their point,
their cause is hopeless—in fact, is entirely lost—and that they have
completely failed, we feel confident of fully convincing you.—Should we be
some what elaborate in our observations on this head, you will pardon the claim
on your patience, and lend us your candid and serious attention.—We shall
first dispose of Mr. Booth's never-failing phraseology about ' the radical,
primary, and proper meaning' of the word baptize.
The terms radical, primary, and proper, as applied to the meaning of words,
require a little explication. The radical import of a compounded term,
embraces its meaning as gathered from its original component parts—hence the
word to manufacture means to make a thing by hand. The radical import of a
simple term, embraces its meaning when first employed to convey an idea from one
man to another. The primary import of a word may refer to its original
use, as distinguished from its present application— or to its literal sense,
instead of its figurative—or to its common use, in opposition to an occasional
one. The proper meaning of a word may signify, generally, the notion
attached to it when first used—or the ordinary sense of it at some subsequent
period—or the current import of it at some specific place—or, what is most
correct, the idea attached to it by some particular author in a sentence or
passage under consideration. Now, to ascertain the radical, primary, and proper
meaning of a word is frequently very difficult; and especially to render these
respective properties accordant with each other—since the radical meaning of a
word often varies considerably from its proper and current use. For
example—the elements of the word to manufacture mean to make a thing by hand;
but the current or proper use of this verb is to make something by machinery.
The primitive meaning may also differ from the present use of a term:—a
villain originally meant 'an inhabitant of a village'—now it signifies 'a
wicked wretch.'—To ascertain, therefore, the radical
and primary meaning of a term is of little importance, unless we also find out
its current meaning, and that meaning in the particular book or paragraph we are
investigating—which must be determined by the connection and circumstances in
which the word is found.— Consequently, when a writer pronounces this or that
specific sense of a word to be its radical, primary, and proper meaning, and
labors to build a system of religious ceremonies upon such a specific sense, it
behooves him to be very certain that he has really discovered not only this
original, principal, and current use of the word, but also the harmony of these
respective properties, and the import of it in the chapter and verse of the
author on whose dicta he erects his practice. —Mr. Booth, however, assumes
that the radical, primary, and proper meanings of the word are precisely the
same, as distinguished from some secondary import. However fallacious this
notion may appear, we shall argue for the moment on the supposition.
Supposing then, what we do not grant, that the radical, primary, and proper
meaning of the word baptize, (as distinguished from all secondary and figurative
senses,) were to accord, and signified to dip, plunge, or immerse the whole body
or thing spoken of; it does not necessarily follow, that the writers of the New
Testament have used it in this sense, while describing the rite under
consideration. If the word have secondary and subordinate meanings, as Mr.
Booth's expressions certainly imply—how will our opponents prove, that the
inspired penmen have not employed it in some inferior or figurative sense? As
Dr. Williams justly observes—'What Mr. Booth has produced from Pedobaptist
writers as concessions, no more regards the leading point in dispute than, I was
going to say, the first verse of the first book of
Chronicles, "Adam, Sheth, Enosh." For the immediate question is not
what is the 'radical, primary, and proper meaning of the word baptism,'
in a philological or etymological sense, but whether the 'legal, the ceremonial,
or sacramental sense of the word, ' excludes, absolutely excludes, every other
idea but immersion! No concession short of this is of any real service to
our opponent's cause.' —It is well known, that words used in common
conversation, or in books, about the ordinary affairs of life, and particularly
in the writings of the heathens—whose ideas were widely different respecting
morals, religion, and ceremonial worship, from those of holy and inspired
penmen—assume a very different caste when brought into the vocabulary of the
church. A mere allusion to the words light, angel, virtue, prudence, charity,
church, sacrament, and similar terms, will place this doctrine in the clearest
aspect. Therefore, to demonstrate even that the radical, primary, and proper
meaning of the word baptize is to dip, plunge, or immerse a person or thing
entirely, would by no means settle the dispute, unless it was also proved, that
the writers of the New Testament, when describing the ceremony in question,
employed it in this radical, primary, and proper sense. To ascertain this,
devolves on our respected brethren. That this point has not been established by
them, we shall presently show you; and that it is impracticable, we are
But we take upon us to assert further, that the action of dipping, plunging, or
immersing the whole body, is not the primary, radical, and proper meaning of the
word baptize—that being an effect produced in the character of wetting,
washing, coloring, consecrating, punishing, and so on—whether done by pouring,
painting, sprinkling, piercing, or immersing. This irrefragable position our
opponents have been driven to admit on many occasions, as will be shown
hereafter.—One citation, at present, will serve as a specimen of the whole.
Dr. Gale says, 'the word baptize, perhaps, does not so necessarily express the
action of put' ting under water, as, in general, a thing being in that
condition, no matter how it comes so; whether it was put into 'the water, or the
water comes upon it.' But, to illustrate this sentiment, let it be observed,
that the word primary, which, on Mr. Booth's principles, comprehends the other
two, may either signify a priority of design, or a priority of execution—it
may refer to the end or the means. Now, what we deny is, that the
principal end or design conveyed by the word is to immerse.—The verb is
employed, according to our opponents, as will be verified in its place, for
bathing, besmearing, coloring, covering, daubing, infecting, imbuing, quenching,
soaking, washing, and the like—and, if their previous assertions be correct,
all this must be done by dipping—and which, for the sake of argument, we will
admit. But what is the unavoidable result? If the primary end or
the ultimate design of the verb be to dip or immerse, then a person is to
be bathed, besmeared, colored, covered, daubed, infected, imbued, quenched,
soaked, or washed, as an act or means for producing the end of dipping. Such is
the inevitable consequence of their position, if immersing be the primary design
of the word under review. And who does not instantly discover the sophistry of
their reasoning? If the primary means, or the priority of execution,
only be to dip, then the point in debate is conceded at once—since the
direct and ultimate import of the word may be something else—unless we are
willing to believe that taking up a book is reading it, dipping the pen in ink
is writing, going to church is hearing a sermon, and opening the mouth is
speaking; because these are primary means for such a design, or are prior in
execution to the end intended. In accordance with this reasoning, Dr. Gale tells
us, that 'immersion is before tinging, for
things are ' tinged by it.'—And Mr. Booth says, 'it may be asserted ' [even]
of our English term dip, that it no where signifies 'to immerse, except
as a mode of, or in order to dyeing, 'washing, wetting, or some
other purpose. —One fact is incontrovertible, that whenever the word baptize
is employed to express an effect, state, or condition, as bathing, besmearing,
&c, which may or might be accomplished by dipping—dipping is only the mode
or means of producing it, and not the effect, state, or condition included in
the term —and to suppose that a word, which expresses an effect, is to be
considered as synonymous with others which merely designate the manner of
accomplishing it, is every way improper; and, in the translation of books from
one language to another, would produce consequences both erroneous and absurd. If the word in question signifies to bathe, besmear, color, cover, daub, infect,
imbue, quench, soak, tinge, and wash—and if these, or any of them, can be
effected without dipping, we have the clearest evidence, that to dip is not its
primary meaning ; and that it may not be involved in the term even as a means of
IV. Having made the preceding remarks respecting the stress laid on the supposed primary sense of the verb baptizo, and shown the impropriety of our opponents' reasoning; we shall next proceed to establish the variety of its import, in contradiction to their pre-cited assertions. The word baptizo is a derivative from bapto, and is a diminutive of it. Hence, according to the ordinary construction of the Greek verbs, if bapto signify to dip, baptizo means to dip less—or if bapto signify to pour or sprinkle, baptizo means to pour or sprinkle less. Now, the word bapto is never used to express the ceremony of Christian baptism, and it is reasonable to suppose this constant use of the diminutive was by design—and therefore not synonymous with its root, bapto. Hence we might fairly confine ourselves to the consideration of the derivative verb only—in this case, our labor would have been much less, and our triumph, if possible, more complete. But as our opponents contend that bapto and baptizo are synonymous, and as they constantly embrace both in their discussions of this rite, we shall, for the sake of argument, and to give them all the advantage they could justly claim, admit, at least for the present, that both words mean precisely the same thing in action, nature, and extent. Now, we contend that these words, so far from signifying one and the same action, in all cases and connections, have a great variety of meanings. This we shall prove from the unanimous consent of the best lexicographers, the translations of our opponents, the use of them in the Septuagint, Apocrypha, and New Testament—and by such other means as may be available and proper. Should our intention be realized to your satisfaction, the whole fabric of our opponents' exclusive scheme falls to the ground and crumbles into dust.
That the word baptize has a variety of significations and is of a generic
nature, may be made to appear by an appeal to the best Lexicographers.
The following have been consulted:—Hedricus, Leigh, Parkhurst,
Schleuzner, Scapula, Stephens and Suidas. Reference has also been made to
Montanus' Literal Version of the Apocrypha and New Testament, and of the Hebrew
terms rendered baptize by the seventy translators. The result of the research
is, that the word is deemed synonymous with the following Latin verbs—to which
a translation is appended, and that chiefly taken from the Baptists:—
these unexceptionable testimonies, it is evident that the word has various
meanings, and that in general, if not invariably, it expresses the effect
produced by an action, rather than the precise action itself. In fact, we might
defy our opponents to produce a single lexicographer, of the least authority,
who maintains that the word baptize means only one definitive act or end, much
less that it means always and only to dip, plunge, or immerse the whole body or
thing spoken of, under water or in any other element.— To say that it is
sometimes employed in this sense, or that this is its primary import, amounts to
nothing in the scale of evidence, as we have previously established.
We proceed now to the translations of our opponents. Considerable pains have
been taken by them to enlist the Greek
Authors under their banners, for the purpose of aiding their cause. Five
only of their most eminent and learned
divines—Booth, Cox, Gale, Ryland, and Gibbs—notwithstanding their occasional
opposition, and that of their brethren, to such a mode of reference, have cited
numerous passages from different Greek writers to establish their position, that
baptize means only to dip or plunge, and that they do not remember a passage
where 'all other senses are not necessarily excluded.' —They have referred to
nearly all the texts in the Septuagint, Apocrypha and New Testament, where the
word occurs not in connection with the sacrament under immediate
consideration.—That these gentlemen have not perverted the sense of their
authorities to the prejudice of their cause, may be readily supposed—and what
is the result ? That the word baptize, as employed by the ancient Greek poets,
philosophers, historians, and divines, signifies only one and the same
definitive action, and that to dip, plunge, or immerse? —Far from it.—The
following list of translations presents the fruit of their laborious researches
and philological acumen.—According to them it is used for
let it be put to the judgment of any sensible and unprejudiced person, whether a
word which, according to our opponents' own showing, admits of so many different
and even opposite explanations, can mean only one simple and specific action,
and that to dip, plunge, or immerse in the manner of a modern baptism?—With
those who could resist the force of this evidence, we would have no contention.
By a cursory reference to the citations our opponents have made from Greek
writings, for the express purpose of supporting their exclusive mode of baptism,
we find that (omitting the Septuagint, Apocrypha, and New Testament) the
following operations, conditions, or designs, are designated by the word baptize
Staining a sword with blood or slaughter.
Daubing the face with paint.
Coloring the cheeks by intoxication.
Dyeing a lake with the blood of a frog,
Beating a person till red with his own blood,
Staining the hand by squeezing a substance.
Ornamenting clothes with a print, needle, or brush.
Imbuing a person with his thoughts, or justice.
Polluting the mind by fornication and sophistry.
Poisoning the heart with evil manners.
Involving a person in debt and difficulties.
Bringing ruin on a city by besieging it.
The natural tints of a bird or flower.
Plunging a sword into a viper or army.
Running a man through with a spear.
16. Sticking the feet of a
flea in melted wax.
17. Quenching a flaming torch
Seasoning hot iron by dipping it in cold water.
Plying the oars and rowing a vessel.
Dipping children into a cold bath.
Drowning persons in a lake, pond, or sea.
Sinking a ship, crew, and persons under water,
Sweetening hay with honey.
24. Soaking a herring in
26. Steeping a stone in wine.
immersing one's self up to the middle, breasts, or bead.
Destroying ships in a harbor by a storm.
Filling a cup with honey.
Drawing water in a pitcher, or bucket.
Popping enpid into a cup of wine.
Poisoning arrows and presents like arrows.
Washing wool in or with water.
Cleansing the body wholly or partially.
Tinging the finger with blood.
35. Dipping birds or their
bills in a river.
36. A dolphin ducking an ape.
37. The tide overflowing the
38. Pouring water on wood and
Dyeing an article in a vat.
Throwing fish into cold water.
Dipping weapons of war in blood.
Overwhelming a ship with stones.
Oppressing or burdening the poor with taxes.
Overcome with sleep or calamity.
Destroying animals with a land flood.
comment is requisite on these allusions. It is clear as the light at noon, that
the passages, which our opponents have selected from Greek authors as the best
calculated to sustain their cause of exclusive dipping, have completely failed.
That, so far from implying one, and only one, definite act, and that the total immersion
of a person or thing, they express various and opposite actions, as
applying the baptismal element to the object in the shape of painting, pouring,
and overwhelming, as well as applying the object to the element in the form of a
partial or total dipping.
But to proceed with this important branch of our discussion. We have no
hesitation, then, in affirming, that had the passages cited by our learned
opponents been fairly rendered, and the primary and proper design of the word
given in all its various connections, without prejudice or partiality, the
renderings would have been still more numerous and opposite—as a reference to
the preceding catalogue of its connections will clearly evince. We shall submit
the subsequent list of English words, as answering to
the true import of the Greek verb baptize or the noun baptism,
in the citations made by our respected brethren.
the preceding translations to be correct, and we fearlessly solicit
investigation, we may appeal to any judicious and candid umpire, whether a word,
which is capable of so many and such various renderings, can be consistently
pleaded by our opponents as signifying always and only to dip—and whether the
system they have adopted, and which rests, in the main, on such an exclusive
construction of the term baptize, must not be destitute of a fair and solid
But there are other passages in Greek writers, which our brethren have purposely
or inadvertently overlooked— and where, in several instances, the sense of the
word in question is, if possible, still more adverse to their conclusions.—Dr.
Williams, Mr. C. Taylor, and the Rev. G. Ewing, have cited various authors, in
order to prove, that the word does not signify always to dip ; but that it embraces
many other modes of action. Without reading the passages at length, we shall, as
before, give you their import in a few words.
Perfuming the head with precious ointment.
Injecting a force into the body.
Disguised by drinking too much wine.
Adorning the head with dress.
Dyeing the hair while on the head.
Pouring out broth.
Overcome by intemperance.
Staining a dog's mouth by eating a shell-fish.
Purifying at a small basin.
Sprinkling holy water.
Overwhelmed by calamity.
Tinging the body with various colors.
Filling the hand with flowing blood.
Embroidering a girdle with flowers.
has now been said respecting the evidence derivable from Greek writers, as to
the various meanings of the verb under consideration. And if, as Dr. Cox
remarks, 'the signification of a Greek term is to be determined by the testimony
of the best critics and lexicographers, in connection with the primitive and
current uses by the most approved writers in the language; 'our opponents cannot
support their position—that 'baptizo means always and only to dip.'
The deductions from this branch of our investigation are simple and easy:—1.
That the word generally, if not exclusively, expresses an effect produced,
rather than any precise mode of accomplishing it.—That to dye, stain, or
impart a color or character to a person or thing, is its more ancient and
prevailing import.—That when the action is discoverable, it is found to be
various, up, down, forward, backward, and the like.—That our opponents have
adduced no instance where it is used for the two-fold action of dipping and
raising.—That the end proposed in the term may be effected by sprinkling or
pouring, partial or total immersion, according to
the circumstances of the case, and—That this point being established, the main
support of our opponents' scheme has given way, and the others must speedily
this development of the various meanings of the word baptize, and which, one
would suppose, must have been familiar to the mind of Mr. Booth, one should
hardly have expected to read in his work the following sentence: —'Were the
leading term of any human law to have ambiguity in it equal to that for which
our brethren plead ' with regard to the word baptism, such
law would certainly be considered as betraying either the weakness or wickedness
of the legislator; and be condemned as opening a door to perpetual chicane and
painful uncertainty. Far be it, then, from us to suppose that our gracious and
omniscient Lord should give a law relating to divine worship, and obligatory on
the most illiterate of his real disciples, which may be fairly construed to mean
this, that, or the other action—a law which is calculated to excite and
perpetuate contention among his wisest and sincerest followers—a law, in
respect of its triple meaning, that would disgrace a British parliament, as
being involved in the dark ambiguity of a pagan oracle.'
But, all this pious parade of language is in direct opposition to the most stubborn and incontrovertible facts—even facts which our opponents have largely and voluntarily adduced—facts which their own mouths have uttered and their own pens have transmitted to posterity.—This graph also proceeds on the principle of counseling the Almighty as to the degree of simplicity which should characterize his enactments—as if infinite wisdom could not best determine that point. It assumes, what we deny, that God intended dipping, and only dipping, to be the mode of operation which he designed to enforce by the term baptizo.— Conjoined with this presumption, is the inconclusive character of the reasoning—since it supposes, that when laws are enacted requiring some effect to be produced, not the least latitude of method is to be allowed in accomplishing it—or that the compliance required regards the minutia of forms as much as the intended results.—Or, to illustrate the absurdity of the position, when a law was made by queen Elizabeth, enjoining that all persons should repair to the parish church once every Lord's day, the parliament determined that the people were only to walk—or only to ride —or only to go through the queen's high-way—or only to wear such a dress—or proceed at such a pace!—Who does not discover the sophistry of Mr. Booth's argument?
We shall now proceed to examine the signification of the term baptize in the
Greek translation of the Old Testament and
in the Apocrypha, where it occurs
twenty-six times—in four of which passages, the original word is baptizo, (2
43:25.) In the other twenty-two, it is
simply bapto.—This enquiry is of considerable moment, as it will
determine the sense in which the Hellenistic Jews understood it, and how it was
applied by them in their ceremonial institutions. For it should be noted, that
the Septuagint version was made by the Jews themselves about 277 years before
the Christian era; and was in use among such of that nation as spoke the Greek
language, till, during, and after, the time of our Lord's incarnation. To this
translation the writers of the New Testament refer, and from it they frequently
make their citations—employing the words of that version to convey a similar
sense in their own inspired compositions. And here we are to look for the
primitive ecclesiastical sense of the word baptize. And as the Apocryphal books,
though non-canonical, and every way unsuitable to be read or circulated as the
word of God, were written by Alexandrian Jews anterior to Christianity, and are
calculated to elucidate the phraseology of the New Testament, they claim the
frequent perusal of scholars and theological students, and will assist us in our
subsequent enquiries on this subject. Dr. Pye Smith observes, that ' the proper
authority for understanding the diction of the New Testament, is the Septuagint
and Apocrypha, compared with the Hebrew text."—We feel no hesitation in
saying, that the word baptize is here used to express different kinds of action
and effect, as sprinkling, pouring, staining, washing, overwhelming, and
partial, if not a total, dipping. But it is never employed for one person
immersing another, nor for the two-fold action of dipping into water and raising
someone out of it.
we come to the chief subject of investigation, it may be proper to premise—
That the original Hebrew words, translated into bapto or baptizo, are
five, viz : Bahoth, Boah, Machats, Tsabang,
and Tabal, and respectively
mean—to affright—to come— to pierce—to dye—to cleanse.—The first
three are thus translated once each—the fourth, three times—and the last,
sixteen, in the Old Testament.
ii. That, in 2 Kings
5:10, 14, and Eccl.
34:25, baptizo and lavo, to wash, are used
That the English version has rendered them by the subjoined words: to
affright—to color—to dip—to draw up—to dye—to plunge—to put—to
made these preliminary remarks, we shall now examine the various places where
the word in dispute occurs in the Septuagint and Apocrypha.
The following are all the places where the term in question is found.—These
passages we shall, for the sake of brevity, arrange and classify according to
their aspect and connections. The separable prepositions will be modified to
meet our views of the verb—for doing which, the most substantial reasons will
be given hereafter.
In Lev. 4:6—4:17—9:9—14:16—the
priest is commanded to baptize his finger in (or with) blood or oil contained in
a basin, or in the palm of his left hand, and to sprinkle the blood, or oil
adhering to it, on the altar, tabernacle, or before the Lord. It is evident,
that whatever was the action here, the design was to wet the finger, so that
some of the element should adhere sufficiently to admit of a subsequent
aspersion. Total immersion was not essential nor
intended—and, at least, in one instance (14:16) was impracticable. In the
second and fourth cited passages, the preposition by which the word is, in a
considerable degree, regulated, is apo, which our
opponents contend (as will be shown hereafter) signifies out of. Consequently
the texts, according to their rendering, would read thus:—'And the ' priest
shall baptize his finger out of some of the blood,' and not into
it—'and the priest shall baptize his right ' finger out of the oil that
is in [the palm of] his left 'hand.' —Dipping, therefore, in these cases, is
entirely out of the question—and, in the others, is exceedingly doubtful.
19:18—the people are commanded to take a bunch of hyssop and to
baptize it in (or with) the blood or water that is in a basin or vessel, and to
strike or sprinkle it. Here remarks, similar to the preceding, are appropriate.
To saturate the bunch of hyssop with blood or water is the precise import of the
word in this place. The manner of doing it being a matter of no consideration in
the mind of the writer. Though the design might be affected by dipping, it could
only be partial, as a portion of the hyssop was in the hand of the person, and
not brought in contact with the adhering element. In the first passage apo is
the governing preposition; and, according to the notions of our antagonists,
should be read—'Ye 'shall take a bunch of hyssop, and baptize it out of the
'blood that is in the basin'—or pour the blood from the basin on the bunch of
14:6-51—we read that a living bird, cedar wood, scarlet wool,
and a bunch of hyssop, were to be baptized in (or with) the blood of a slain
bird. Here you have only to consider, that the bird baptized was as large as the
bird killed—and that this, with the cedar wood, scarlet wool, and the bunch of
hyssop, were to be baptized in the blood of the slain bird.—Total immersion
was, therefore, impracticable—and, if immersed
at all, it could only be very partial, as a part of the things dipped were in
the hand of the operator. It does not appear from the narrative, that the blood
was mingled with the running water. It should seem, from the latter text, that
the bird, wood, wool, and hyssop, were first baptized with blood and then with
11:32, it is said, that a vessel, polluted by any unclean animal
falling dead into it, was to be baptized in (or with) water for cleansing it.
Now remark that this was a ceremonial purification; and without an explicit
injunction, might be performed by sprinkling, as we learn elsewhere.—'And a
clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it ' in the water, and sprinkle it upon
the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and
upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave. (num.
19:18.) Observe, also, that raiment, skins, sacks, or vessels of
stone, brass, iron, used for any purpose, however large, or however pernicious a
saturation with water would have been to it, were to be cleansed in the same
manner. Sprinkling would injure none of them— would be convenient for the
largest—and would answer every end the Legislator had in view. We therefore
say, the vessels were merely rinsed or sprinkled by the proprietor.
68:23; it is said, 'Let him baptize his foot in (or with)
oil.'— 'The feet of the priests were baptized in (or at) the brim of the
2:14; and 1 Sam.
14:27; we read of 'baptizing a sop in (or with) vinegar, and the
end of a rod 'in (or with) an honeycomb.' Here the action, as we gather from the
circumstances of the case, was dipping—but only partial, as the hand held part
of the bread, and only the end of the rod touched the honeycomb. But, whatever
was the incidental act, the intention was to moisten the bread and to secure a
little of the honey. Hence, to wet and take up, are the fair and direct meanings
of the term in these connections. Josephus says, Jonathan ' broke off a piece of
' a honeycomb, and ate part of it.’
Vii. In Judges
5:30, it is written, 'To Sisera a prey of baptized [attire], a
prey of baptized [attire] of needlework—of baptized [attire] of needlework on
both sides.' Here a garment is baptized by the needle—or embroidered by the
application of figures in the form of modern tapestry. Here is nothing in the
shape of dipping. To say, it was as if it were dipped, would only be a sophistry
to overcome a stubborn fact.
In 2 Kings
5:14, it is said, 'And Elisha sent a message to Naaman, saying, go
and wash in (or at) the
In 2 Kings
8:15, it is written, 'He took a thick cloth ' and baptized it in
(or with) water, and spread it on his face, so that he died.' Whether the cloth
was wetted by dipping it into water, or by pouring water on it, is not
certain—to pronounce either positively, would be begging the question. One
thing, however, is plain, that the wetting of the cloth was the end intended by
the term—the manner of accomplishing it, being an immaterial consideration.
9:31, it is said, 'Thou shalt baptize me in 'the ditch, and mine
own clothes shall abhor me.' That he was not submersed in the mud, is palpable.
He might be rolled in the mire till his clothes were polluted, and that is all
intended by the figurative expression of the patriarch.
21:4, it is said,' My heart panted: fear fullness baptized me.'
This passage is prophetic of Belshazzar's consternation and death, as recorded
5:6, 10. He was overwhelmed with the wrath of heaven. —Lowth
renders the passage, ' My heart is bewildered—'terrors
have scared me.'—It is worthy of observation, that divine judgments are
almost invariably represented by God's pouring out his wrath on the heads of his
enemies.—See, for confirmation of this, Ps. 69:24; 76: 6—Is. 42:25 —Jer.
10:25 ; 14:16 — Lam.
&c. &c.1—Hence this baptism was
administered by the descent of the element on the object.
23:14, 15, it is written—'She saw men portrayed upon the wall,
the image of the Chaldeans portrayed with Vermillion, girded with girdles upon
their ' heads, exceeding in baptized attire upon their heads.'— Whether these
head-dresses were dyed in a vat, or painted with a brush, as people lay on
vermillion, or wrought with a needle, as ladies make their caps or embroider
garments, as mentioned in Judges
5:30, we cannot determine.—Imparting a color or character in any
of these ways, is evidently the design of the word in this place.
4:33; 5:21, it is said—'And his body ' was baptized with the dew
of heaven.'—Nebuchadnezzar was not plunged into a reservoir of dew—it
distilled gently or copiously upon him—or, in other words, he was wetted, more
or less, with this nocturnal rain.—If the action be the thing we are
considering, we have it in the clearest manner —and entirely adverse to our
opponents' hypothesis and practice.—It is of importance to remark, that there
are but two passages in the Septuagint and Apocrypha, out of two and-twenty,
where the word bapto is applied to the human body or the whole
person—and these both refer to the king of Babylon, who was wetted, or tinged,
or baptized with the dew of heaven.
In Ecc. 31:26—'The furnace proveth the edge 'by baptizing.'—Here we gather
from the circumstances of the case, that the instrument was dipped in the water
to harden it. The intention of the passage, however, is to express the tempering
of the tool; the manner of doing it being of no consideration.
We have now referred you to all the places in the Septuagint where the word
baptize occurs A few observations have been made on each to place its import in
a proper light.—From what has been said, it is apparent,
That the word almost invariably expresses the state in which a person or thing
may be—no matter how it comes so —or an effect produced in some way or
other—no matter what.
That the effects said to be produced are various— wetting, ordinary cleansing,
ceremonial purification, dyeing, polluting, overwhelming, hardening iron, and
Hi. That these
effects are produced by different modes of action—such as dipping into the
element and applying the element to the object with a needle, by sprinkling,
distilling upon it as dew, and by pouring.
That the effect in many cases is only intended, becomes apparent from the fact,
that it is dubious and undeterminable, without begging the question, what the
action really was.—See Lev.
That the word is no where used in the Septuagint or Apocrypha for one person
dipping another—for an immersion followed by an
immediate emersion—and not, without considerable straining, for a total
dipping at all.
Upon the whole, it is plain and demonstrated, from the preceding evidence, that
the word has various meanings ; expressing effects produced by different and
even opposite actions—and this is all we are now attempting to establish.
The general character of the term in debate, may be further developed by
remarking that it is synonymous with the Latin verb, tingo, and the
Hebrew verb, tubal. This position is admitted by our opponents. Mr. J.
Stennett says,'that tingo and baptizo signify the same thing.' And
Dr. Cox tells us, that' in the Septuagint, bapto is frequently
'introduced [16 times] as a translation of the Hebrew word tabal. Dr.
Gill says 'tabal and bapto are of the same signification.' It is,
therefore, only requisite to show that both the Latin and Hebrew words are of a
generic character, to prove the assertion frequently made, that baptizo is
generic also.—Passages might easily be cited to establish this point; but, for
the sake of brevity, we shall, in imitation of our Baptist brethren, refer to
will begin with Tingo.—This word
has a variety of significations ; and means, according to—
1 To dye. 2 To color. 3 To stain. 4 To sprinkle. 5 To imbue (fill or permeate).
6 To wash. 7 To paint.
1 To dye. 2 To color. 3 To dip in color. 4 To sprinkle. 5 To imbue. 6 To wash.
1 To dip. 2 To immerse in any liquid. 3 To wet. 4 To moisten. 5 To bathe. 6 To
stain. 7 To dye. 8 To color. 9 To paint. 10 To tinge. 11 To tincture.
now come to Tabal, which is also of
diversified application; and signifies, according to—
1 To tinge. 2 To intinge. 3 To plunge. 4 To immerse. 5 To infect.
1 To tinge. 2 To intinge. 3 To dive. 4 To dip. 5 To baptize.
1 To tinge. 2 To intinge. 3 To merge. 4 To immerge.
To plunge for the sake of tinging or washing.
1 To dip. 2 To Immerge. 3 To plunge. 4 To tinge. 5 To dye.
1 To tinge. 2 To intinge. 3 To immerse. 4 To dip. 5 To baptize.
this brief statement of definitions, it is palpable, that if baptizo is
synonymous with tingo and tabal, its import must be of a very
general nature, and such as precludes the possibility of our opponents
maintaining their practice on the assumption that it signifies always and only
to dip; —especially such a dipping as is performed by them, in what they call
their pure apostolic baptism. Here it may be
appropriate to remark, also, that the preceding references to the arrangement of
definitions in the before-named Hebrew and Latin lexicons, corroborate an
assertion made in our introduction, that the primary import of a term cannot
always be ascertained from the arrangement of words in a dictionary—seeing, in
the case before us, Ainsworth and Holyoke vary from Facciolatus and Adams—and
Buxtorf, Castell, Leigh, and Stockius, from Parkhurst.
We come now to notice the import of this word in the New Testament, on the precise nature of which, we are told,
hinges in a great measure the whole of this controversy. The words baptize, baptism,
and baptizer, occur about one hundred and twenty-four times in the New
Testament.—The original term is bapto in the following texts: —luke
13:26_rev. 19:13—in all the others it is baptizo.—In
most cases it is not translated at all —when it is, the authors of our version
have rendered it to 'dip or wash.'—The following places are all in which it is
7:4, 8; 14:20— Luke 11:38; 16:24—John
19:13.—In these and the subjoined passages, the immediate
allusion is not to the initiatory rite of scripture or Christian baptism:
10:38, 39— Luke
10:2.—Consequently the use of the word in these passages becomes
a legitimate subject of enquiry—as, by ascertaining this, a light will be
thrown over the object we are professedly examining.—We shall, as before,
classify the texts according to their connection and aspect, and see if their
applications are not various and opposite—the proof of which being the end we
have immediately in view, as an evidence that the exclusive interpretation of
our opponents is without foundation.
The word baptize is employed to express affliction in the following places: Matt.
20:22, 23—Mark 10:38, 39 —Luke 12:50—'Are ye able to drink
of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism
that I am baptized with, &c? I have a baptism to
be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished !' Here we may
observe that affliction and misery are the principal meanings of the word in
question, and not any specific manner of its infliction. The cup or its
contents, which were to be drank, and baptism, are
evidently used synonymously, to represent distress.—(Compare Ps. 11:6;
75:8—Is. 51:17, 22—Zech.
16:19, &c.)—The almost invariable mode of
expression in the Old Testament, and the exclusive one in the New, in reference
to punishment from God on account of sin, represent it as being poured out upon
the guilty; and, like every good and perfect gift, as coming down from heaven.
(See Ps. 69:24; 79:6—Jer.
7:8; 21:31 —Hos. 5:10— rev.
14:10; 16:1, 2, &c.)— Lastly, the sufferings of our Lord
were not in the shape of dipping or drowning, but of a crucifixion, in which he
was baptized with his own blood, streaming from his sacred wounds and dyeing his
immaculate body. Here the mode is pouring or applying the element to the object.
16:24 —john 13:26
— are the following expressions: — 'He that baptizeth his hand with me in
the dish.—One of the twelve that baptizeth with me in the dish.—Send
Lazarus, that he may baptize the tip of his finger in (or with) water, and cool
my tongue.—He it is to whom I shall give the sop when I have baptized it; and
when he had baptized the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot.'—In these
citations, we have baptizing in a dish—baptizing the hand in a dish and
baptizing the sop—meaning, also, in the dish.—The other passage is baptizing
the top of the linger in water indefinitely.—In three of the above passages
the word is embapto; and, in the other, the force of the like inseparable
preposition may be fairly supplied—leaving the precise sense of the simple
verb bapto indeterminate.—Here we remark,
That even this compounded word is employed for a partial dipping only—since
all the body was not in the dish —nor all the hand—nor, in fact, all the
sop.—2. That the moistening of the bread and wetting of the finger are the
ultimate intentions of the several expressions, and not the precise mode of
doing it;—3. That the smallest species of action is here designated baptism.
Therefore, when Mr. Fuller says,'in all the applications of the term in
the New Testament, I believe it will be found to contain the idea of plenitude
or abundance' '—he must have overlooked the preceding passages, especially
that respecting the tip of the finger.
6:2; 9:10—it is written—'And when they come from the market,
except they baptize, they eat not.—The baptizing of cups and pots, brazen
vessels and tables, or couches.—The baptizing of cups and pots.—The Pharisee
marveled that he had not baptized before dinner.—The doctrine of
baptisms.—Who stood in meats and drinks and divers baptisms.'—As these
passages will be particularly considered hereafter, but few remarks are
That they all refer exclusively to ceremonial purifications. The only one which
could be considered otherwise, is Luke 11:38.—But,
as we cannot suppose that our Lord would sit down to meat with natural dirt on
his person, we must infer this to be of a similar description.—2. That the
modes of Jewish purifications were diverse, as a person bathing or washing
himself and his apparel, and the priest or a clean person pouring or sprinkling
the cleansing element on him; which last was the only act analogous to a Jewish baptism,
as will be proved hereafter.—3. That we cannot suppose, notwithstanding
all our opponents have advanced, that the Pharisees and all the Jews plunged
themselves entirely under water every time they came from the market with a
pennyworth of vegetables, nor dipped their tables or couches absolutely under
water, in order ceremonially to purify them.—4. That washing their hands is
called washing themselves—and that nipto is synonymous with baptizo.
In all these passages, the direct import of the word is to cleanse—the
manner of effecting it being accidental and unimportant.
In 1 Cor.
19:13—'And were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the
sea.—And he was clothed with a vesture baptized in (or with) blood.'—Let it
be briefly noted, that the Israelites were not literally plunged into Moses nor
into the sea—for they passed through on dry land, (Ex. 14:22, 29;) and, if
baptized with water at all, it must have been by the clouds, which poured out
rain upon them, (Ps. 77:16-20;) and the Son of God had not his vesture dyed in a
vat of blood, but it was splashed with the streaming gore of his expiring
victims. This text may be illustrated by Is. 63:2, 3— 'Their blood shall be
sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.'
this concise exposition of these passages—most of
which will be more fully discussed in the sequel, it is manifest that the word
baptize is employed in the New Testament for partial dipping, overwhelming,
washing, coloring, pouring, and sprinkling—to establish which is the only
thing we are here attempting.
We shall now proceed to notice several Miscellaneous
Proofs of the equity of our position. The best way to ascertain the
varied use of this word in the New Testament is, in imitation of our respected
opponents, to translate it in different places by one and the same word.— And
as our brethren have frequently rendered it to plunge, and have often designated
their baptism plunging—and as this term is not
much hackneyed, and conveys a precise and definite idea to the mind, we shall
translate it in a few places by the verb to plunge..—This method will answer
two purposes—it will attest the different acceptations of the disputed word,
and show that the act of dipping or plunging is incompatible with its force in
almost every place and connection.
3:1. 'In those days came John the Baptist, preaching In the wilderness.'
'Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to his plunging.'
'I Indeed plunge you with [or into] water. He shall plunge you
with [or into] the Holy Ghost, and with [or into] fire'
'Are ye able to be plunged with the plunging that
I am plunged with.'
'He that pIungeth with me in the dish.'
'Teach all nations, plunging them in the name of the Father, Son, and
1:4. 'John did plunge in the wilderness, and preach the pIunging of
7:4. 'When they come from the market, they eat not, except they plunge.
plunging of caps and pots, brazen vessels and tables.'
'He that believeth and is plunged, shall be saved.'
3:3. 'Preaching the plunging of repentance for the remission of sins.'
7:29. ‘And all the people justified God, being plunged with the plunging
11:38. 'When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he was not plunged before
16:24. ‘Send Lazarus, that he may plunge
the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.'
1:31. 'Therefore I came plunging with [or
4:1. ’Jesus made and plunged more disciples than John.'
10:40. ‘He went again beyond
13:26. 'He it is to whom I shall give the sop, when I have plunged it.'
1:5. 'John plunged with [or into] water;
but ye shall be plunged with [or into] the Holy Ghost.'
8:12. 'And they were plunged, both men and
19:3. ‘Unto what, then, were ye plunged? and they said unto John's plunging.’
6:3. 'As many as were plunged into Jesus
Christ, were plunged into his death.'
6:4. ' We are buried with him by plunging into death.'
Cor. 10:2. ‘And were all plunged into Moses in the cloud and in the
Cor. 12:13. ‘And by one spirit were all plunged into one body.'
9:10. ‘Who stood in meats and drinks and divers plunging’.'
19:13. 'And he was clothed with a vesture plunged in blood.'
must instantly strike even the most superficial observer, on hearing the
preceding texts and renderings—1. That the notion of dipping, plunging, or
immersing, in all of them, is inconsistent with propriety—and, in some, makes
absolute nonsense.—2. That the radical, primary, and proper meaning of the
term, is some effect produced in the form of sanctifying, wetting, cleansing,
and coloring—and not the mode of its
accomplishment.—3. That no word, but one of a generic nature, is adequate to
express the ultimate and full design of the verb baptizo in connection
with Christian baptism—as
purifying, consecrating, initiating, or the like —4. That it cannot be
inferred, without begging the question, that it is ever expressive of a total immersion—
of one person dipping another—or of the two-fold action— sinking and
raising.—5. That the position of our opponents, respecting its meaning 'always
and only to dip,' is unfounded—as we have demonstrated in our preceding
remarks.—6. That if the sense of this word be the main branch of our
dispute—as we are told—the cause of our brethren stands on a very defective
What our opponents say, respecting the supposed more suitable use of the words clieo
and rhantizo, had pouring and sprinkling been the modes intended by
our Lord, amounts to mere nothing. For, had these verbs been employed, our good
friends would probably have ransacked Greek authors, and discovered that, in a
figurative or metaphorical sense, they meant to wet all over—and would have
pronounced the action overwhelming, bathing, or washing—nor would that
inconsistency have been greater than we find in their reasoning’s and
declarations under present circumstances—as what we have adduced, and shall
yet bring forward—must convince you. It is palpable beyond mistake, that the
word baptize is employed to express effects produced by pouring and
sprinkling—or, in more general terms, for applying the element to the object.
Hence it answers our end as effectually as cheo and rhantizo. Besides,
might not our opponents be asked in return—if the sacred writers understood baptism
to mean a total dipping, why did they not employ words to express it
unequivocally declarative of such a state or operation? Had bulhizo,
dunu, dupto, epikluzo,pluno, or pontizo, been used, we might have considered
the objections of our brethren more specious and tenable—and, when they have
fairly answered our question, which completely neutralizes theirs, we shall
consider that proposed by them, of sufficient importance to require a little
attention—and not before.
Here we will cite a paragraph from a learned divine, tending, indirectly, to
corroborate our sense of the rite in dispute.—'Although the word baptize,
which is a Greek word, occurs in the original text of the New Testament, it is
not the word which must have been originally applied to the ordinance, which we
are now to consider. 'The language spoken in
The position we are advocating will be further confirmed, by examining the
various expressions our opponents employ to represent this initiatory sacrament.
The baptistery they denominate—
pool.' 'Swelling flood.' '
wave.' 'Liquid grave.' 'Mystic
laver.' 'Watery tomb,' 'Sacred stream.'
The element is designated—
'Tears.' 'Sweat.' 'Water.'
ceremony is pronounced emblematical of—
'Renovating grace.' ' Cleansing.'
'The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.'
'The dreadful abyss of divine justice.'
The action is called—
'Interring and raising."
and raising.' 'Entombing and raising.'
and rising.' ' Plunging.'
and raising.' ' Washing.'
need hardly be observed, that the above nomenclature is almost exclusively
modern, and made, no doubt, for the purpose of giving variety and beauty to a
scheme otherwise destitute of even nominal charms and attractions. But, as the
notion is the only thing we are professedly investigating, we shall confine our
remarks to the terms employed to designate that. Let the question, then, be
proposed to our opponents—whether the words and phrases last recited express
precisely and exclusively one and the same action? As they certainly do not,
this constant use of different and even opposite terms to express one simple and
unvarying act, is injudicious, and calculated to mislead the unwary hearer or
reader. Let another question be proposed—do all these terms singly exhibit the
baptism of our brethren? If this be the case, one
would imagine that their modes must be unaccountably diverse from each
other—or that the terms must mean exactly the same thing. Now, what we contend
is, that the method of our respected friends is precisely and universally simple
and the same—and that the words and phrases here used to set it forth, are
widely different in meaning. Nor have we any hesitation in saying, that such
loose and vague phraseology is employed to blind the eyes of the people, and to
baffle the inexperienced disputant, while contending for the various
significations of the verb in dispute.
We shall, therefore, briefly examine the various terms used to express the first
act of baptism—and prove that they materially
differ from each other—and, neither singly nor collectively represent the
action of modern immersion, as practiced by the
Baptists. Bathing, according to
Johnson, means, 'to wash as in a bath—to supple or soften by the outward
application of warm liquors—to wash any thing.' This word does not determine
whether the person bathes himself, or is bathed by another—whether the person
is applied to the water, or the water to the person—nor whether, if one be
dipped, he is pulled out of the bath by another person. It is, therefore, a very
inadequate term to express our opponents' baptism, Burying,
means 'to inter—to put into a grave—to inter 'with the rites and
ceremonies of sepulcher—to conceal, 'to hide—to place one thing within
another.'—This term and modern baptism disagree
in two very material points. —In burial, earth is poured on the body, which is
not then raised again.—In immersion, water is
not poured on the body, and it is immediately raised out of the element. Cleansing,
means 'to free from filth or dirt, by washing ' or rubbing—to purify
from guilt—to free from noxious 'humours by purgation—to free from
leprosy—to scour,' —to rid of all offensive things.'—This word is
inadequate to represent the mode of our opponents—as it does not convey the
notion of dipping at all—and expresses the idea of purification, by rubbing or
scouring—acts not known to modern immersion. Descending, signifies ' to go downwards—to come from a '
higher place to a lower—to fall—to sink.' This word is defective in three
things. As the person descends himself, and is not
carried down by another does not determine whether the person descends in over
his shoes or, his head— Dipping, means
'to immerge—to put into any liquid—to 'moisten—to wet.' This word does not
determine whether any thing dipped is totally or partially immersed—nor does
it express the second significant act of baptism, rising
Editor's Note: They claim that we must be rigid with the meaning of Baptizo, which they claim can only mean to place under the water... yet the word never means to take out of the water. If we are consistent with this argument, one must remain under water in order to be baptizo (baptized). There is no Biblical warrant to take anyone up from the water, for no instruction or "Greek" word instructs us to do so! They have no Scriptural warrant! Such is the logical conclusion of their own argument!
'to put into a tomb—to bury.' This term does not express the idea of lowering
the body into a grave—nor does it convey the notion of a resurrection—both
of which are essential to represent our opponents' baptism.
'to put under water—to sink—or cover 'deep.' 'This word, like some of the
preceding, is defective, by not proving whether the person immerses himself; or
is immersed by another—nor does it intimate that there must be a subsequent
Interring, is 'to
cover under ground—to bury—to cover 'with earth.' This term, like entombing
and burying, is a very incorrect appellation of modern baptism,
as, among other discrepancies, it says nothing of an mysterious
resurrection—which is significant in the rite of our opponents.
to crush underneath something violent ' and weighty—to overlook gloomily.'
This word is the very reverse of dipping—since we are not overwhelmed by
lowering our bodies, but by the falling of superincumbent matter, or by too
heavy a load on our shoulders.
'to put into the ground—to set—to cultivate—to fix. Planting a tree, or
engrafting a scion, is a very different act from sowing seeds. To plant implies,
at most, but a partial immersion, and excludes the
idea of emersion.
'to put suddenly under water—to put ' into any state suddenly—to hurry into
any distress—to 'force in suddenly.' This word is defective, in not stating
whether the person plunged is raised again—nor, in fact, whether there is an
entire submersion. Washing, is 'to
cleanse by ablution—to moisten—to wet, 'as rain washes the flowers, and the
sea washes many 'islands—to affect by ablution.' This word does not specify
any precise act of cleansing. We wash our feet by dipping—our hands at a pump
by pouring—and our face by raising water to it.—' Washing,' says Mr.
Maclean, 'is a general word, and includes various modes.' —When Dr. Gill
says,' there is no proper washing but by dipping,' he contradicts the most
palpable fact. How is a new-born child washed?— (ezek.
16:4.)—And how was Ahab's chariot washed in the pool in Samaria?— (1 Kings
22:28.)—How did Mary wash the Savior’s feet?—(luke 7:30.)—The same writer gravely
tells us,' there can be no dipping without washing!'—so that we wash our pen
whenever we dip it into the ink!
From this brief exposition of the English terms, employed by our opponents to
represent their mode of baptism, we gather that
their forms are various—that the words are of one precise import—or that
they employ a phraseology calculated to mislead the unwary reader. We have
twelve verbs to designate one simple action—neither of which represents their
practice fairly and fully—nor are ten of them confessedly ever used in
scripture for baptism —while the other two,
burying and washing, are of doubtful disputation, the former, as to its
application, and the latter, as to its sense. But they not only talk of'
bathing, burying, &c.' We have, also,' raising, rising, emerging, ascending,
&c.' as included in the verb baptizo. Taking out of the water is done
by our brethren as a necessary consequence of putting into it. They have,
however, produced no authority from all their researches for considering it an
inherent part of the verb—which, at most, speaks only of putting into the
water, but never conveys the idea of taking out again. One of their writers goes
even further, and makes a three-fold action in baptism. He
says, it' consists in immersion into the water, abiding under the water, and a
resurrection out of the water." But in what author, sacred or profane, is
the word thus employed? They can exhibit no such triple use attached to it in
the whole compass of Grecian literature. Nor can our good friends discover in
the Bible the word employed for one person dipping another. The only instance
they pretend to have found, even in heathen writings, is the following, which
Dr. Cox pronounces a decisive evidence in their favor:—' Certain 'Greeks,
having enticed Aristobulus into a pool, where, under pretence of play, immersing
or putting him under water, they did not desist till they had quite suffocated
him.' Poor Aristobulus was drowned!—a lucid case in favor of our opponents'
scheme! A similar instance occurred about twenty years ago on the river
employment of terms as synonymous, which are in themselves dissimilar, does not
arise from their want of penetration—for, when it serves their purpose, they
can discriminate as well as ourselves. You have seen that they employ burying
and washing as equally expressive of the simple act of baptizing—and yet the
last mentioned author says, ' it would be putting Mr. Ewing upon a most
perplexing ' search to require him to produce any passage in Hebrew or Greek
antiquity, where washing means to bury.' They repeatedly assure us, that to
baptize means only and always to dip or plunge. And the most laborious
investigator of the philology of the question says, 'I do not remember a passage
where all other senses are not necessarily excluded besides dipping.' Consequently
the word should express one simple act, namely—to dip. Hence, to talk of
bathing, burying, descending, entombing, immersing, interring, overwhelming,
planting, plunging, and washing; raising, rising, emerging, ascending, and the
like, is superfluous, and calculated only to deceive the inexperienced auditor.
Yet another of their writers, more ingenious than Dr. Gale, tells us, 'there is
no one word in the English language which ' is an exact counterpart to the Greek
word baptizo.' But this point, with numerous others of a similar
description, we shall leave to our opponents, hoping they will settle it among
We, however, have not quite done with this part of our subject. The impropriety
of such a diversified designation of their mode of baptism
will be further apparent by bringing the terms to the test. This will
prove that words are employed to represent the rites in question, which are
quite incongruous with the notions generally entertained of baptism.
Suppose, then, that some Baptist minister, about to have a dozen ladies
added to his church by the solemn rite in debate, were to put the following
notice into the hand of his clerk:—'You will be pleased to take ' notice, that
on Wednesday evening next, at six o'clock, the Rev. Mr. Addington will bathe Mrs.
Button, bury Mrs. Bennett, cleanse Mrs. Cooper, dip Mrs.
Dore, descend' Mrs. Day, entomb Mrs. Edwards, immerse Mrs.
O’Leary, ' inter Mrs. Jones, overwhelm Mrs. Orton, plant Mrs.
Popjoy, plunge Mrs. Piper, and wash Mrs. Waters. The attendance of
friends, to witness the ceremony, is earnestly requested'—would not most of
the audience wonder what the good man in the pulpit was about to do? The
following dialogue seems to accord with the occasion:—
' Pray, sir, can you tell me what the minister is going ' to do to the women,
next Wednesday ? It is a very odd 'notice.'
'O dear, sir, he is only going to baptize the ladies.
‘Only baptize them! What is the use of talking about 'burying, bathing,
cleansing, washing, &c.'
' Why, perhaps, you may not know it—but these 'words are all one in the
' Nonsense! Why not simply say baptize them ? What a foolish parade of terms!'
'Our good minister knows better than we do, and no 'doubt it is all very
We have now gone through all the evidence adduced by our opponents, to maintain
their practice from the meaning of the word baptize. The points we have been
laboring to establish, are—1. That this word, which is pronounced ‘the main
branch of our dispute,' has various applications, and includes actions as
opposite to each other as pouring, sprinkling, and overwhelming, are to sinking,
plunging, and drowning.—2. That the primary import of the word, is not the act
of dipping, or immersing, but the effect of some action, such as giving a color,
distressing, wetting, destroying, consecrating, purifying, and the like ; the
manner in which this is done being often various and incidental.—3. That if
the primary meaning were absolutely to dip or plunge, we have no evidence that
the apostles used it in this primary sense, while speaking of Christian baptism.—4.
That our opponents have discovered no instance where it is employed for the
two-fold operation of dipping and raising—nor a text in the Septuagint,
Apocrypha, or New Testament, where it is used for one person dipping
another.—5. That they have used many different and opposite terms to represent
their own rite—which, while it sanctions our position, shows the weakness of
our opponents', when attempting to establish their exclusive scheme from the
supposed import of the word in question. And—6. That our brethren cannot
maintain their cause, from the sense of this term, and, consequently, not
at all. Some apology may be requisite for dwelling so long on this part of our
discourse. For, to use the words of Dr. Gale,' a ' thing of this nature, and so
evident, did not, indeed, need ' to have been so largely treated as it has
already been—but ' the unaccountable tenacity of our antagonists, have
made 'it necessary to be very particular.'
IMPORT OF FOUR GREEK PREPOSITIONS
arguments which our esteemed brethren found on the use of Greek prepositions are
really so weak and frivolous, that they hardly merit a reply. Yet, as they are
employed with overwhelming effect upon the unskillful and ignorant audience, it
will be proper to pay them some little attention. The words alluded to are the
3:6. 'And were all baptized of him (en) in Jordan.'
' When he was baptized he went up straightway (apo) out of the water.'
8:38. ' And they went down both of them (eis) into the water.' 39. ' And
when they were come up (ek) out of the water.'
passages are cited with a vast deal of triumph by our opponents, as
demonstrative proofs that Christ and the Eunuch, and, consequently, all other
persons, baptized by John and the apostles, were absolutely plunged ‘over head
and ears' in the water—and that John, while baptizing, actually stood ever so
deep in the river or fountain to perform this rite. To prove that these
deductions are unwarranted, we shall offer a few observations, to which your
serious attention is respectfully solicited.
From what has been previously advanced, it appears that our opponents
consider the verb baptize alone as signifying to immerse under water, and as
warranting an emersion correspondent with the immersion. And
yet they interpret the prepositions in question, when conjoined with
the verb baptize, as meaning into and out of additionally— making, in fact, a
double dipping and a double raising. According to their notions, the verb means
to dip into, and the particle added is also into—so as to place the person or
thing under the element. The verb means to raise out of, and the particle out of
is also added. This, at least, makes a tautology—especially if both terms are
applied to the action. Now, either the word baptize alone does not
necessarily convey the idea of absolutely putting a person under the water, and
of taking him out again, or the prepositions into and out of are useless and
cumbersome appendages. To be consistent, our friends must give up this active
sense in one or the other—and we presume, that, to be correct, must sacrifice
their usual applications of both. That the verb baptizo does not of
necessity, or through any inherent power, convey the sense of total immersion we
have already established—and probably shall find little difficulty in
maintaining that the dipping system can acquire no support from the use of the
before-mentioned Greek prepositions.
After giving these words all the force which our opponents can possibly
attach to them, it by no means follows that the persons said to be baptized were
totally submersed. John was baptizing in
We, however, contend that our Baptist brethren cannot adduce the least
substantial evidence that John, our Lord, Philip, or the Eunuch, or any other
person mentioned in scripture as baptizing or baptized, went into the water at
all—at least they cannot prove it from the before-named prepositions. When
it is said John was baptizing in Jordan and in Enon, we have no data for
concluding that he was doing any thing beyond baptizing at those places,
or under the waters found there—the word en, as we shall
presently prove, meaning at, on, or with, as well as in. When our blessed Lord
is said to have come up out of the water, the terms assure us of nothing more
than that he came up from the edge or brim of the river—the legitimate meaning
of the word apo being properly from. So when Philip and the Eunuch are
said to have gone down into the water, and to have come up out of the water, we
can gather nothing more than that they went down to the water, and came up from
the water—the prepositions eis and ek
signifying, chiefly, to and from. Should our opponents reply that the sense
they give the words in dispute, is their radical, primary, and proper meaning,
we might contend, first, that this requires proof, the production of which we
earnestly solicit. And, secondly, if it were true, they must demonstrate that
the inspired penmen have employed them in the preceding passages in their
radical, primary, and proper meaning. This they have not done, and are unable to
do. As they are used in various senses, it would puzzle
them to verify the precise import they have attached to them in the places under
consideration. In fact, all that they have affected, is boldly asserting the
strength of their position— which is effectually neutralized by a fiat denial.
As the case now stands, our opponents can derive no advantage to their cause
from the terms under review, unless they can establish the assumption that they
have each only one simple and definitive meaning throughout the New Testament,
and that precisely the same as they attach to them in this controversy. If they
cannot establish this, they can do nothing in favor of their exclusive system of
immersion. And if we can prove the use of them
respectively in different senses, we shall go far in effecting our immediate
object, which is to show the invalidity of their arguments in defense of their
attempting this, we shall first refer to Schleusner's celebrated Lexicon of the
Greek New Testament. In this work we are told that apo has twenty
distinct senses—eis, twenty-six—ek, twenty-four—and
en, thirty-six. Now, had these words one simple and unvarying
import each—apo, being always and only out of—eis, exclusively
into—ek, nothing more or less than out of—and en,
totally submerged— what must we think of the intolerable puerility of a
man who gravely asserts they have so many? We shall next refer you to the
authorized version of the scriptures, wherein we learn, from a personal
examination, that the translators have rendered them in the New Testament by
various English terms or expressions. They have translated apo by twenty-four
vernacular terms—eis, by thirty-six—ek, by
twenty-three—and en, by thirty two. Let us now ask any
unprejudiced persons, and particularly our opponents,
who lay such stress on the common translation of the Bible, whether words,
capable of so many versions, can be only of one precise and definite meaning
each? And whether a communion must not be hard pushed for substantial evidence
to support their cause, before they would lay the smallest emphasis upon such
weak and dubitable assumptions?—Particularly so, after one of their most
respectable writers has acknowledged that' eis is sometimes used
in different senses'—that' en is [but] equally decisive'—and,
we assume, that ek is no more. Having cited several instances
involving the preposition apo, best adapted to uphold his notions, he
subjoins, it might be rendered 'from in
most of these passages.' Mr. Gibbs remarks, 'that the prepositions eis
and ek do, in some instances, mean 'to and from, no
one will deny."
But our argument admits of a still further and more convincing elucidation. We
find, from a careful investigation of the point in dispute, that, in our version
of the New Testament, the translators have rendered Apo,
from, three hundred and seventy-four times—Eis,
to or unto, five hundred and thirty-eight times—Ek, from, one hundred and eighty-six times—and, En,
at, on, or with, (i.e. the water,) three hundred and
thirteen times. The deduction from these premises is easy and disastrous to our
opponents' system. When it is said our Lord came up out of the water, we learn
no more than that he came up from the water, apo being properly
from, and, as Dr. Ryland intimates, might be nearly always thus rendered. When
it is said the Deacon and Eunuch went down into the water, we can fairly gather
no more than that they went to or unto the water, eis being
properly translated to or unto—and when it is added, they came up out of the
water, it does not prove any more than that it was from the water's edge—for,
if eis in this connection is employed for going to the water, ek
can only mean coming back from it. And when it is said that John baptized in
Our position will become still more evident by adopting the practice of our
opponents, and by bringing the prepositions to the test—which may be done by
translating several passages where they occur with the constructions our Baptist
friends put upon them. This will be found, in many cases, to make absolute
nonsense. We have tried the experiment in more than a "hundred places, and
discovered the issue to be perfectly conclusive. All we can do at present is to
cite a few texts, involving each preposition, as examples of multitudes more.
We shall begin with
3:7. '0 generation of vipers! who hath warned you to flee out of the
wrath to come.'
3:23. 'Depart out of me, ye workers of iniquity.'
21:43. 'The kingdom of heaven shall be taken out of you.'
'Let him now come down out of the cross.'
1:38. 'And the angel departed out of her.'
9:5. 'Shake off the very dust out of your feet.'
We shall proceed to Eis, and render it into.
3:11. 'I baptize you with water into repentance.'
12:18. 'Behold my servant, into whom I am well pleased.'
12:41. 'Because they repented into the preaching of Jonah.'
15:42. ‘I am sent but into the lost sheep.'
18:29. 'And his fellow-servant fell down into his feet.'
9:7. 'Go, wash into the pool of
We come to Ek, and shall translate
it out of.
12:33. 'For the tree is known out of his fruit.'
20:2. 'He agreed with the labourers out of a
penny a day.'
21:25. 'The baptism of John, whence was it, out
o/heaven or out of men?'
13:14. 'He riseth out of supper, and laid
aside his garments.'
10:1. 'A centurion out o/the band called the Italian band.'
9:21. ‘Neither repented they out of their murders, nor out of their
sorceries, nor out of their fornications, nor out of their
We shall conclude with En, and render it in.
5:34,86. 'Swear not at all, neither in heaven nor in thy head.'
22:40. 'In these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'
26:52. 'They that take the sword shall perish in the sword.'
1:23. 'There was in the synagogue a man in an unclean spirit.'
9:25. 'The High Priest entereth into the holy place in the blood.'
John 5:6. 'He came not in water only, but
in water and blood.'
need hardly say, that every passage here translated according to our opponents'
constructions, makes downright nonsense; and this will appear still more
glaring, if you take into the account that by in and into, they
must mean over head and ears; and by out of, an ascending from a state of
But the versatile character of these prepositions, and the futility of our
opponents' assumption, will become still more palpable, by showing that these
very prepositions are employed interchangeably, as well as indiscriminately with
others, to be mentioned hereafter. A few examples will sufficiently illustrate
12:22. 'And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop and baptize it (apo) out of the
blood that is in the basin.'
4:17. 'And the priest shall baptize his finger (apo) out of the blood and
sprinkle it seven times.'
14:16. 'And the priest shall baptize his finger (apo) out of the oil that
is in his left hand.'
4:33. 'And his body was baptized (apo) out of the
dew of heaven.' See also chap. 5:21.
Eis is employed in conjunction with
the word baptize where an entire submersion is very improbable.
14:51. 'As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the
hyssop, and shall baptize them (eis) into [till submersed in] the blood
of the bird that was killed.'
8:16. 'They were all baptized (eis) into [till submersed in] the name of
the Lord Jesus.' See chap. 19:5.
6:3. 'As many as were baptized (eis) into [till submersed in] Jesus
Christ, were baptized (eis) into [till submersed in] his death.'
6”4. 'We are buried with him by baptism (eis)
into [till submersed in] death.'
Cor. 1:13. ‘Or were ye baptized (eis) into [till submersed in] the name
Cor. 1:15. 'Lest any should say I had baptized (eis) into [till submersed
in] mine own name.'
Cor. 10:2. 'And were all baptized (eis) into [till submersed in] Moses.'
Eis is used synonymously with
12:22. 'And he shall take a bunch of hyssop and baptize it (apo) out of the
blood that is in the basin.'
19:18. ‘And he shall take a bunch of hyssop and baptize it (eis) into the
4:6. ‘And the priest shall baptize his finger (eis) into the blood.'
4:17. ‘And the priest shall baptize his finger (apo) out of some of the
9:9. 'And the sons of Aaron brought the blood unto him, and he baptized his
finger (els) into the blood.'
14:16. 'And the priest shall baptize his right finger (apo) out of the
oil that is in his left hand.'
Eis is used synonymously with En.
'Let Ashur baptize his foot (en) in oil.'
3:15. ‘And the feet of the priests were baptized (eis) info the brim of
Matt. 3:6. 'And were baptized of him (en) in
Mark 1:9. 'And
were baptized of John (eis) into
Matt. 26:23. ‘He that baptizeth his hand with me (en) in the
Mark 14:20. 'It is one of the twelve that baptizeth with me (eis) into
Eis is used synonymously with Epi.
'Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them (eis) into the
name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.'
2:36. 'Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you (epi) upon the name of
the Lord Jesus.'
used synonymously with Epi.
12:7- ‘Judith went out in the night into the
1:25. ‘And John was baptizing (en) in Enon,' [a fountain of water.]
The word baptize
is used in connection with Uper.
Cor. 15:29. 'What shall they do who are baptized (uper)
for the dead? Why are they baptized (uper) for the dead?’
In some passages the prepositions are
3:6. 'I baptize you * * water.'
16:24. 'That he may baptize his finger * * water.'
11:16. 'John indeed baptized * * water.'
19:13. ‘He was clothed in a vesture baptized ** blood.'
Upon the whole then, and without any additional evidence, it may be safely
concluded that the prepositions, on the supposed import of which such uncommon
stress is laid by some of our opponents, make not an iota for their cause. For
conceding, what no Pedobaptist of judgment ever denied, that the words, in some
connections, fairly convey the meaning which our Baptist brethren contend
for—it may be enquired whether they have adduced any adequate evidence to show
that such is their force in the texts quoted at the head of this section ? We
answer, certainly not; and have no hesitation in saying that such evidence is
frivolous remark has been made by a reverend brother with respect to one of
these prepositions, which shows that the good man had not fairly studied the
merits of this controversy, or had written contrary to his knowledge, in order
to make an affecting impression on the minds of his ignorant readers. He says,
'if eis does not signify 'into, then entering into heaven is only
going to the gate 'of heaven; and entering into hell is only going to the gate
'of hell.'' But Pedobaptists never denied that eis sometimes
signifies into. All they contend for is, that the Baptists cannot prove
such to be its precise import in Acts
8:38, and in other passages narrating the act of scripture baptism.
This point we have endeavored to establish—and this, indeed, is
conceded by Dr. Ryland, when he says, 'eis is ' sometimes used in
different senses' — so that Mr. Birt's observation amounts to nothing in the
argument. In fact, the whole of our position is surrendered to us by two of the
cleverest men among the Baptist writers. Dr. Cox tells us, that' the criticisms
of opposing parties on these prepositions are comparatively immaterial, and in
whatever 'manner adjusted, they must be deemed insufficient of themselves to
determine the controversy.' And Mr. Robinson says, 'that Abraham's covenant,
Greek particles, and 'a thousand more such topics, no more regard the subject, '
than the first verse of the first book of Chronicles, Adam, ' Sheth, Enosh.'
Thus much then for the prepositions. That they make nothing for dipping any more
than for sprinkling or pouring, must be evident to all who have carefully
attended to the preceding remarks.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE FIRST NEW TESTAMENT
the first New Testament baptisms, we mean those performed by John the Baptist.
In connection with these, there are two circumstances noticed on which our
brethren lay no ordinary stress. The one is his baptizing in
It cannot escape your notice that this kind of proof is presumptive—and
different from the plain example or positive precept which the Baptists require
of us in support of our positions. They often declaim against reasoning,
analogy, or inference, respecting positive institutions—yet are here employing
them all in defense of their practice. They surmise and conjecture that John
would not have baptized in these places, containing much water, had he not
dipped his converts—but can adduce nothing more. They simply suppose that much
water was required for baptism, and could be
necessary for no other purpose. Now, when Senacherib invaded the country of
Judea, he wanted 'much water,' (2 Chron.
32: 4,) but surely not for baptizing his army; and Christ, who, by
his disciples, baptized more people than John, did not deem Jordan or Enon
necessary for their performance of this rite; nor does it appear, from the
evangelical history, that they ever required much water for doing it. Hence we
may gather that much water might be necessary for the use of great multitudes of
people who were not to be plunged or washed in it—and that still greater
multitudes may be scripturally baptized where there is not, for ought the
scriptures tell us, much water for the purpose.
It is plain and fully admitted by some of our most respectable and intelligent
opponents, that the baptism of John and Christian baptism
were materially and essentially different. Hence we read in Acts
19:3-5, of certain persons who had been baptized by John, being
baptized with Christian baptism, about thirty
years after, by the apostle Paul. The nature of their respective baptisms varied
considerably. John, by birth, was a Jewish priest, (acts 13:25, compare with Luke
1:8,) officiating while the Levitical economy was in all its force
and operation, performing a rite preparatory to the coming of Christ in the
ministry— admitting to this ceremony persons who were ignorant of the
existence of the Holy Ghost, who 'was not given in a way ' peculiar to the
gospel dispensation during John's baptism, 'nor
till Christ was glorified;' (john
7:39;) and receiving persons otherwise unfit for Christian baptism—at
least, such as our opponents would not presume to immerse. (matt.
3:7-11, 11:7-9.) The apostles of our Lord, subsequent to his
resurrection, were Christian ministers, baptizing the people in the name of the
Lord Jesus, and admitting to a certain religious fellowship the adults they
baptized only on an open or tacit avowal of their belief in the son of God as
the true Messiah. Supposing, therefore, that John did actually baptize by immersion,
his not being Christian baptism, it does
not follow that the apostles of Christ dipped their converts also. We find our
opponents repeatedly referring, not to the baptism of
John as the institution of their baptism, but to
our Lord's commission, delivered after his resurrection and recorded in Matt,
28:19, and Mark
16:15, 16. In fact, one of them says, 'these two passages are our
only authorities for our baptizing at all.' And another tells us, 'they should
ever be considered, respecting the mode and subject, as
the rule 'of baptizing.' Therefore, to say that though the qualifications of the
candidates and the formulary of the administration differed essentially, the
modes were one and the same—is begging the question. Let them prove it if they
can, or surrender the supposed evidence derived from the performance of this
rite in Jordan and Enon as invalid and inapplicable. But, to save them a world
of labor, we will concede this point—and yet expect to prove to your
satisfaction that both John and our Lord's followers baptized the people by
pouring or sprinkling, or, in general terms, by applying the element to the
object. This accords with the description Josephus gives of John's baptism,
who says he 'washed or purified the crowds that
came about him," but never intimates that he dipped them into the
But let us briefly notice John's baptizing at
And therefore shall proceed to his baptizing in Enon, (john
3:23.) It is said, he was baptizing there because there was much
water. Now, you need hardly be informed, that this passage is adduced on the
other side as asserting a complete victory! Let us then enquire whether our
brethren can establish their dipping system from this narrative.
i. Enon, according to Parkhurst,
signifies a fountain or spring—according to Schleusner, it is the 'name of a
city, situated near the
While the words much water, many waters, great waters, and waters, in the
plural, in many places, mean large congregations of this element, particularly
when used to express figuratively crime or calamity, we find them often employed
when what we should consider little water is intended. A few citations will
place this in a clear point of light. Many waters are used to express the
moistening of the soil with rain. 'He shall pour the water out of his 'buckets
and his seed shall be in many waters,' (numb. 24:7)—for several rills
watering a vineyard. 'Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, placed by the
waters; 'she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many ' waters,' (ezek.
19:10.) Great waters are used to express the streams
refreshing and fertilizing the fields and gardens of
above passages are adduced as specimens of many more. From this we perceive that
many waters, great waters, much water, and waters in the plural, are terms
employed to designate what, in this country, would be considered but a little of
this element. When we hear our opponents talking of Enon with its much water or
many streams as necessarily being little less than 'the confluence of the Tigris
or Euphrates, the swelling of the Nile, or as echoing to the voice of many
thunderings, the sound of a cataract, and the roaring of the sea'—astonishment
overwhelms us. That the words many waters, great waters, much water, and waters,
are sometimes expressive of rivers, lakes, and seas, no one can question—but
to say such immense quantities of water are necessarily implied in the terms,
Hebrew, Greek, or English, is to betray a cranium certainly less hard than
adamant. Let our opponents tell us where these mighty floods are to be found,
let them point out some ancient geographer who has described this celebrated
sister of the Nile, the
Iv. Let it be
observed, also, that John could not have gone from
latter place was probably more central and convenient for some of the
inhabitants of the country—and the water was necessary for the refreshment of
his numerous followers in that comparatively arid climate. 'Such a spring was of
great account in Judea, especially in some ' seasons' of the year, when water
was very scarce and the weather very sultry. He that congregated multitudes of
people in such a country must, like Senacherib, have required much water; and if
they attended John, as they did our Lord, three or four days successively (Matt.
15:32), the necessity of much water, for other purposes than immersion,
must have been great. Thus John prudently took his station where the lives of
his followers would not be endangered by the drought, and where the well-watered
soil produced shrubs and trees, which proved a cooling shade amidst the
scorching heat of a Summer's day in
But it may be argued further, that for the mere purpose of immersing one
individual after another, John could have no valid reason for going either to
Jordan or Enon. The former is a deep river, sometimes overflowing its banks (josh.
3:15), and, at certain
seasons of the year, running with considerable velocity. Dr. Shaw computed it
about thirty yards broad and three yards in depth, and states that it discharged
daily into the
Upon the whole we conclude, that the great parade of our opponents about John's
dipping in Jordan and in Enon, because there was much water in these places,
amounts to no more than a feather against a millstone in the scales of rational
investigation. Superficial minds may be caught by the sound of words; but
persons of judgment will weigh their sense, and determine accordingly: and this
has been our object in the present enquiry.
ALLUSIONS TO SCRIPTURE BAPTISM
opponents often refer us, with a good deal of exultation, to various references
made by Christ and his disciples, which, in their humble opinion, countenance
their method of performing this initiatory rite, as— The baptism
of the Israelites in the Red Sea, (1 Cor.
10:2.) Of Noah and his family in the ark, (1 Pet.
sufferings of Christ and his disciples, (matT.
20:22,23.) The sufferings of believers in Christ, as their federal
representative, (rom. 6:5,
6 ; Col.
2:10-13.) These allusions are often brought forward and much dwelt
upon by our respected brethren; but they do not produce in our minds any
impressions favorable to their mode of baptism. A
brief consideration of each will doubtless justify our sentiments. As the first
three are not deemed very important, and as the fourth is regarded as an
impregnable battlement about their cause, it claims, and shall receive, most of
'Which sometime were disobedient, when once the 'long-suffering 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 baptism
'doth now save us (not the putting away the filth of the ' flesh, but the
answer of a good conscience toward God), 'by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,'
(1 Pet. 3:20,
21.) Now, if this text refer to any mode of water-baptism
at all, and not to the influence of the Holy Ghost, it must be to the baptism
of the ark, or of Noah and his family in it, or of both conjoined.
Suppose it were of the ark, then what was the action
here? Was the vessel absolutely dipped under water, or did the water
descend upon it? Unquestionably the latter; and though, from the quantity of
rain which fell, the vessel was at length partly in the water and partly out of
the water, it was never dipped, nor ever entirely under the rising element. The baptism
of the ark was much like some of the
representations in Mr. Robinson's plates of ancient Christian baptism;
where the converts are seen standing up to the knees or middle in water, while
the officiating minister pours some of it on their heads.—Suppose it were Noah
and his family in the ark, then they were baptized with a dry baptism
for the water from above or below never touched
them. The rain fell in torrents on the roof of their vessel, but they were not
brought in contact with it. And if this were baptism,
we are often baptized by our fire-sides, while a
copious shower is falling on the tiles of our habitations; and the mariner in
his cabin at sea is being constantly baptized when it rains on the deck of his
ship, though not a drop of it reaches his person. At any rate, Noah and his
family were not plunged, immersed, or dipped, in the waters of the deluge; and
what may be said of the ark and the people separately, may be pronounced of both
conjointly. To say that the Hebrews and Noah were, as it were baptized, only
betrays the difficulties felt by our opponents in this case. If in this or the
preceding instance there was a baptism analogous
to their method, the Egyptians were the only subjects in the former case, and
those who were shut out of the ark, in the latter; and who, as stated in the
Baptist Magazine, were 'baptized to a general destruction.'
' Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with
the baptism that I am baptized 'with,' (matt.
20:22,23.) 'I have a baptism to be
baptized with and how am I straitened till it be accomplished. (luke
12:50, see also Mark
10:38, 39.) Our Lord, in these passages, evidently alludes to his
last sufferings and death. The Baptists tell us that Christ was plunged into
affliction or overwhelmed with it. But these professed elucidations evidently
obscure the subject—plunging and overwhelming being directly opposite acts. As
to the former expression, it may be remarked that the phrase plunged into
affliction, and particularly into a penal suffering for sin, is a mode of
speaking, very rare, if ever, used in the New Testament. The punishments
inflicted on account of sin— like every good gift and every perfect gift—are
from above, and are represented as descending on us. As to the latter, it may be
seen from our previous observations, that a person overwhelmed suffers from the
pressure of a superincumbent weight—and is at complete variance with our
opponents' hypothesis. It is perceivable that drinking the cup and being
baptized are here used synonymously, and are both expressive of pain and
punishment, without specifying any particular mode of inflicting them. 'To
drink,' says Mr. Keach, 'denotes being overwhelmed with calamity,' (Is. 51:20 ;
14:10.) But let us come to historical facts. Had our Lord and his
disciples suffered death, like Aristobulus, by drowning, our opponents might
have had some basis for their conclusions. But neither Jesus, James, nor John,
were martyred by dipping or immersion. Christ, as
we all know, was crucified; James was killed with a sword, (acts
12:1:) and John, according to universal opinion, and which our opponents
cannot gainsay, died in his bed a natural death. The analogy, therefore, between
dipping under water and suffering in any of the preceding forms, is vague and
inconsistent. To talk of their being baptized in their own blood, as an argument
in favor of modern plunging, betrays a weakness too palpable to require
correction. When we can conceive the dyeing of a person with gore issuing from
certain bodily wounds, as fairly emblematical of dipping, our imaginations must
have lost their sober direction and run wild amidst their vagrant reveries.
frequent allusion of our brethren to the expressions of the Psalmist, 'he drew
me out of many waters,' (Ps. 18:16.) 'I am come into deep waters,' (Ps. 69: 2,)
'and deliver me out of great waters,' (Ps. 144:7;) as if they referred to baptism
in the sense of affliction, is perfectly gratuitous and inconclusive—as
none of them are designated baptism by the
inspired writers, and as there is no proof of David's being dipped by any other
being. He speaks of 'waters overflowing' or coming upon him, (Ps. 69:2,) 'going
over him,' (Ps. 42:7,) 'coming nigh unto him, (Ps. 32:6,) and 'coming into his
soul,' (Ps. 69:2,) expressive of overwhelming calamity. (See also Ps. 22:14.)
May we not conclude, then, with equal propriety, that these are baptism
also? And as the quantity of the element is not the question at
issue, but the act of its application, our inference must be deemed equally
proper and tenable. In fact, the whole genius of the gospel is opposed to the
interpretation of our opponents. Our Lord was a sinner by imputation, that is,
God laid on him the iniquity of us all; and his sufferings were, in accordance
with this view of the case, also laid upon him—that is, taken from us and
applied to him, for it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Upon the
whole the sufferings mentioned in the passage and designated baptism,
will by no means and in no measure countenance
the exclusive mode advocated and practiced by our respected antagonists.
We come, now, to the most material allusion contained in the fore-cited
passages, which we shall here quote at length. '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. 'For if we have been planted together in
the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might
be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin,' (rom.
6:3-6.)—' And ye are 'complete in him, which is the head of all
principality and power: 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. 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. 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.
In considering these passages, it is proper to observe that the apostle is
speaking of the union of believers with Christ, and of their mutually suffering
death, being buried and raised again in Christ. The Son of God died, was buried,
and rose again as the representative of his people—and in him, as their
federal head, they virtually died, were buried, and rose
again. This sentiment is well expressed by a Baptist writer of considerable
authority. He says, 'by a gracious constitution Christ sustained the persons of
all the elect in his dying and rising again. They were so comprehended in and
counted one with him, as to have died
in his death, being buried in his burial, and raised again in his resurrection.'
The design of the inspired writer is to enforce holiness of life; and he is now
urging their spiritual union with Christ, as a cogent motive to effect his
purpose. This identification of the Mediator and his people is a prime doctrine
of scripture, and the like practical use is made of it in various parts of the
New Testament; as must be manifest to all who read the sacred volume with the
least attention. In addition to this virtual death, burial, and resurrection of
believers, in consequence of their federal union with Christ, he represents, in
these passages, the spiritual operations of divine grace in our souls, which he
designates circumcision, death, and crucifixion; planting, burial,
resurrection, and ascension to newness of life: that is, he exhibits, in
metaphorical language, the work of the Holy Ghost in our souls by those outward
symbols, between which there is an instructive analogy, perfectly simple to
those who were conversant with the customs of antiquity, nor unintelligible to
us, with the whole volume of scripture before us.
Ii. An enquiry
now arises, when this apparent and professional union with Christ and work of
the Spirit were first recognized by the church. Few will question its taking
place at baptism—at least, in the case of
adults; for in the apostolic age conversion from Judaism or Heathenism to an
acknowledgment of Christ as the Messiah and baptism, were
effected simultaneously. Hence Mr. Robinson remarks, 'there was no intermediate
state of scholarship— 'baptism was administered
immediately on conviction of the 'truth of the report.' Hence the operation of
the Spirit and the application of water to a believer in the Savior’s divine
mission, are blended as concurrent acts. Wherefore we read,' born of water and
of the Spirit,' (john 3:5)—
'the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost,' (titus
3:5)—'can any forbid water, that
these should not be baptized which have [now] received the Holy Ghost?' (acts
10:47)—and much more might be cited of a similar nature: from
which it is easily perceived, how a union of the renovated soul with the Savior
became denominated baptism. Remark also, that in
this or a similar interpretation of the passages under review, accords with the
intentions of the apostle, may be assumed from the incongruity of the exposition
which our opponents are constrained to give them, in order to support their
notions of baptism. To illustrate our position,
let us paraphrase the texts in consonance with their assertions and sentiments.
Baptized into Christ, dipped into Christ, immersed into Christ, plunged into
Baptized into his death, dipped into his death, immersed into his death, plunged
into his death!
Buried with him by baptism into death, buried with
him by dipping into death, by immersing Into death, by plunging into death!
with him in baptism, buried with him in dipping,
immersing, or plunging!
does not instantly discover the impropriety of such a version, and look for
something more analogous with scripture and common sense? Besides which, the
ideas attached to these phrases in this paraphrased version, are, at least,
literally erroneous; for the Romans and Colossians addressed were never, in
respect of time or place, baptized with Christ. They were surely not dipped into
Christ at their baptism, nor plunged into his
death! The very attempt at a literal rendering of the passages, appears the
height of absurdity. And yet if baptize mean nothing more or less than to dip,
immerse, or plunge, such a translation is unavoidable. The simple intention of
the writer is, that these converts were, through baptism,
separated to a profession of discipleship—of being dead indeed unto sin
and alive again unto righteousness. They were buried with him, not by being
dipped under water at the same time, by the same administrator, and in the same
place; but through baptism, however administered,
were initiated into him as their federal and public representative; and through
their covenant relation to him, they ' died in his death, were buried in his
burial, and rose again in his resurrection'—not absolutely and ostensibly with
him—nor, for aught the texts say, like him—but in him, through a virtual
union with him, as their head and representative. All this is simple, in
accordance with the method of salvation, and harmonizing with the general scope
of the sacred writings—while the necessary constructions of our brethren are
complicated, unscriptural, and even ridiculous. In fact, before our opponents
can make these passages answer their purpose, they are obliged to construe the
prepositions which, in some measure, govern the action of the verb baptize, in a
manner perfectly novel and unwarrantable :—' Buried like him in baptism—buried
' like him through baptism'—meaning
either that an ordinary burial with us, is like our Lord's baptism
in Jordan, or that their baptism is like
his burial in the sepulcher—neither of which, unfortunately for them, is true;
nor for what the venerable Paul asserts, is even remotely intended in the
fore-cited scriptures; which we shall now proceed to establish.
We contend, then, that our Lord's baptism in
actions are different. A person baptized by our brethren is merely dipped into
the water. A person buried is covered with earth—the lowering of the body into
a grave being an incidental circumstance — and not truly a part of the literal
burying of it. This point is admitted by the Baptists. 'It is true,' say they, '
we do 'bury by casting earth on the dead body, but it is
so much 'earth as covers the corpse all over, or it is not buried.' ‘The
custom of raising tumuli or barrows over the dead ' was universal in the times
of the remotest antiquity. Such 'a
practice is sufficiently indicative of the original and most 'prominent idea of
burial that prevailed in remote antiquity, 'namely, that of committing to the
earth [or laying out on the earth] and covering with earth. The Greeks and
Romans entertained the firmest conviction, that their souls would not be
admitted into the Elysian fields till their bodies were buried or committed to
the earth. Travelers, therefore, who happened to find a dead body, cast dirt
upon it three times,' [that is, they buried it.] 'Burial, 'as every child knows,
is covering the body entirely.' It is of importance to observe that the Jews
held similar notions. 'Those whom they caught in the day time were ‘slain in
the night, and then their bodies were carried out ' and thrown away, that there
might be room for other prisoners—and the terror that was upon the people was
so great, that no one had courage enough openly to weep for the dead man that
was related to him, or to bury him; 'only in the night time they would take up a
little dust and throw it upon their bodies; and even some that were the most
ready to expose themselves to danger, would do it in the day time!' Consequently
no two acts can be more opposite to each other than a submersion-baptism
and an ordinary burial—the former being an immersion
into the element—the latter, a pouring or
casting of the element upon the object.
periods of interment are different. When a corpse, with us, is definitively
buried, it is to remain in that state till the end of the world. When our
brethren baptize a person, he is kept in a state of baptism
for an exceedingly small portion of time. Hence in this respect they by
no means correspond. Dr. Ryland encourages the timid candidates for immersion
to submit, in the following words: —'You are about to resign yourselves
now into the hands of your pastor, who having immersed you for a moment in the
name of the blessed Lord, will easily [if able] and 'instantly raise you out of
the water.' Another Baptist writer says, 'I never heard of any who were
continued half one minute in the water.' Now, who that had no particular end to
answer would ever have raised a grave comparison between popping a person
momentarily under water and covering a corpse with earth till the great day of a
universal resurrection ?
subsequent operations are different. When our blessed Lord was, according to our
opponents' ideas, baptized by John, he was first dipped under water and then
instantly raised out of it. And this latter act of the Baptist was not a mere
incidental and insignificant consequence of the previous immersion,
but an inherent and expressive part of the ceremony. Hence we are told by
Mr. Keach, 'that cannot be Christ's true baptism wherein
there is not, cannot be, a lively representation of the death, burial, and 'resurrection
of Jesus Christ." And Mr. Burt says,' baptism is designed to represent unto
us things of the greatest ' importance and concern, viz: the death, burial, and
resurrection of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.' But in a burial, this
raising again is wanting; for though all of us shall be raised at the last day,
yet a resurrection is not included in the act of burying; which might be
performed, though men never left their sepulchers.
are, therefore, three discrepancies in the case before us, which completely
destroy the analogical arguments which our opponents so complacently erect on
the allusions under consideration. In fact, those who fancy such a similarity as
our opponents plead for, are entirely mistaken; for, as Mr. Robinson justly
remarks, 'the first English ' Baptists, when they
read the phrase, buried in baptism, 'instantly
thought of an English burial, and therefore baptized by laying the body in the
form of burying in 'their own country; but they
might have observed that ' Paul wrote to Romans, and that Romans [at that
period] 'did not bury but burned the dead, and
buried nothing of the dead but their ashes in urns; so that no fair reasoning on
the form of baptizing can be drawn from the 'mode of burying the dead in
We next contend that our opponents' baptism is not
like our Savior’s Burial. Mr.
Butterworth assures us, that' it is the noble
design of this ordinance to represent a 'buried and risen Savior.' But in
this case the discrepancies are as great as in the preceding. When our opponents
baptize a convert, he, as a voluntary agent, walks knee or middle deep into the
water—then he permits the officiating minister to put the upper part of his
body entirely under—then he is raised on his legs, and walks away to shift his
dress. This is just as exhibited in practice— though somewhat at variance with
the sense they give to the verb baptize. Now the dissimilarity between this
ceremony and the interment of Christ is glaring. Christ did not walk into the
sepulcher—Joseph of Arimathea did not lower his body into a grave, nor aid in
raising him out of it afterwards. He, being entirely passive, was carried into,
or up into, a room hewn out of a rock, in an elevated position!—laid on the
floor, or rather on a side stone bench, as Dorcas was laid in an upper chamber, (acts
9:37)—a great stone was rolled against the door or opening of the
sepulcher— and the people departed, intending after the Sabbath finally to
inter his precious body. Before they arrived, however, the angel of the Lord
rolled the stone from the mouth of the cave, and the Savior, without the aid of
the Counselor, or his friends, left the mansion of death. Who that was not
exceedingly blinded in favor of an hypothesis, and determined to maintain it at
all events, could even fancy a likeness between two ceremonies so void of every
feature of fair analogy!
judicious writer remarks, that the sepulchers of antiquity possessed but little
similarity to our graves. A large excavation was made in the side of a
rock—the floor of the chamber thus formed not being at all below the surface
of the soil without—and this chamber was a tomb. Of the grave of Lazarus, we
are told it was a cave. That our Lord's sepulcher was of this kind, must be
inferred from the phraseology used respecting it by the inspired historians.
Matthew and Mark declare it to have been hewn but of a rock. Mary
Magdalene and the other Mary are represented as sitting over against the
sepulcher. We are informed that Joseph rolled a great stone to the door of
the sepulcher. An angel of the Lord on the morning of the third day came and
rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. The entrance, or
door, was low, not much more elevated than was necessary to admit the corpse;
therefore we read, that when the disciples era: of the body, they stooped
down to look into the sepulcher.' Besides this, our Redeemer remained in
this room at least, a part of three days and three nights: whereas, in modern immersion,
the person is not (barring accidents) kept under water half a minute; and
when emerged, it is by the minister either alone, or, in case he be heavy, with
the aid of the deacons. In a word, so far from there being a proper similitude
between the dipping of our opponents and the interment of Christ, the one is no
more like the other than plunging a person into a pond and carrying a corpse
into a chamber and stretching it on a bed. A further development of the
discrepancy is not requisite.—We do not design by these observations, however,
to insinuate for a moment that the predictions and declarations respecting the
interment of our blessed Lord were not perfectly fulfilled as far as intended by
the Holy Spirit, or that his precious body was not placed in a state which the
Jews designated burial, and for a period which they accounted three days and
three nights. It is, however, plain, that Christ was in the sepulcher only about
thirty-six hours out of seventy-two, and subject only to a preparation for final
interment, and not fully interred. This analogy between the time and the
circumstances of our Lord's burial, as respectively predicted and detailed in
the New Testament, throws a considerable degree of light on this subject, and
materially favors our position.
Perhaps the sense of the words to baptize and to bury, in the texts under
review, is not so plain and settled as our opponents presume. Can they tell us
whether the baptism of water or of the Holy Ghost
is intended by the apostle? They suppose the former—but would feel some
difficulty to prove it—as, also, to determine whether the body to be interred
was that of sin, mentioned in the preceding verse, (col. 2:11,) and which is the simplest
exposition of the passage, or of the Colossians themselves, referred to in the
tenth verse of the same chapter. Nor would they be less perplexed in settling
the import of the word to bury in the fore-cited text. That Christ was not
definitively interred, is plain, from the fact that it was to be done on the
first day of the week, and probably in some other place of sepulcher; therefore
the term cannot mean 'covering the body entirely, which every child knows to 'be
burial.' Depositing the body in the sepulcher was probably intended—but
perhaps something else, or more, was meant. Parkhurst tells us that the original
word signifies 'not only to bury or inter, according to its usual sense in 'the
profane writers, but also includes the preparation of 'the body for burial, by
washing, anointing, &c.' Schleusner renders it, ' the preparation of the
body for sepulcher.' The same Greek word is used in the Septuagint, (gen.
1:26) to express the embalming of Joseph, who was not finally interred
till hundreds of years after, (Ex. 13:19 ; Josh.
24:32.) The anointing of Christ before his death, is called his
burial, (matt. 26:12
;) and it is said, prophetically, to have been done on the day of his burial, (john
12:7.) Ananias and his wife are said to have been buried, when,
from the short time employed about it, three hours, and the ignorance of their
relatives, respecting the bereavement, nothing more than washing, anointing, and
similar preparatory rites, as performed in the case of Dorcas, (acts
9:27,) and common among the Jews, (acts
5:1-10,) could be intended.
is also remarkable that the word thapto, translated to 'bury,' in the
passages under consideration, is only once used in the narrative of Christ's
interment, and that for the preparation of the body for the subsequent burial, (john
19:40.) When the inspired writers speak of the action in debate, they all
use another word, tithemi, rendered 'laid,' or placed in the sepulcher
for the time, (matt, 27:60;
15:46 ; Luke
23:53 ; John
19:42.) The question of the pious women that sought the body of
Christ on the first day of the week, was, 'where have they laid him’ (john 20:2 ; 13:15.) The angels were
sitting on the place 'where Christ had lain,' (john
20:12;) and said, ' behold where they laid him,' (mark
16:6 ;) 'come, see the place where the Lord lay,' (matt,
28:6.) Is it, therefore, not fair to infer that the angels, women,
and the Evangelists, considered our Savior not buried definitively, and that the
word in question refers only to the anointing, &c ! Supposing this to
be the sense of the term buried, in the preceding passages, and which our
opponents will feel it difficult to disprove, what becomes of all their boasted
assertions and indisputable evidence in favor of dipping?
Our brethren regard baptism as a sacramental
representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. 'That,' says
Keach, 'cannot be Christ's true baptism ' wherein
there is not, cannot be, a lively representation of 'the death, burial, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ.' But the same writer tells us in the same page,
that' the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was ordained to represent his body was
broke and his blood was shed. On this principle of interpretation both
sacraments symbolize the death of Christ. Our opponents, we presume, can tell us
on what ground they administer one of these sacraments
once a month or once a week, and the other only once in a believer's life-time?
Why is such a distinction made, if the design of both is one and the same! But
there is another obstacle to their position and inference. The Lord's Supper
fully comprehends the objects intended by the sacred Institutor—a memorial of
his death and the communion of saints. But the baptism
of our antagonists, under the notion of burying,
is very defective, not representing a tithe of what the scriptures and
themselves declare it to symbolize. For example, in Gal.
3:27, it is said, 'as many of you as have been baptized into
Christ have put on Christ.' Here the design is general and full, the person
being consecrated to the profession of all the doctrines, duties, and
privileges, of the gospel. In 1 Cor.
12:13, Paul says, 'for by one spirit we are all baptized into one
body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles; 'that is, not only into a participation of
the death of Christ, but into the visible church with all its advantages and
obligations. Our opponents tell us, as we shall presently verify, that baptism
is designed to represent 'a minister's washing a
person'—'God's washing away 'his sins by the blood of Christ'—'an act of
worship to God'—'an emblem of sanctification'—they also call it '
purification'—' a washing all over'—and 'abundant purification'—none of
which effects are represented by baptism
as a burial, which they assure us is quite a different thing from washing. The
visible descent of the Holy Spirit, which is frequently designated baptism,
is also totally neglected in a burial. Nor
should it be forgotten that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, of Judea, and of
all the region round about Jordan, were baptized by John and our Lord's
disciples when they entertained not the slightest idea of Christ's passion or
burial—therefore they could not have administered this rite with a reference
to his interment, nor have considered it in the least degree characteristic of a
burial, previous to the crucifixion!—nor, for any thing we read, did they ever
afterward contemplate such an allusion as our opponents plead for.
On the expressions in the passages under review, our opponents endeavor to
establish a rite in their churches representing, in their esteem, the burial of
Christ and his resurrection from the dead. But their process of reasoning on the
texts, obliges them to derange the order observed by the sacred penman and to
omit a full compliance with what they must conclude to be his design. First,
they derange the order observed by the sacred penman. They talk of, first, a
death, secondly, a burial, and thirdly, a resurrection. Whereas, Paul speaks
first of a burial, secondly of a planting, and thirdly, of a crucifixion. By
what authority is this mutation of the divine arrangements? But our
antagonists feel it necessary. To talk of, first, burying, secondly, planting,
and, thirdly, crucifying, and to apply the order to their baptizing, was too
absurd for their adoption or avowal. Had the Holy Ghost intended by the texts,
to establish a system, such as we presume to say the Baptists have invented, his
language—(on the natural order of which their scheme as to the proper subjects
chiefly depends, Matt.
28:19 ; Acts
2:38, 41; 8:12; 10: 47)—is every way incorrect, and before they
can even imagine, from these words, a shadow of resemblance, they are forced,
contrary to their avowed practice, to torture the text and entirely derange the
sacred narrative. Secondly, they omit a full compliance with what they
must conclude to have been the apostle's design. He makes other allusions in the
immediate connection which they totally disregard. 'Ye are circumcised with
the circumcision of Christ.'—'Our old man is crucified with him.'—'
We have been planted together in the likeness of ' his death.' Why are
all these expressions overlooked? To be consistent with their profession they
should, in some way include the represented acts of circumcision, crucifixion,
and planting. Why is burying singled out before all the rest? Was it an after
thought, and recurred to as a prop of a cause previously espoused? What we
solicit is consistency—symbolize all, or none. The preference of burying to
planting is remarkable, as the latter is expressly said to be in the likeness
of his death. The apostle also speaks in another place of' being made
conformable unto his death,' yet not to his burial, (phil.
3:10.) But the adoption of the principle further than positively
established, would lead to the most superstitious results. 'We are commanded, '
to put on the Lord Jesus Christ'—to imitate him in ' washing one another's
feet'—' to shine as lights in the world.' But where shall we find, among our
friends, an ostensible and analogous exhibition of these actions? To be
consistent with their principles, they ought, at least, to erect crucifixes
—to use lighted candles in their chapels—or in some way to set forth these
mental and spiritual allusions—or cease to plead the afore-cited passages as
reasons for dipping. Hence, we conclude, that our opponents have failed to
establish their exclusive scheme of baptismal immersion, from
the allusions of scripture to this divine ordinance.
IMMUTABLE NATURE OF SCRIPTURE PRECEDENTS
opponents, confidently assuming that their mode of baptism
fully and minutely corresponds with that practiced by the apostles of our
Lord, contend that we should, on no account, depart in the smallest matters from
the primitive model.—Dr. Gale says, 'I think it is clear, that nothing
can 'be baptism which varies from Christ's
institution.'—Mr. Dore affirms, that 'what is not commanded by Christ,
or 'practiced by his apostles, is virtually forbidden as will' worship."—Mr.
Booth says, 'no additions should be made by human authority [or
intervention] to the positive appointments of Jesus Christ; and it is not
lawful, under any pretence, either to corrupt or depart from the primitive
institution of those appointments.' 'Except it be maintained that positive
ordinances are to be entirely governed by positive law and primitive example, it
is impossible for the Antipedobaptists to stand their ground by fair argument in
various cases, when disputing with Pedobaptists as 'such.'—Mr. Gibbs asserts,
that 'the subjects as well as the 'mode must accord with the precept and
practice of the New Testament: to alter either of these is to perform a new
rite, and not the one which Christ has ordained. To plead for this practice, as
some do, on the ground that what is not prohibited is lawful, is to open a wide
door indeed for the admission of human inventions into the worship of
God.'—Similar declarations might be cited from most Baptist writings. They
assure us that a particular and unalterable adherence to what they denominate
scripture precept and apostolic practice is essential to the maintenance of
their system. After what has been advanced, a refutation of this evidence might
have been omitted, had it not been resolved to give their views of the mode of baptism
a full, as well as a fair, investigation. In contemplating this position,
we shall argue on the principles of our opponents: and now solicit your
attention to the following remarks:—Our opponents presume that they have
clearly discovered the primitive practice and scrupulously copy it. But perhaps
in this respect they display a little too much self-confidence. ' This
ordinance,' says Mr. Burt,' is laid down ' so plain in the sacred rule of
scripture that he who runs 'may read it. And it must be highly criminal for any
man ' to say or suppose that the divine Lawgiver should leave ' that ordinance
under any veil which must be administered ' in those awful names that are used
in holy baptism. No 'serious
Christian dares entertain so cruel a thought of Jesus, our dear Redeemer, as
that he should have so little love and value for his ministers, as to leave them
at uncertainty in this important case.'—All this is very plausible and pious;
but can our friends answer the following questions, which are far from
Did the persons to be baptized walk into the water, or were they carried in by
the baptizer? That is, did they partly baptize themselves, or were they wholly
baptized by the officiating minister? For, in modern dipping, the minister never
baptizes the feet and legs of the subjects— this being done by themselves.
If the people walked into the water, to what depth did they go?—up to the
ankles, knees, middle, or neck?—for now, many ministers dip little more than
the head and shoulders of the candidates.
iii. Were the
people baptized naked or dressed? If dressed, was it partially or fully? Were
the men and women attired alike or differently? In their ordinary
apparel, or in dresses made on purpose? If the latter, were the men in
black and the women in white, or not? Had they weights at the bottom of
their garments, to make them sink into the water?
Were the baptized plunged backward or forward? Were they immersed once, twice,
or three times? Were they dipped only, or also subsequently poured upon,
as in the Greek, Abyssinian, and other eastern churches? Were they wetted only
by a simple dipping, or washed by manual or other friction, as in some oriental
Did the disciples attend to the literal injunction of our Lord, by baptizing in
the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or only in the name of the Lord
Jesus? If there be no instance where the rite was administered in the name of
the adorable Trinity, how do our opponents, on their principles, justify the
Was there only one person employed to dip a convert, or was he assisted by
others—especially when the minister was small and feeble and the candidate
stout, tall, and weighty.
Vii. Did they
ever warm the water in cold seasons or countries? Did they ever baptize the
people privately? Did they ever construct baptismal fonts? Did the minister ever
dress in a particular garb for the occasion? Did he ever wear under garments, to
keep out the water from his legs?
Was the mode invariably the same in all places and for
all persons—males and females—the delicate lady of the court and the rustic
ploughman of the field—the sickly and the hale—the bed-ridden and the
active?— Were they all treated precisely in the same manner?
When persons were affected under a sermon, so as to cry for mercy, or confess
their belief that Jesus was the Son of God, were they all baptized
immediately—whether provided with proper dresses or not—whether ignorant of
religion as a system or not?—Were they ever kept as catechumens and candidates
for baptism for a month, or a year, or at all?
Was the faith of discipleship or of salvation necessary? Was an individual
confession made before the church or congregation previous to baptism?
If so, in what did it consist? What was the nature and extent of the instruction
required previous to receiving this ordinance? And who were the persons that
judged in this case—the minister alone, or the people with him, or without
questions might have been considerably enlarged, but can they be answered? If
not, with what consistency can our opponents dilate so largely on scripture
precedent, and the absolute necessity of a strict, individual, and undeviating
adherence to it, for a legitimate performance of this ceremony—when, in truth,
they confessedly know not how it was originally understood and observed. Having
no means of information on this subject which we do not possess, are they
inspired by Heaven to decide, at pleasure, what was formerly done and what now
shall render their rite valid in the absence of sufficient data and
But though our opponents cannot answer the preceding interrogatories, they still
persist that the manner is, or ought to have been, as definitively settled as
the Jewish ceremonies or the Eucharist. Let us hear their own words:— 'Baptism
is a positive institution of Christ, and, agreeably to his infinite
wisdom and goodness, he has expressed himself in the most clear and explicit
manner respecting both the mode and the subject of it.''—'Such laws admit of
no commutation, mutilation, or alteration by human authority.'—'Baptism
being a positive institution, as well as those ancient rites [of
circumcision, sprinkling of blood, anointing with oil, and other Levitical
ceremonies, what reason can be assigned, if water should be applied to a
particular part of the body, why that part was not mentioned, either in the
institution of the ordinance or in some apostolic example of its
administration.'—'Circumcision ' was ordained, and every minutia of it
expressly settled— 'so was the Passover—so the Lord's Supper. In like manner
in baptism, every thing is clear, and we are not
left to 'guess at the element to be made use of, or the form of words to be
repeated on the occasion—all is express and explicit.'—On these assertions a
few observations are requisite.
According to the above statements and deductions, the mode of baptism
is expressed in the most clear and explicit manner; and which is
unquestionably to dip the whole body of the candidate under water and take it up
again. But to whom is this mode so plain? Not to one in ten of the inhabitants
of this empire. But it is as plain as the Levitical ceremonies under the
law. This we deny; since the Hebrews were, in many cases, restricted to specific
rules unknown to the ordinance of baptism, as will
be proved hereafter. But then it ought to be as plain? But how do our opponents
know this? Surely God is the best judge how precisely he shall circumscribe his
ordinances—whether the most ignorant and thoughtless should understand them as
well as the intelligent and enquiring. Is not this presuming to dictate to
Infinite Wisdom how to prescribe laws and relate passing events? Is it not'
directing the Spirit of the Lord, and giving counsel to the Most High God?
But we may enquire whether there are not other corresponding institutions of an
equally positive nature, in which Christ is equally remote from restricting the
hands of his servants to minute and unvarying rules of action? Several things
might be referred to under the law, but we shall come to the gospel, and
consider the duties of preaching and prayer. And we ask are these so expressly
regulated by Christ in his commissions as to admit of no variety? Were all the
apostles commanded to preach exactly alike, as to matter and form? Were
they to preach only on stated days, or at any time? Were they to address their
audiences in their ordinary apparel, or in some ministerial robes? Or might all
these be diversified according to circumstances —such as place, time,
audience, and opportunity? When they engaged in prayer, was it according
to a particular form prescribed, in part or wholly; or were they left to begin,
continue, and end, according to their own discretion? Were the character and the
qualification of evangelists so settled that none but those minutely described
should officiate? Were all those sent to preach, sent also to baptize?
If not, wherein lies the difference between a preaching and a baptizing
minister? Was the erection of chapels, excavation of baptisteries, and
the like, enjoined or left to arise according as occasion should dictate? Let
our brethren find, if they can, in these all-important institutions, the minute
regulations which they plead for in respect of baptism.
But they refer us to the Lord's Supper, as containing a specimen of
explicit and immutable legislation. In reply, we ask them whether this sacrament
is so verbally and positively fixed that all must observe it exactly alike, or
become culpable for deviating from the revealed will of the Legislator. Hath
Christ so specified the time, place, posture, guests, form of words, the quality
and quantity of the bread and wine that no serious persons can ignorantly err
respecting his intentions? Let our brethren also find, if they are able, in this
sister sacrament, the minute regulations they plead for in baptism.
Further, did the Son of God intend the Lord's Supper to be a symbolical
or a pictorial representation of his sufferings and death? If the former, as Dr.
Gill asserts, the precise mode must, in their view, be immaterial. If the
latter, it is every way defective—for surely a stranger to Christianity,
witnessing the administration of this sacrament for the first time would never
conclude that the ceremony was just like a person agonizing in a garden or dying
upon a cross. And why might not baptism be rather
a symbolical than a pictorial representation of the great lessons it inculcates.
From these references it is manifest that our opponents, with their notions,
would find some difficulty in proving that the ordinance of baptism
should be settled in every iota by the Institutor, or exemplified
precisely by the apostles. When Dr. Jenkins talks of every thing being clear and
explicit as the minutiae of circumcision, the Passover, purification, and the
Eucharist, we naturally look for a confirmation of the sentiment; but behold, we
are 'not left to guess at the element to be made use of or the form of words to
be repeated on the occasion!' This is what we never disputed, and, therefore,
the declaration merely serves to blind the eyes of ignorant people, by leading
them to suppose that all other things are precisely settled in their favor by
the Holy Spirit. When Mr. Booth asks, 'what reason can be assigned if water
should be applied to a particular part of the body, why that part was not
mentioned or exemplified in practice?'—we would reply, first, that our Baptist
friends never apply water to the body, but the body to the water; and, secondly,
we would employ the language of a Menonite Baptist, who says,'nor do 'I remember
it is any where said, that the person baptized ' was covered with water or was
put under it; and had this been the case, I can hardly think the scripture would
have been entirely silent about it; but in some place or other it would have
been expressly mentioned, especially if it be a circumstance of such importance
as some persons suppose and contend for.'—Now, Mr. Booth wonders, if water was
to be applied to a particular part of the body, why it was not mentioned; and
Mr. Elliott wonders, if it were to be totally covered or dipped, why it was not
recorded; and perhaps one wonder is tantamount to the other, which is all we
But let us for a moment suppose our opponents to be absolutely certain, that a
mode similar to their own was generally or always observed by the harbinger and
apostles of our Lord, is it necessary with an undeviating scrupulosity to adhere
to it now, in this and every other country where the gospel is preached? -If
so, it must arise either from explicit and positive enactments, or the inherent
character of the ceremony. The latter we deny, and, being the topic in debate,
it will not be received without competent evidence. If it follows from the
nature of positive institutions generally, ought not all positive laws to be
thus interpreted? But do our brethren observe this rule? Are they not
continually neglecting the performance of positive injunctions and the plainest
examples of scripture—quite as positive and plain as their particular and
exclusive mode of immersion-baptism? We
will prove this fact in several indisputable instances.
Christ washed his disciples' feet at the feast of the Passover and the
institution of the sacrament, saying, 'If I ' then, your Lord and master, have
washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet,' (john
13:14.) But this is neglected.
ii. James, says,
'is any sick among you, let him call for ' the elders of the church—and let
them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord,' (james
5:14, compare Mark
6:13.) This is neglected.
Paul enforces the kiss of charity—'salute one another ' with an holy kiss, (rom.
16:16,) greet one another with 'an holy kiss, (1 Cor.
16:20,) greet all the brethren with 'an holy kiss,' (1 Thess.
5:26.) Peter, says, 'greet one another with a kiss of charity,' (1
5:14.) This also is neglected, as are the feasts of charity
mentioned by Jude, (v. 12.)
When the Lord's Supper was instituted and the model of its observance first
given, it was on a Thursday evening, in a large upper room, with only eleven or
twelve communicants, all of them males, after eating the Passover, with
unleavened bread, and in a reclining posture, (luke
22:7-20.) Are these rules observed?
Our Lord and his disciples observed the seventh day of the week previous to his
passion, and his disciples kept the seventh as well as the first afterwards. Nor
.have we any command for making an alteration, (luke 4:16 ; Acts
17:2.) Do our opponents proceed in the same manner?
We are commanded by the apostles, assembled at
The primitive Christians had all things in common, (acts 4:32.) Why do not the opulent
members of the Baptist communion adopt a similar practice? Surely their
poor communicants would highly approve of the plan!
Poor Christian widows, when sixty years of age, were supported by the voluntary
contributions of the church, and deacons were appointed to serve their tables
and minister to their daily necessities, (acts
6:1-4; 1 Tim.
5:3-10.) But were is this law observed by our brethren?
When people first heard the word of God, and confessed their belief in Christ as
the true Messiah, whether truly converted or not, they were all baptized without
the least delay, (acts 2:41—8:12,
37, 38—10:47, 48— 16:33.) Is this precedent followed?
Whenever the apostles baptized a person at the head of his family, they
invariably baptized his (oikos) children also, (acts 16:15, 23, &c.) Do our
then arises all the parade about an undeviating adherence to primitive example
and positive law? Let our friends be consistent or silent, whichever they
please; or, as one of them says on another occasion, 'if this is their
' supposed warrant, why do they not keep exactly to the 'rule of that
-But our opponents are not only inconsistent by omitting many things they know
to have been enjoined or practiced—they also perform various others of a
sacred nature, or associated with their religious worship, for which they find
no examples, nor can justly plead the least divine authority. Let us propose a
few more appropriate questions, for the purpose of illustrating the truth of our
What express precept or precedent have our opponents, in the New Testament, for
erecting chapels, with pews and pulpit—for employing choirs and instruments of
music?— for singing hymns of human and uninspired composition— and for their
particular mode of ministering in holy things?
Ii. What express
precept or precedent have our esteemed brethren for administering the Lord's
supper weekly or monthly—for using leavened bread and port wine—and for
admitting females to participate in this communion?
What precept or precedent have they in the New Testament for uniting with the
parents of a new-born child, in reading some portion of scripture
on the occasion —returning thanks to the Giver of all good, and recommending
the infant to God in earnest prayer?—in fact, for performing all the
parts of baptism, except applying the water?
What express precept or precedent have they for baptizing the adult offspring of
parents who were Christians or believers at the time of their childrens' birth
What command or example do they plead for digging baptisteries in their chapels
or near them—for making them water-proof—with steps to descend—with
wells,-pumps, and shoots, to fill them—and with sewers under, to drain off the
water after baptism?
What divine authority do they plead for making dresses peculiar to the
occasion—black for the men and white for the women—with leads at the bottom,
to make them sink, and thereby avoid an exposure of the person— or for deacons
using wands, to press the floating clothes beneath the water?
What precept or precedent is pleaded for the ministers using a different robe in
baptizing than in preaching— for wearing, like the late Dr. Ryland, mud boots
made of leather, water-proof, and reaching above the middle—or for singing
hymns, praying, and delivering orations at baptism?
What precedent have our opponents for employing woman with cloaks, to throw over
the heads and shoulders of the ladies who come up out of the water, to hide the
clinging transparency of their clothes from appearing to the crowd—or for
standing between the baptized and the congregation, and hurrying them,
breathless, into the adjoining rooms?
What divine authority do they bring for warming the water in the
baptistery—for having double vestries, with a fire in each—for placing tubs
in them, to receive the wet clothes—and for giving the baptized wine or
spirits and water, to cheer their spirits or prevent a chill?
What precedent have they for dipping a person once rather than thrice—or, when
a first dipping is not absolute and entire submersion, for dipping him a second
time till wholly under water?
to particularize further, we have shown you that our opponents do many things,
even in the rite before us, for which they can plead neither precept nor
example; and consequently, that their baptism, on
their own principles, is invalid; for they assure us, that' nothing is or can be
a part of Christian worship which is not recommended either by ' precept or
example in the Holy Scriptures'—that 'to go beyond or come short of what is
expressly noted in the scriptures of
truth, with respect to a positive institute, is to set aside the institution
itself, and to practice a human rite' 2—that 'in the worship of God, nothing
therein as worship is to be admitted without some plain and express word, by
precept or practice, to warrant the same out of the New Testament'—and that
'as nothing should be excluded from the worship of God which Christ hath
appointed, so nothing should be added by human authority: 'He alone, as
legislator of his own kingdom, can alter or annul what he hath himself
commanded. To interfere with the economy of things established in his church, is
to be wise above what is written, and to invade the prerogatives of his office,
who is head over all things to his church, which is his body, the fullness of
him who filleth all in all.'
The only attempt at vindicating these innovations must be founded on one or
other of the following propositions:—
'That the manners and customs of our age and country require all those
precautions and conveniences.' But while any denomination of believers, except
the Baptists, might plead this argument—in their mouths, and following the
fore-cited passages—it becomes inconsistent in the extreme; since they profess
to act not on deductions drawn from scripture, but on a strict and unvarying
adherence to its primitive forms and ceremonies. Besides, they make many
additions, alterations, and omissions, which the change of climate and customs
by no means renders necessary. For instance—what has the change of climate or
manners of the people to do with the administration of the Lord's Supper, as to
place, time, element, sex, or posture? What have the climate and customs to do
with the kiss and feasts of charity, anointing the sick with oil, observing the
seventh day of the week, eating blood or things strangled, having all things in
common? What have the climate or customs to do with baptizing immediately on
conviction—supporting aged Christian widows—and a dozen other things which
might be enumerated? If they still contend that the climate and customs of the
age and country make these alterations prudent and essential, we will answer in
the language of Mr. Booth—'So, then, the voice of national decency is to be
heard and the force of local customs is to be felt in the administration of a
divinely positive rite, even though the will of the Institutor be the sole
ground of this institution."—If our opponents consider any rite
specifically enjoined by Christ or precisely administered by the apostles, on
their own principles, they are bound to observe it exactly in the same manner.
That they are inconsistent with themselves and act contrary to the professions
they are constantly making, we have fully established: and if a deviation in
many cases is allowable, as in preaching, and prayer, and the Lord's Supper, why
not in baptism itself; and if our good friends
make so many omissions, alterations, and appendages to this ordinance, how can
they honestly complain of us for going, as they deem it, a little further than
themselves? And with what propriety are they continually assailing us and their
people with their doctrine of positive institutions and the immutable nature of
Ii. It is
answered, 'that the things enumerated above are merely circumstantial and
indifferent. But how do our opponents know that the precise mode of applying
water to the baptized, is not also a mere circumstance of baptism?
That they have not proved the action of total immersion an
essential and inherent part of scripture baptism, has
been sufficiently demonstrated; and for ought they have adduced to the contrary,
their dipping may be as much a circumstance as the other ceremonies invariably
introduced by them, and which are requisite to the performance of this rite as
administered in their communion. They first arbitrarily assume, and then
fearlessly assert, that to baptize is to dip the whole body, and that dipping is
the essence of the sacrament. Consequently, all the preparations,
accompaniments, and appendages, are mere incidents varied at will. But let them
verify the justice of their assumption, before they draw such a sheltering
conclusion. Besides, how can they, on their principles of interpreting positive
laws and institutions, prove that such circumstances are not objectionable in
the sight of God. If 'what is not commanded by Christ or practiced by his
apostles, is virtually 'forbidden as will-worship;' and 'if scripture forbids
what it does not mention,' as our opponents contend, they are no more warranted
in their additions or alterations than the Roman Catholics are in the most
superstitious branches of their worship; and the latter might, with equal
propriety, plead that all their ceremonies were but mere incidents and
circumstances of their service: and if' to come short of ' what is noted in the
scriptures of truth, with respect to a positive institution, is to set aside the
institution itself, our brethren are as guilty, in many cases before mentioned,
as they can conceive us to be for not dipping our converts: besides, acting in
opposition to their avowed principles. Indeed, one of their most intelligent and
respectable advocates says, 'that what is performed as an act of worship ' or a
religious duty, if it has not the authority of scripture, 'is sinful and of a
We have now examined all the material evidence adduced by our opponents in
support of their exclusive system of immersion, which
they pronounce not only scriptural but the only valid mode of baptism.
From what has been advanced, we consider it indubitably established, that
they have not proved, and cannot maintain, their point—that their mode of baptism
is supported by partial evidence, distorted facts, illegitimate
deductions, and sophistical reasoning—and which, when fairly investigated,
prove no better than the baseless fabric of a vision, that vanishes on opening
our eyes and exercising our rational faculties. To conclude, in the language of
the Rev. Mr. Watson, a Wesleyan minister of great respectability and
penetration: 'it is satisfactory to discover that all the attempts made to
impose upon Christians a practice repulsive to the feelings, dangerous to the
health, and offensive to delicacy, is destitute of all scriptural authority, and
of really primitive practice.'
SHALL ADDUCE A VARIETY OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE TO PROVE THAT OURS IS THE ONLY
PROPER MODE OF CHRISTIAN BAPTISM
has been proven, we hope, to your entire satisfaction, that the testimonies
adduced by our respected opponents, in favor of their exclusive scheme of immersion
baptism, are fatally defective—and that consequently their cause is
lost. Our object at present is to convince you that pouring or sprinkling, or
applying the element to the object, is the only valid method of administering
this Christian sacrament.
the prosecution of our enquiry we shall be as plain and concise as the nature of
the subject will fairly admit. Occasional repetitions, however, in controversies
of this nature are often unavoidable; similar evidence and arguments are
frequently necessary for the establishment of distinct and even dissimilar
propositions. Hence, though our preceding remarks have been entirely devoted to
the overthrow of our opponents' scheme, and our subsequent observations are
chiefly directed to the establishment of our own; yet much that has been already
advanced might have been arranged under this second head of our discourse—and
a considerable part of what will yet be adduced might have been brought forward
in the preceding discussion. In a subject of this extensive and diversified
nature such a method could not be conveniently avoided.
beg to remind you that the question at issue between us and our esteemed
brethren, is not which of us performs the ceremony of baptism
in the better or more scriptural manner—but
which of us is only or exclusively right. For if our respective modes are as
opposite as applying the person to the water, and applying the water to the
person— both cannot be scriptural, and therefore not valid. 'If,' says Dr.
Jenkins, ' the words of the apostle, (eph.
4:5,) 'are to be regarded, there can be but one baptism,
as but one faith. So that dipping or sprinkling
must be the true mode. Both cannot be true.' Our opponents assert that they are
exclusively right, and that we are altogether in the wrong. 'I affirm,' says Mr.
Burt,' without presumption, ' that sprinkling or pouring water on the face,
is not baptism.’ Dr. Gale, says, 'they who are not duly baptized '
[that is, plunged under water] are certainly not baptized at all.' Dr. Gill, says,
'baptism must be
performed by immersion, without
which it cannot be baptism.' Mr.
Keach, observes, 'that cannot be true baptism,
wherein there is not, cannot be, a lively
representation of the death, burial, and resurrection, of Jesus Christ.' We,
on the other hand, feel no hesitation in asserting, with equal confidence, that
dipping, plunging, or immersing a person into the water, is not scripture baptism,
and that if a precise conformity to scripture
precept and apostolic example be requisite to constitute a valid performance of
a positive institution, as our opponents assert, it is not baptism
at all— and that all our opponents, who have
not been affused or aspersed with water in the name of the Trinity, are still
un-baptized—nor will they have complied with the divine injunction till they
have received the ordinance in this scriptural manner.
terms, “circumstantial evidence,” employed in the present
proposition, may be thought by some to concede a consciousness of invalidity in
our argument. 'Give us,' say they, 'direct testimony in support of your practice
and we will place confidence in the strength of your positions.' But, let it be
remarked, that our opponents have adduced no direct evidence in maintenance of immersion—unless
their mere assertions respecting the word baptize be of this description.
Excepting these unfounded and gratuitous declarations, all the testimony they
profess to bring is as much circumstantial as what we propose to lay before you.
They have adduced no case from scripture, in which it is unequivocally said the
baptized were totally put under water from head to toe, and taken out again in
the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They simply infer that if a person
is 'baptized in a place of much water, he must 'be plunged into it.' They think
it natural to suppose that the Eunuch was immersed, from the circumstances of
the case; but they have no direct proof for it. John's baptizing in Enon,
because there was much water there, is the plainest instance they can exhibit in
support of dipping; and yet this is allowed to be only a presumptive proof. And
so of every other case, and every other judicious opponent. The fact is, that no
intelligent person, acquainted with the precise nature of this controversy, and
supporting his respective opinion in a candid and feasible manner, can have
recourse to any other species of argumentation. As there is no certainty
obtainable, respecting the mode of this sacrament, but from the circumstances of
its primitive administration, and as these, when fairly examined, will clearly
settle the question at issue, we shall apply ourselves to these alone.
before we come to the more direct discussion of our subject, it will be proper
to observe that we are not contending for a circumstantially precise and
unvarying mode of baptism. We have defined our
method to be 'pouring, ' sprinkling, or otherwise applying the element to the
candidate ’in opposition to ' dipping, immersing, or otherwise 'applying
the candidate to the element'—modes as opposite to each other as light is
opposed to darkness. We are not so supercilious as to argue that the water must
be poured and not sprinkled, or sprinkled and not poured; or that some definite
quantity must be used; or that it must be applied to some particular part of the
body exclusively— because on these points the scriptures are unquestionably
silent—and therefore it does not become us to be wise above what is written,
nor to determine, respecting this or any other institution, what God has wisely
and graciously left to the judgment or circumstances of his people. That the
mode universally prevalent among our opponents is unscriptural, we
conscientiously believe; and that the method generally regarded by Pedobaptists
is true and complete, we are equally confident.
prosecuting our future enquiries, we shall observe the following arrangement:—
contradictions and difficulties of our opponents.
frequent application of the word baptize. m. The mode of baptism among the Jews.
Several instances of scripture baptism.
numbers baptized by John and Christ's disciples.
The baptism of the Holy Ghost.
The numerous difficulties attending immersion.
danger of dipping in many cases.
CONTRADICTIONS AND DIFFICULTIES OF OUR
this particular has not a direct reference to the point at which we are aiming,
yet it will indirectly aid our cause, by weakening that of our opponents, and by
meeting an objection they have frequently brought against us. They would make us
believe that their doctrine is so plainly established, and the evidence by which
it is upheld so simple and tangible, that he who runs may read it, and that the
way-faring man, though a fool, will easily arrive at their conclusions. They
also affirm, that in supporting our system, there is so much difficulty, labor,
management, and contradiction displayed, that people of ordinary capacities
cannot comprehend our arguments; while superior minds must detect our sophistry,
and should disentangle themselves from the ensnaring influence of our communion.
The author of Antipedobaptism and Female Communion Consistent,' has the
following remark:—'On what principle, honorable to Pedobaptism, and to the
literary character of its defenders, can any one account for the numerous
inconsistencies that subsist among themselves? 'Another objection,' 'says Mr.
Gibbs, 'to the theory of infant baptism, is the
'contrariety of opinion which exists among those who yet most cordially espouse
its general principles. This implies a deficiency of scripture evidence to guide
their decisions, as well as a want of scriptural law to regulate their
practice:'nor is this an unfounded assertion; for though they all agree in the
general conclusion, that infant baptism is
necessary, it is well known that they differ materially as 'to the premises from
which they draw this conclusion; ' and that they flatly contradict each other as
to many particulars connected with this ceremony. So palpable is this difference
of opinion in the history of the present controversy, that we frequently find
the most expert and zealous defenders of Pedobaptism, not only admitting the
great facts from which we reason, but strenuously opposing and
laboriously disproving the principles laid down by some of their own
party.' This sentiment is frequently broached in the writings of the Baptists;
and it proceeds on the supposition that their system is free from similar
inconsistencies, and their writers from those perplexities which they find or
fancy amongst us. Now we think it may be easily perceived, from what we shall
lay before you, that our brethren have also a vast many difficulties, and that
the writings, issued in defense of their scheme, are pregnant with
contradictions and contrivances—sufficient, indeed, to prove that their cause
cannot be upheld without a great deal of trouble. Their labored publications,
some of which were not elicited by the attacks of Pedobaptists, display toil and
research equal to any thing adduced against them, and develop contradictions
unknown to our side of the question. A few specimens will place this assertion
in a clear point of view.
FREQUENT APPLICATION OF THE WORD BAPTIZE
what has been previously advanced respecting the import of the word baptize, it
might be thought needless to enter further into the discussion. It should,
however, be observed, that the foregoing considerations were designed to prove
merely that its applications were various and opposite. Our present intention is
to convince you that it is frequently used in a sense perfectly consistent with
our mode of administering this sacrament—by applying the element to the object
in the shape of pouring, sprinkling, staining, and the like.
however, is proper to remind you, that the scriptural mode of baptism
cannot be determined simply by the use of this word. After what has been
said, it must strike the dullest apprehension, that a term of such vague and
general import, can never of itself settle a question which has been so long and
so ably litigated by contending parties. The circumstances of the New Testament
baptisms must be carefully examined; and conclusions drawn from them fairly and
ingenuously. By this means, one may arrive at the truth; and, in the exercise of
an unprejudiced spirit, settle the dispute. To prove that the use of the word
baptize perfectly harmonizes with our scheme is the design of the ensuing
remarks, we shall refer you, first, to certain texts in the New Testament :
being as concise as the subject will admit.
INSTANCES OF SCRIPTURE BAPTISM
circumstances to be examined unquestionably prove that the apostolic mode of baptism
was not by dipping, immersing, or otherwise applying the person to the
what has been advanced you are doubtless convinced that the terms employed to
express this rite by no means prove, that any person was ever put under water in
the administration of this ordinance by John the Baptist or the disciples of our
Lord. You have, also, seen that the expressions used to designate this ceremony,
are as much in accordance with pouring and sprinkling as with dipping and
immersing. That Jewish baptisms, which were of constant occurrence before and
during the days of Christ's personal ministry, were performed by pouring or
sprinkling. We shall now adduce further circumstantial evidence to establish our
position. This may be easily deduced from the administration of this rite in the
primitive church, and even from those cases which apparently most favor the
scheme of our opponents. We purpose, first, to offer a few preliminary
considerations, and then to investigate those narratives of baptism,
in which the circumstances afford us any intimations respecting the
definitive action at issue between us and our esteemed brethren.
It may be observed, as a general remark, that in all the baptisms of the New
Testament no delays were ever necessary or ever made. Whenever persons were
brought over from a profession of Judaism or Heathenism to the adoption of
Christianity, they were baptized immediately. We read of no postponements on
account of numbers, sex, size, delicacy, health, dresses, want of water, or any
thing of the kind. Wherever the apostles preached with success, then and there
they baptized their converts—whether the season were hot or cold, wet or dry,
day or night; whether the people were old or young, male or female, in sickness
or in health. To the mode they adopted there arose no obstacles from time,
place, audience, or circumstances. Hence Mr. Robinson
justly remarks, 'there was no intermediate state of scholarship; baptism
was administered immediately on conviction of the
truth of the report.' Thus when many of the Samaritans of Sychar believed on our
Lord (john 4:39,
41), and were baptized immediately on accrediting the truth of the report, pure
water, though fetched from Jacob's well, which was distant and deep, was
procured—but, whether for immersion, we
leave you to judge. So when the three thousand were converted, under Peter's
sermon, every requisite was then and there ready for an apostolic baptism,
though water was exceedingly precious in the city
In the baptisms administered by John to the multitudes that followed him, and of
the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost, we perceive insuperable
obstacles to the system of dipping. Most, if not all, of these people were from
home when baptized, many of them, indeed, at a very considerable distance, (acts
2:5-11.) When they went to hear these celebrated preachers, most
of them, no doubt, prompted by curiosity, they could have had no intention of
being baptized, as they had none of being induced to solicit it. And, surely, in
the case of John the Baptist, they could not have anticipated being put under
water, since it is universally agreed that such a thing had never been done
before. Their conviction of the truth of the report and baptism
were, as far as practicable, effected at the same time. In fact, most of
those pricked to the heart, under the incriminatory sermon of Peter, were among
the most ungodly of their kind, and were mere visitors in the city. Antecedent
preparation for baptism with them was entirely out
of the question. Neither do we read of their having second suits of attire with
them—nor of their borrowing change of raiment from their neighbors, who, being
themselves mostly unconvinced, were not likely to lend them three thousand
suits, to be saturated in the water, or to be worn away by persons of whom they
knew nothing personally, and whom they despised on account of their credulity.
To dipping here, the obstructions are immense. But, on the supposition that
affusion or aspersion was the mode, every difficulty is immediately removed.
As our opponents assume, that the people baptized by John and our Savior’s
disciples, had change of raiment with them, we will,
merely for the sake of argument for the moment, admit the assumption. But what
must have been the consequence of using it in out-of-door dippings, and
particularly in the wilderness, or on the banks of the
Should our friends, to remove the foregoing perplexities, argue that the people
were immersed without bringing a second suit of clothes with them, we then reply
that this by no means mends the matter. Many of John's converts came from
It is a remarkable circumstance, that in those baptisms which were administered
in cities and houses (as nearly all Christian baptisms were), we never read that
the minister or his converts went into, or down into, the water, or came out of,
or up out of, the water—which would have been the case had they been
submersed. When people were baptized in country places at rivers, brooks, or
running streams, which are always in channels lower than the circumjacent land,
it was necessary, for facilitating the operation, especially if many were
baptized, or capacious vessels were not at hand to convey the element to a
distant place, that they should go to, or down unto, the water for the reception
of this rite—though they were only aspersed or affused with it. And thus much
and no more the scriptures declare. But, if in house or city baptisms, the
converts had been dipped, it would have been said they went into, or down into
the pool, bath, or tank, and were submersed, and then came out, or up out, of
the water—for going into, or down into the water, would have been as requisite
for immersion in this case, as in the preceding,
or as going down into a modern baptistery—yet this is no where recorded.
Therefore, as the people must have gone down to the river for affusion—which
they did—and as they must have gone down into the bath for immersion—which
they did not— (the words of scripture being judge) we conclude that all were
affused or aspersed, and none of them plunged. This exposition accounts for the
different phraseology of the inspired writers, and harmonizes with the various
narratives of scripture baptisms.
It is also evident, that our Lord's forerunner and followers baptized all who
were brought or made willing to submit to this sacrament. We read of no person
being refused on account of age, sex, character, or circumstances. The Jewish
nation, oppressed by the Roman yoke, and expecting a temporal deliverer in the
Messiah, and supposing John to be this divine person (luke 3:15), they came to him and were
consecrated unto his doctrine. John however, having assured them that he was not
the Christ, but that he was soon to appear—when, therefore, the Son of God
commenced his ministry, they hastened to him and were consecrated unto his
doctrine, even more numerously than they had been unto John's. Now, it is said,
that' all the ' people were baptized' of John (luke
3:21); and that Christ, by his disciples, baptized more than he, (john
4:1,2.) Of all the multitudes that applied, we read of none that
were refused. Certain Pharisees and lawyers, indeed, rejecting the counsel of
God against themselves, would not submit (luke
7:30); but none who were disposed to comply were rejected. We may,
therefore, conclude that, with very few exceptions, all the Jews were baptized.
The exhortation which John gave to the people generally, and to the publicans
and soldiers in particular (luke
3:11-14), in no wise militates against this assumption, since,
without even a promise of compliance with his injunctions, they were all
baptized, (luke 3:16.)
Nor does the case of the three thousand who, after hearing Peter's sermon, were
pricked to the heart, and gladly received the word preached to them (acts
2:37,41); since it only proves how many were baptized and what
means induced such a number to submit. There, however, is not a word about any
being refused. Nor does that of Cornelius—since his first receiving, the Holy
Ghost was evidently intended merely to remove the prejudice of Peter against
admitting Gentiles into the visible church, (acts
10:44-48.) Here, again, none are refused. The only passage
exhibiting the appearance of terms or restrictions in baptizing is the supposed
question of the Eunuch and the answer of Philip, in Acts
8:37; but which is almost universally allowed, by competent
judges, to be an interpolation—and, therefore, ought not to be in the sacred
writings. In a word, we may defy our Baptist brethren to adduce a single
instance where any persons applying for baptism for
themselves, or for others, were refused. And as we have seen that all, with an
inconsiderable exception, did apply—we say all, or nearly so, were actually
baptized—some of them, probably, more than once or twice—first, by John (luke 3:21), then by our Lord's
disciples, during his life-time (john
4:1,2); and again after his resurrection, (acts
19:3-5.) At least, a due consideration of these passages renders
it likely. That all were not plunged under water appears to us unquestionable;
and will be proved more at large under the next particular. We must now examine
a few instances of scripture baptism, and we shall
select those chiefly in which the circumstances of the administration are
detailed, and on which the dipping hypothesis is mainly erected.
The Ethiopian Eunuch, (acts
8:27-40.)— As this is a case on which our opponents lay the
greatest stress in supporting their exclusive mode of baptism,
and as it offers the only instance of Christian baptism
in the New Testament, where the circumstances of the administration are
largely noticed, we have placed it first in our enumeration. It is roundly and
repeatedly asserted that Philip put the Eunuch entirely under water. The grounds
of this assertion are the meaning of the terms employed, especially the
prepositions eis and ek. In reply, we beg to offer
the following remarks, to show that he was not immersed, but only affused or
sprinkled by the deacon.
The Greek terms, as we have abundantly proved, are as favorable to our view of
the case as to that of our opponents—the verb baptizo meaning to pour,
sprinkle, or apply, the water, as well as to dip or immerse the body— and the
prepositions eis and ek, implying no more than that
they went to the water and returned from it. The first preposition being
translated to or unto five hundred and thirty-eight times in the
New Testament, and the latter from one hundred and eighty-six
times—this point is placed beyond debate. Dipping, therefore, cannot be
established from the terms employed; while the circumstances, when duly weighed,
make such an action highly improbable.
Ii. The place
where this rite was administered, leads one to conclude that sprinkling or
pouring was the method adopted. It is called a desert, (acts 8:36.) Now, a desert, according
to the definition of one of our opponents, 'is a part of the earth wanting in
pleasant rivers, elegant trees, fruits, &c.' Hence the wonderful diffusion
of gospel blessings, among heathen nations, is thus expressed by the
prophet:—'In the wilderness shall waters break out and streams in the desert.'
(Is. 35:6.) Had there been much water in this place, as the remark of Mr. Keach
implies, it would have been cultivated, and not have remained a desert. We
conclude, therefore, that the place was unfavorable to dipping. (See Ps. 63:1.)
This is corroborated by an historical fact. When Cambyses was about to invade
Egypt, in the year 627, B.C. and had to pass this very spot or near it, 'he
contracted ' with the Arabian king, that lay next the borders of Palestine and
Egypt, to supply him with water while he passed the deserts that lay between
these two countries; 'where accordingly it was brought on camels' backs; without
which he could not have marched his army that way.'
A parallel case is mentioned by the Jewish historian: When Caesar was
marching his army from Ptolemais to Pelusium, through the land of Judea, and
probably by the rout partly taken by the Eunuch, it being a dry country, Herod
supplied it with water and other provisions thither and on its return, to the
delight of Augustus.
This water is also without a scripture name, while every material spring,
fountain, or well of the
Let it be remarked further, that had Philip and the Eunuch gone down into the
water and come up out of the water, it by no means proves that Philip immersed
the Eunuch. Maclean says, 'we do not affirm that 'going down into the water is
the same with baptism or immersing. Philip and the
Eunuch might go to their necks in water, and yet not be baptized.' This is
palpable, since Philip went into the water as well as the Eunuch, and yet was
not baptized. This rite was something done while in the water, and perfectly
irrespective of going into and coming out of it.
Besides, to say that they would not have gone into the water, had it not been
for the purpose of dipping, is to base the immersion-scheme
on a mere conjecture. We hesitate not to assert, that neither of them
went into the water at all—let our opponents prove as well as assert the
contrary, and then enlarge on the necessity of keeping close to the letter of
scripture, and avoid all inferential reasoning. Further, might they not have
gone into the water without either of them going under? Have not our brethren
done so frequently? Is it not done every day of our lives? Might they not have
gone into the water up to their ankles or knees, and then might not the deacon
have poured or sprinkled some on the head or face of the Eunuch? Nor would this
kind of consecration have surprised the Chancellor, as being an unscriptural or
a new-fangled method. He had been reading just before this sentence: 'So shall
'he sprinkle many nations' (Is. 52:15):—a sprinkling, therefore, was what he
might have expected—probably the very expressions led him to solicit baptism.
With this species of purification also, as a proselyte of Judaism, he
must have been perfectly familiar; whereas the action of one man putting another
under water, was a thing he had never before seen or heard of, and what
therefore he was very unlikely to solicit.
To contend that the Eunuch had water enough in his chariot for a sprinkling, is
all imagination.1 Our opponents might as well
conclude he had enough for his numerous retinue, with which they are pleased to
honor him, and for his several horses; and that he enjoyed the cooling
gratification of riding amidst leathern bottles of this element —sitting as
stately as Neptune upon the waves! There is no intimation that he had even any,
and therefore if only a few drops were required, they must go where it was to be
obtained—nor is there a word said about his having a jug to fetch any in. Our
friends, who object to inference in other cases, are pleased to avail themselves
of it here by wholesale. They also forget in this place what they have
repeatedly told us, that pure, fair, or running water, or, as Josephus says,'
water taken from perpetual springs, was always essential to Jewish consecrations
and Christian baptism. Dr. Gill, however, tells
us, that wine and water, mixed, was the usual drink of those countries ; and if
this were mixed before-hand, as is most probable, it would have been quite unfit
for baptism. Consequently, whatever he might have
had in his warm leathern bottles was no more fit for this sacrament than if it
had, by a miracle, been all turned into wine.
Vii. But there
is another insurmountable objection to the dipping of the Eunuch—namely, the
inconveniency and indelicacy of its accompaniments. This Chancellor must have
been either dipped in his travelling dress and have rode on his way rejoicing,
saturated to the skin, with the water running about his carriage, to the injury
of all its appurtenances and to the endangering of his life—which no person in
his senses will believe; or he must have been baptized naked before a large
retinue of servants, which our opponents, as before remarked, are pleased to
place about his highness; or, lastly, he must have shifted his clothes twice,
and have been in a state of nudity twice before his attendants. Dr. Jenkins
tells us, though not from his own knowledge, that his servants helped him 'to
change his raiment, took notice of the whole transaction; and their 'curiosity
excited enquiry about the liberties taken by Philip.' Now, that a black
man—for he was an Ethiopian (acts 8:27)—and
one of a nation celebrated for the darkness of their skin (jer.
13:23)—a gentleman, a chancellor—and, above all, a
eunuch—should have done all this, and that we should be called to believe it,
without the least scripture authority, exceeds all our credulity. We therefore
unhesitatingly conclude, that he was not put under water, but that he was
baptized by affusion or aspersion. The leading terms of the narrative are in
perfect unison with this interpretation; and the circumstances of the case must
place this view of the subject beyond all doubt in every ingenuous mind.
The Blessed Redeemer, (matt.
1:9, 10; Luke
3:21-23.)—It is strongly contended that our Lord was put under
water by John the Baptist. This is advocated from the supposed sense of the word
baptize, the meaning of a Greek preposition, and the circumstances of the case.
A few considerations will show the fallacy of all these testimonies.
The terms will not prove it. Baptizo, as we have amply
established, meaning either to dip or pour, immerse or sprinkle—and can be
interpreted only by the connection. It is not said our Savior went into the
water; but this is assumed by the expression he came up out of the water. It
should, however, be remembered that the Greek preposition apo, in Matt.
3:16, is translated from three hundred and seventy-four
times, and out of only forty-six times, in the New Testament; and that
one of our most learned opponents has observed that it might be generally, if
not always, thus rendered. Consequently, we can derive no satisfactory evidence
as to the mode of our Lord's baptism from the
leading terms of the narrative; and therefore shall not conclude that he was
plunged under water until our brethren have adduced some more convincing
But even admitting that our Lord did go into the water, and, while in it, was
baptized by John, can our brethren tell us how it was done? A total submersion
of the body does not necessarily follow a mere immersion of
the feet and legs. The ancient carved and sculptured representations of baptism,
as given by Robinson and Taylor, place the candidates sometimes in the
water and sometimes not, while the officer appears pouring the element on his
head, in the character of anointing or consecrating to office. This method, in
respect of adults, is still adopted in the Greek Church. Nor would such a
previous walking into the edge of a river be thought any thing very significant
in a country where the people, as Matthew Henry says, 'went bare-legged' going
into the water, or being put into it, as practiced by infants in the Greek and
other eastern churches, is only a preparatory rite, in the form of ablution, and
not baptism itself, which consists in a subsequent
pouring or sprinkling. But we say there is not a particle of solid proof that
our Lord went into the water at all—and consequently none that he came
absolutely out of it. He went to the water necessarily; for John was
baptizing with the running stream, and when some of it had been poured on his
head, he immediately retired.
But we have internal evidence that John baptized our Lord by pouring or
sprinkling. 'The harbinger,' says Mr. Taylor 'was informed that Jesus baptized,
and all men came to him, (john
3:34.) Part of his answer is, "He whom God hath sent,
speaketh the words of God; for "God giveth not the spirit out of a measure (ek
metrou) unto "him," as water is given at baptism
by his forerunner to 'those upon whom it is poured. And this is fixed to
the 'subject of baptism, by the occasion of the
story, which was a question of debate between the disciples of John and certain
Jews about ritual purification. To no other period of our Lord's life, than his baptism,
could these words spoken by John refer in those early days of his
ministry, when he had as yet done comparatively nothing; and what but the action
of giving could recall, by association of ideas, the Baptist's mind to the
recollection of pouring out water from above using a shell of cup as a measure.
lv. It may tend further to confirm our view of the Savior’s baptism,
if we remark that Aaron and his sons, being types of our Lord in his
priestly office, were, as such, baptized by Moses. The elements employed were
three— water (lev. 8:6),
oil (v. 12), and blood, (v. 23, 24.) The mode of application, in the first
instance, as we have already proved, was pouring or sprinkling—in the second,
it was pouring only—and, in the third, it was staining, or applying a color.
As the anti-type of all this, our Lord was baptized with water by John (matt.
3:13); with an unction by the Father (Is. 61:1; Luke
3:23) ; and with blood by his enemies, (luke
12:50.) In reference to this three-fold element of baptism,
it is said, 'this is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ;
and there are three that bear witness in earth—the Spirit, (or 'unction,) and
the water, and the blood—and these agree in one,' (1 John
5:6, 8.) Now, as the consecration of the type was, in every
instance, by applying the element to the object, it is but fair to infer,
without valid reasons to the contrary, that this of the anti-type was similar. Indeed,
we are certain, that Christ was baptized with the Spirit and blood, by pouring
or applying the elements—and have no hesitation in concluding that the water
of baptism was brought in contact with his sacred
person in a similar manner.
Moreover, as in the case of the Eunuch and of all others baptized in the open
air, if the principles of our opponents are correct, our Lord must have been
dipped naked, and stood exposed to the multitude present all the time—or he
must have been dipped in his ordinary apparel, and, dripping with water, must
have retired to his lodgings, which were probably distant—or he must have
changed his clothes, and thereby have exposed his sacred person twice—before
and after the immersion. And if this occurred in
the month of November, as one of our opponents believes, and if the weather at
that season of the year is sometimes as wet and as cold in
Presuming this deduction to be correct, it must appear evident, that for our
opponents to be continually telling their ignorant hearers, who feel a little
reluctant to be popped under water, that, unless they submit to it like Christ,
they will not fulfill all righteousness—is to produce an inference without
premises, and an argument without a foundation ; since Christ was never dipped
at all in baptism. Besides, to fulfill all
righteousness, the Son of God was circumcised when eight days old, regularly
kept the Passover, and observed all the other Jewish institutions—to fulfill
all righteousness like Christ, therefore our brethren should do the same. Even
in baptism, the case, on their showing, was
singular. He was baptized without saving faith, or repentance, or any recorded
answer of a good conscience. To follow his example fully, none should be dipped
till they are thirty years of age—and a river, if not the
Cornelius And His Family. The
account is related in Acts
10: 44-48, on which we shall be rather concise.
We remark that there is something significant in the expression of Peter: ' Who
can forbid water?' But is ever such language used in reference to dipping in a
brook or a baptistery? It is, however, very appropriate, when applied to a
servant's bringing some in a vessel, as is done in our administration of this
rite. There is, also, another circumstance in this transaction of a most
decisive character. When Peter saw the Holy Ghost descend in a visible manner,
on the centurion and his family, as he fell upon the disciples on
the day of Pentecost, he immediately concluded that they might be baptized with
water, (acts 11:15,
2:3.) This ostensible outpouring of the Spirit brought to his
recollection the words of Christ respecting the baptism
of John. Hear his language:—'And as I began to
speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at 'the beginning: then remembered I
the words of the Lord how he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall
be baptized with the Holy Ghost.' (acts
11:15, 16, compare Acts
1:5.) But whence could arise this instantaneous association in the
apostle's mind, on the system of our opponents? What resemblance was
there to create such an idea, if John immersed all the people? Are any two acts
more directly opposite than the descent of the Spirit on the heads of a family,
and plunging such a family into a river? That the Spirit descended, we know—it
being a fact universally admitted; but what intimation was this to Peter that
the people should therefore be dipped? Supposing, however, that water-baptism,
as administered by John and the apostles of
Christ, was by causing the element to descend upon them out of the hand of out
of a cup, the whole narrative becomes consistent and natural? You will also
observe that the outpouring of the Spirit and baptism
by water are denominated one and the same thing, and are so blended in this
narrative, that it is impossible to conclude that they were not precisely
similar in action. Hence we conclude that both were by an affusion or an
Ii. Here it may
not be out of place to observe, that the case of Cornelius affords us the only
instance where it is said the Holy Spirit was given to persons previous to water
baptism. For this extraordinary method a reason
may be found in the reluctance of Peter to receive into the visible communion of
the church any who were recognized as Gentiles. Most of his colleagues were
infected with a similar prejudice, (acts
11:1-3.) To remove this impression and to justify his proceeding,
the Spirit was poured out in his presence, and fully satisfied his scrupulous
conscience. Nor should it be forgotten, that the baptism of
believers, as contended for by our opponents, and of believers and their seed,
as advocated by many Pedobaptists, is no doctrine of the New Testament. That
real believers and their seed were baptized, we do not question; but we do deny
that it was confined to them. In the case of adults' conviction of the truth of
the report' necessarily preceded baptism —since
none would have been baptized without it. But that the apostle looked for real
conversion or regeneration, as a necessary qualification for the reception of
this ordinance, we deny—and, were it within the range of our present
investigation, we could easily disprove. The New Testament baptisms were never
deemed a test of character, but only an exhibition of grace and truth. The
illustration and confirmation of this sentiment we trust soon to witness from
the pen of a gentleman pre-eminently competent to do it ample justice.
The Samaritans, Paul And The Jailor. —
These baptisms, to instance no others, are all so circumstanced, as to force the
conclusion that they were not dipped, but simply affused or sprinkled. As these
cases involve nothing very material to this part of our enquiry, we have placed
them together, and shall treat them but briefly.
Samaritans, (acts 8:10-12.)
Of these it is manifest that a great number was baptized. It will also be
recollected that pure or running water, or such as had not
been polluted by natural or moral defilement, was necessary in every individual baptism.
Now, if the candidates had been all dipped, at
least three hogsheads of water were requisite for each full-grown person, and no
small quantity for the little folks. Let it, however, be remarked, that the term
NUMBERS BAPTIZED BY JOHN AND THE APOSTLES
the last particular it was observed, that none who desired to receive baptism
by the forerunner or followers of Christ were ever refused—that no
conditions were made likely to restrict the applicants to any considerable
amount —and that several circumstances conspired to induce the people en
masse to apply first to John for baptism and
then to Christ. This being assumed, we purpose now' to show that the numbers
consecrated by John during the period he preceded Christ as a minister of
religion, and by the disciples of our Lord on the day of Pentecost and
subsequently, were, on account of their numbers, not submersed, but simply
affused or sprinkled. We shall begin with,—
The Baptism Of
John.—'Then went to him
Whether John alone administered this sacrament, or whether he was assisted in it
by his disciples? To this we reply, that there is no more express account
of John's being aided in this operation by his followers, than there is of
infants being baptized by him—nor yet half so much—for we may from the terms
employed infer, that he did the latter, but no intimation is given of the
former. There is not, however, any circumstance which indicates that John was
aided in his work by his disciples; and unless our friends have recourse to
supposition and induction, which they deny us in similar cases, because fatal to
their scheme, they are forced to conclude, that he, single-handed, baptized all
the multitudes that came to him, (luke
3:7.) Further, when the comparative numbers of those baptized by
Christ and John are mentioned, it is said, 'Jesus baptized not, but his
disciples.' And this is adduced to account for his consecrating more than John, (john
4:1,2) This reasoning, however, would have been invalid, had John
been assisted by his disciples. Besides, what Mr. Booth says on another occasion
cannot be inapplicable here. 'It is plain,' says he, ‘that this language (gen.
17:23,) ascribes to Abraham the whole performance of this rite,
exclusive of any assistant; for it was the patriarch himself who took Ishmael
and every male in his own house, and circumcised them. That all this was
performed by Abraham in one day, we have no doubt, because the facts rest upon
divine testimony.' This point we shall therefore consider established.
The next question is, How long was John employed in baptizing this immense
number? You will bear in mind that all these people are said to have been
baptized prior to the baptism of Christ. 'Now when
all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also being baptized,
and praying, the heaven was opened, &c.' (luke
3:21.) In Matt.
3:5, 6, and Mark
1:5, it is expressly said that all the inhabitants of
The third question is, How many did John baptize? This, indeed, cannot be
answered precisely: but if we may avail ourselves of the best information to be
obtained, as our opponents do in similar cases, John must have baptized an
immense number: the inhabitants of
these, then, according to the letter of the sacred historian, and according to
the literal mode of interpretation adopted by our brethren, were baptized by immersion,
during the space of six months, by the single-handed efforts of John the
Baptist. We have said 2,000,000, for the sake of round numbers; the few
individuals who would not submit, and others who might not have applied, or were
baptized at Enon afterwards, are not sufficient to affect the argument founded
on this calculation.
Now, the fourth question is, Whether this was practicable You will observe, that
John had to preach, travel, repose, and take refreshment, during this period, as
well as to plunge the people. Nor have we any account of his being a man of more
than ordinary vigor of constitution or muscular strength of body, neither do we
learn that the people dipped were less robust or more than the generality of
candidates for immersion in this present day. Suppose, then, we take the numbers
for granted, and conclude that John actually baptized them all. In that case,
he must have stood in the water up to his knees or middle, from morning till
night, for the full space of six months, and must have plunged over head and
ears and pulled up again about 12,800 every day, Sabbaths excepted—about 1,070
every hour, and nearly 18 every minute! That all this was impossible, we need
not argue— every child present must perceive it.
But lest it should be thought we had formed our basis of argumentation on too
large a scale, we will, with Dr. Cox, consider the language as expressive of an
indefinite number, though comprehending' great multitudes.' We will, then,
suppose that John baptized but the tenth of the probable inhabitants of
the country; and surely this cannot be considered an extravagant
calculation. We will also suppose that all were adults, men and women, giving
themselves up to the discipleship of the Baptist. To have accomplished this, he
must have stood in the water twelve hours every day for six months, Sabbaths
excepted, and have dipped over head and ears and pulled up again 1,280 between
the rising and setting sun—about 107 every hour—and nearly 2 every minute.
The difficulty of doing this must be apparent on more accounts than one:—His
garments must have rotted—his saturated flesh must have peeled from his
bones—and the cold water must, without a miracle, have caused a fatal rush of
blood to his head. But let us refer to numbers. Now, as this reasoning rests on
facts and experience rather than theoretical calculation, let us hear the
decisions of practical men:—Dr. Jenkins says, that 'any man of common strength
and alertness might dip thirty-seven in two hours.' '—Mr. Burt is very bold
and says, ‘I question not but one minister may, with the blessing of God,
immerge in the sacred names used in baptism, and
raise again from the water, fifty in an hour for five hours successively; and
that he would find a vast deal of 'pleasure therein." Of course Mr. Burt
means in this conjecture, for it is nothing more, that the blessing of God
includes some extraordinary, if not miraculous, assistance. Nor did he probably
contemplate that the minister might ever be a little weak brother and his
subjects very large and weighty. But, after all, this would be only a trifle
compared with the labors of 'poor John the Dipper!'
vi. We may,
however, be questioned in return, Whether the baptism of
so many people, in so short a time, by a single individual, would have been
practicable on the supposition, that they were all baptized by affusion or
aspersion, as administered by the great body of Christians in the present day ?
We answer in the affirmative, for the case has been demonstrated. Dr. Robertson,
in his History of America, tells us, that' a single clergyman, in one day,
baptized 5,000 Mexicans.'—Mr. Robinson, in his History of Baptism,
says, that' in the font of the Vatican Church at Rome, Pope Liberius, on
a holy Saturday baptized, of both sexes and of different ranks, 8,810
catechumens.' —Pope Gregory says, as cited by the last historian, that' Austin
baptized more than 10,000 persons in England on a Christmas day;' and, according
to Mr. Booth, Francis Xavier, a missionary among the Indians, baptized 15,000 of
them in one day. Admitting the truth of these statements, two things are
manifest, our opponents being umpires of the question, that neither the
clergyman, Liberius, Austin, norXavier, baptized by immersion;
and secondly, that John could have baptized all we have supposed with perfect
ease by pouring or sprinkling.
Vii. But we have
said John was a Jewish priest, as Zacharias was before him. Now as our opponents
positively deny the existence of proselyte baptism before
his day, the only baptism which God had appointed
under the law to be performed by the ministers of religion on the candidates for
purification or consecration, was pouring or sprinkling, or applying the
element—this we have proved from scripture and the declarations of our
opponents. You have seen that the congregation was sprinkled en masse, or
the water was aspersed upon them as a body. This mode our opponents affect to
ridicule when advocated by modern commentators as likely to have been adopted by
John in respect of the multitudes he baptized. But they should bear in mind that
Aaron and every high, and probably every inferior priest, did the like at God's
command, for a purpose avowedly similar to those of a New Testament baptism.
Nor are we aware that there is any thing more laughable in it than there is in a
young preacher of modern times dipping the folks by dozens in a river or
Viii. It may be
also proper here to notice, that we have, no fresh specification of the mode of baptism
in the writings of the Evangelists; consequently we must infer that it
was to be done as appointed by Moses. Nor could John, without injunctions
unknown to us, and on which, of course we cannot reason, have acted differently
from his predecessors; and yet he received the sanction of the Savior. The great
numbers initiated by him, and the more full development of the original design
of this institution, by no means affect the mode of his operations. This method
was divinely appointed (heb.
9:10), and consequently came from heaven (matt.
21:25), with all the doctrines and duties which the precursor of
the Messiah delivered and inculcated, and which, rather than the manner of his
consecration, was evidently intended by baptism in
the last-cited passage. If there were any alterations introduced, it devolves on
our brethren to prove it: and as they talk and write so largely on positive
precepts as well as apostolic examples, let them adduce their warrant for
changing the mode of baptism current for at least
fifteen hundred years. But as this is impossible, they must allow us to assume
that it was never altered, and that John sprinkled the people as his forefathers
had done in their generations.
But still it may be objected that John's baptism was
an entirely new ordinance peculiar to the age and occasion of his ministry, and
that any reference to the Mosaic rites cannot fairly illustrate the manner of
its administration. For this purpose Matt.
21:25, is cited:—' The baptism of
John, whence was it, from heaven or of men? or is it an institution of
God or the invention of mortals? This question the persons addressed were unable
or unwilling to answer—so that the passage does not prove it to be of human or
divine origin exclusively. We will, however, admit that this was from heaven.
3:31.) But then the language does not determine whether it was the
result of an entirely new revelation of God to John, specifying the subjects,
mode, and design of the ceremony, or the adoption of a religious ordinance long
before in use among the Jews. The doctrines he preached were as much from heaven
as the rite he administered, and were probably included in the term baptism;
but they had been revealed and promulgated during many preceding generations.
The present ministry of the gospel is unquestionably from heaven, though
instituted eighteen hundred years ago. The phrase from heaven, signifies only of
divine origination. (See
Here it may not be irrelevant to our object to observe, that the Disciples of
St. John the Baptist, a sect residing in the East, have perpetuated or adopted a
plan of baptizing which corroborates our position—that John acted in
conformity with the supposed customs of the Jewish priests. These people
reiterate, in a solemn and public manner, the mode of John's baptism
once a year. The following is Norberg's account:—'On the day when John
instituted ' his baptism, they repeat this sacred
ordinance. They 'proceed in a body to the water, and among them one who ' bears
a standard ; also the priest, dressed in his camel's hair ornaments, holding a
vessel of water in his hand, he 'sprinkles each person singly as he comes out of
the river, 'saying, I renew your baptism in the
name of our father and savior John, who, in this manner, baptized the Jews in
the Jordan and saved them: he shall save you also.—Last of all, he immerges
himself in the water for 'his own salvation."—Here we have the people in
the water before their baptism and the priest
after—while the only transitive act is sprinkling, which is alone designated
the baptism. Mr. Wolfe, the missionary, found a
The Baptism Of
The Three Thousand On The Day Of Pentecost.—That these people were
baptized by pouring or sprinkling, and not by dipping or immersing, will be
rendered plain from the following considerations:
The time occupied in baptizing them was too limited. On the most liberal
calculations, the apostles could not have begun to baptize till the middle of
the day. Peter did not commence his sermon to the multitude till the third hour
of the day, or about nine o'clock according to our reckoning, (acts
2:15.) His discourse, of which Luke has given us an outline in the
second chapter of the Acts, was
evidently protracted and elaborate. Then there was time employed in the
subsequent enquiries and responses —in explaining the design of this ordinance
and all the preparations for it—which would have consumed little short of
three hours; and as night came on, about six o'clock in the evening, when we may
suppose they would have been arrested in their operations, they could have had
no more than about six hours in which to perform this ceremony; or, as Mr.
Burt's calculations intimate, only five hours were consumed in the
administration. For the sacred historian renders it plain, that they were
initiated into the church on the very day of their conviction (acts
2:41); and as our brethren assure us, that 'baptism
in scripture always preceded adding to a visible church,’ and that the
'apostolic churches were composed of baptized believers' and none ever admitted
to their communion who had not been baptized'—we are necessitated to conclude
that the three thousand were, in this manner, initiated into the church at
Jerusalem in the afternoon of the day of Pentecost.
ii. Let us
suppose, then, that all these people had been baptized by the twelve apostles
alone—for this is the more probable interpretation—two hundred and fifty
persons would have fallen to the lot of each administrator, who, on the
principle of our opponents, must have immersed about forty-two per hour during
six hours successively, or fifty per hour during five hours without
intermission, at every immersion pronouncing the
sacred names used in baptism — a task, no doubt,
very laborious, and performed but with immense pains and assiduity. There must
also have been twelve distinct places or accommodations for this baptizing,
which we shall presently show you were not easily procurable in Jerusalem,
especially by the disciples, who were almost universally detested, and whose
converts, being mostly visitors during the feast of Pentecost (acts
2: 8-11), could have commanded no private or
public conveniences for such an immersing.
If it be asserted, though it cannot be proved, that the seventy brethren
assisted the twelve apostles, we reply that while this proportionately
diminishes the manual labor of each within the compass of practicability,
allotting but thirty-six candidates to each dipper, it greatly enhances the
difficulty in another respect, since not less than eighty-two convenient if not
distinct places suitable to such an occasion must have been obtained under all
the inauspicious circumstances mentioned before. That is, eighty-two places
containing fair and pure water sufficiently large and deep for dipping men and
women with such dispatch and delicacy must have been provided immediately, and
on the spot, by the poor persecuted disciples and their equally detested, if not
anathematized, converts, in the city of
But this dipping of the three thousand was a small part of the business to be
performed in five or six hours. If our opponents' prerequisites to baptism
are scriptural, the apostles must have examined the fitness of all these
candidates for the reception of this rite, and which, according to modern
practice, must have consumed thrice the time requisite for their immersion.
This labor must have been greatly enhanced by the circumstance, that the
apostles knew little or nothing of their moral character previously, except that
they had by their vote at least become the murderers of the Holy One and the
Just; and which was no great recommendation in their favor. To reply that as a
multitude thy gave sufficient evidence of genuine conversion to God, will avail
nothing; since a crowd, exclaiming under a sermon from a Baptist brother, 'men
and brethren what shall we do?' would not satisfy his mind that they were,
according to his hypothesis of believers' baptism, proper
subjects for this ordinance, nor would he know in the confusion of the outcry
who had absolutely offered the supplication. No, he would examine them at
length, one by one; and as he acts on apostolic example, he must conclude that
Peter and his colleagues did the same. Nor would it avail our opponents
to say that the apostles, because able to discern the spirits which influenced
false teachers, (1 Cor.
12:10), were able to determine intuitively the spiritual state of
these three thousand; since what they did in this respect, all believers are to
do, (1 Jn. 4:I),
since they were often mistaken, as in the case of Simon Magus, and since God
alone can read the heart, (1 Kings
8:39.) In fact this point is conceded by our brethren."
Consequently the apostles had to catechize these three thousand people
individually and minutely on their change of heart, knowledge of the gospel,
moral character, purity of motives, grounds of hope and the like, besides to dip
them under water and take them up again in a solemn manner in five or six hours.
Then there is another obstacle to the immersion of
the three thousand on the day of Pentecost—and in the time above specified.
These people were baptized in their ordinary clothes—or they fetched a second
suit for the occasion—or they were baptized naked. If they were dipped in the
clothes they had about them while listening to Peter, they must have retired to
their homes streaming with water, and as their garments were 'light and
naturally loose,' their saturated state would have made them stick to the body
of both the men and the women all the way to their lodgings. Or if they ran home
directly after the sermon and fetched a second dress to be baptized in, they
must have changed their apparel twice somewhere—our brethren suppose in the
porches of the pool of Bethesda, where, as we have shown, sixteen persons must
have been dressing and undressing in each at the same time—some pulling off
their dry clothes and others their wet—and have been twice in a state of
nudity before each other—and then the three thousand wet suits must have been
bundled up and taken away to dry—or they must, in the last place, have been
baptized naked, and if the pool of Bethesda were the place, all of them, men and
women, before each other's eyes. One of these things, on the principle of our
opponents, must have occurred. But as all of them are equally incredible, we
conclude they were afiused or sprinkled only.
Let it be further remarked, that in all ceremonial purifications, of which baptism
was certainly one, pure, fair, clean, running or living water was
required—not water simply free from natural pollution, but void of all moral
contagion. This is intimated by the apostle, 'and our bodies washed with pure
water,' or, as Josephus expresses it, 'water drawn from perpetual springs,' (heb.
10:22.) It is also acknowledged by our opponents :—Dr. Gale
says, 'a fountain or running stream in the remotest times was always judged purest
and most proper for purification.' Rees tells us, that ' the early
Christians went to a river, brook, or pool of fair water, and there
discharged a good conscience towards God.' Also, that 'a single rivulet ' having
pools of fair and deep water would have been as fit for John's baptism
as if he had twenty.' Therefore these three thousand must have been
dipped into a running stream, and only one at a time, and the water must have
been fair or pure; or each one of them must have been dipped into a separate
tank or bath, and these vessels, if used repeatedly, must have been filled
afresh for each candidate; since moral pollution was supposed to attach to the
cleansing element.5 This is plain from the
baptisms under the law, to which reference has been made already. As the priest,
by placing his hands on the head of the scapegoat in the name of the
congregation, he symbolically transferred their guilt to the victim, so
purifying the person with water transferred the moral pollution to the element.
Now if there were no running streams of fair and pure water in or near
That there must have been a great difficulty in obtaining water in quality and
quantity adapted for such an extraordinary immersion is
evident from the best accredited evidence of different and impartial writers. We
are informed, that pure or fair water, and such as people might drink, was
exceedingly scarce and precious in Jerusalem and its vicinity—what the
inhabitants procured for use being preserved with the utmost care in domestic
reservoirs, made at a great expense and filled chiefly by the rains and snows
which fell in the wet and Winter seasons. (Compare 2 Kings
5:15 ; Ecc. 12:6 ; Is. 36:16 ; Jer.
2:13.) 'There was no fountain to form a brook ' in the
neighborhood of Jerusalem excepting that of Si' loam—as St. Jerome expressly
affirms in his commentary ' on Jeremiah the fourteenth; and which the accounts
of travelers of later ages have confirmed. And as for the fountain of Siloam,
which was near, sometimes it had no water, and sometimes when it had, was not
agreeable to drink. The Crusaders in 1099, when besieging
Buckingham, who visited Jerusalem in January, 1816, says, 'at the southern
extreme of this valley, we were shown a well bearing the name of the prophet
Jeremiah, from a belief that the fire of the altar was recovered by him at this
place after the Babylonish captivity, (mac.
1:19.) It is narrow, but of considerable depth, and is sunk
entirely out of a bed of rock. Being lower than any of the wells at
is further evident, that there was no natural spring or fountain of water in the
city of Jerusalem itself; and as Jerom remarks, only one in the immediate
neighborhood, which arose in the valley of Siloam, and this did not always
run.'This water has several names, and was probably collected into different
artificial reservoirs in its course down the valley. It is called the Pool of
Siloam (john 9:11,
compare with Neh. 3:15), which was
divided into the upper and lower pools, (Is. 7:3; 22:9.) Mr. Keach says it was
the same as that designated Gihon, (1 Kings
1:33, 88.) It is called the Dragon's Well, (neh.
2:3); and is said to go softly by Isaiah, (chap. 8:6.) Dr.Clark
says, this water 'rose under the wall of
is further confirmed by the same author, who tells us, that 'Pilate undertook to
bring a current of water to
pools of water, made by Solomon to water his vineyards and gardens (Ec. 2: 6 ;
Song of Sol. 4:12), were at Ethan, a place six miles distant from
much for the quantity of water obtainable for dipping the three thousand persons
above referred to. Though we do not presume to say, in reference to recent
observations, that waters, in the lapse of ages, may not change their course
(see Ps. 107:33-35), yet in this case the narratives of modern researches are so
analogous to what we find in the Holy Writings generally, and particularly to
the conduct of Hezekiah, 'in stopping up the fountains and the brook that ran
through the midst of the land, that the king of Assyria might not come and find
much water' (2 Chron. 32: 4); that
it was unquestionably the same on the day of Pentecost, as discovered by Mr.
Buckingham in 1816. We have only to refer to a few passages of scripture, to
perceive how different the East and
is our argument affected by those frequent expressions of much water, many
waters, great waters, waters in the plural number, and the like; since they are
certainly hyperbolical, and can be interpreted only as referring to a
comparative portion of this element in an arid climate,
"where it is confessedly very scarce and precious. The like must be said
respecting the language of Moses, in Deut.
8:7, where he tells the Hebrews that God would bring them, into
good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, that, spring
but of valleys and hills.', This description, must be understood in reference,
to the great and terrible wilderness wherein was drought, 'and where there was
'no water.' The expression is highly-figurative; nor have we any right, with so
many topographical illustrations before us, to understand it literally any more
than to suppose that the Holy Land was actually 'flowing with milk and honey'—a
description applied to it about a dozen times in the writings of Moses.
the combination of circumstances now mentioned, we assume that the three
thousand were not dipped at all. When we find that the words of the institution
do not necessarily require dipping, and equally favor aspersion—when so
many difficulties oppose the notion of immersion
in the case now before us—when fair or pure water, was so scarce, and the
preservation of it so essential to the existence of the inhabitants—when there
was no river or running stream of pure water in the vicinity of Jerusalem suited
to such an immersion—and when, on the lowest
calculation, eighteen thousand hogsheads of this water of life was necessary for
dipping the people on this memorable afternoon—when this must have been
obtained of enemies for strangers, become detestable by changing their
religion—and when the difficulty of being dipped decently and conveniently are
added to these obstacles, we infer that their immersion was
almost the last thing one could believe respecting them: We therefore conclude
that they were not plunged into or under water, but that a small portion was
poured or sprinkled upon them. This places the case within the limits of
prescription and beyond.
The Numerous Baptisms Subsequently
Administered.—The baptism of the three
thousand mentioned before, was not all the apostles had to perform.
The sermon which Peter preached on a following day in Solomon's porch was still
more successful—five thousand persons having believed his doctrine and
conformed to his maxims (acts
4:4); and if the apostles did not depart from their usual method,
of which we have no intimation— if baptism was
administered immediately on conviction of the truth of the report,'—then they
all immediately underwent this operation. But as Peter and John appear to have
been the only apostles engaged on this memorable occasion, and our opponents
cannot prove there were more, better than we can prove children were baptized,
their task, according to the notions of our Baptist brethren, must have been
overwhelming; and, agreeably to the time at present consumed in plunging adults,
must have laboriously occupied these ministers, and kept them from preaching the
gospel for the salvation of others, to accomplish which they were especially
appointed (1 Cor.
1:17), more than a fortnight. There were then all the difficulties
of doing it decently—of procuring water—of personally examining them—and
the like, as noticed before; and which, after what has been already advanced,
must have been enormous and overwhelming. We conclude, therefore,
that these five thousand were baptized only by pouring or aspersion—then all
In the following chapter (acts
5:14), we learn that 'believers were the more added to the church,
multitudes both men and women.' We have no definite enumeration of the numbers;
but we may reasonably conclude, from the general use of the expressions in the
New Testament, that they were at least many thousands. Now, it is said of these
that they were added to the church, and, from analogy, we may conclude that they
were all previously baptized—' baptism in
scripture always preceded adding 'to a visible church.'Consequently, on the
hypothesis of our brethren, all these multitudes, men and women, were immersed
In opposition to all this evidence, and in order to remove every obstacle to the
immersion of the three thousand on the day of
Pentecost, Mr. Booth says, 'People, who are but little accustomed to bathing,
either for amusement, for medicinal purposes, or with religious views, may
wonder how such multitudes could be accommodated, if they were immersed in
water; but when it is considered that this was done at Jerusalem, where
immersion was quite familiar, and must, by the laws of Judaism, be daily
practiced, not only there, but in all parts of the country, their amazement will
cease.' — In reply to this statement we remark,-—
That it is mere assumption to say, that immersion was
familiar and practiced daily at
That some of the Jews had baths for amusement and medicinal purposes, we have no
question. Herod the Great erected many—some at a vast expense—and even on
the tops of high towers, supplying them with rain water. Nor is it a matter of
the least moment how often the people bathed themselves for their pleasure or
their health—as that is not the question at issue, though ingeniously blended
That the people and all of them bathed themselves by immersion
every day, 'with religious views,' is what we very much doubt—though
had this been the fact, it is no warrant for one person's dipping
another—which is allowed by all our opponents, who have noticed this
operation, to have been a perfect novelty, or till the time of John, never
performed; and after what has been said respecting the locality of the city,
must have been impractical.
That water was very precious in
as no person will credit the assumption of Mr. Booth, when thus investigated, we
shall recur to our former inference, that the three thousand were not plunged
into or under water, but that a small portion was poured or sprinkled upon them.
This removes all amazement, places the case within the limits of prescription,
and beyond the influence of the smallest difficulty. , , „
BAPTISM OF THE HOLY GHOST
brief review of this important subject will fully establish the doctrine we have
been laboring to prove. It will show the sacramental sense of the word
baptize—and demonstrate the manner in which water-baptism
was administered in the first age of the Christian church, and, on the
principles of our brethren, how it should be performed in the present day. This
topic is so lucid in its nature, and the deductions arising from it are so
simple and conclusive in our favor, that we need not be very elaborate in the
discussion to substantiate in the firmest manner that Christian baptism
consists in pouring, sprinkling, or applying the water to the person.
Indeed, if there were no other evidence obtainable in support of our practice,
this would be ample, and, to every unprejudiced, intelligent mind, convincing.
We shall proceed, therefore, to make a few observations for the purpose of
illustrating this interesting point. We remark—
That the baptisms of the Holy Ghost and of water are mentioned in such
connections and under such circumstances as to lead
every unbiased mind to conclude that both were administered in the same
manner—our opponents, indeed, admit this position. But some of them seem
disposed to assume that we are dipped into the Holy Ghost, and, consequently,
that we should be dipped into water. Our ensuing remarks will invalidate the
former assumption and induce an inference which must overturn the latter. Let us
hear the analogous representations of the baptism of
the Spirit and of water:—
3:11. 'I baptize you with water; he
shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost
and with fire.'
1:8. 'I have baptized you with water,
bat he shall baptize you with the
3:16. 'I baptize you with water, but
he shall baptize you with the Holy
Ghost and with fire.'
1:33. 'He that sent me to baptize with
water, the same is he that baptizeth with
the Holy Ghost.'
1:5. 'John truly baptized with water,
but ye shall be baptized with the
2:38. 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for
the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.'
10:37,38. ‘And began from
10:47 'Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have
received the Holy Ghost as well as we?'
11:15. 'The Holy Ghost fell on them;
then remembered I the word of the Lord: John indeed baptized with
water, but ye shall be baptized with
the Holy Ghost.'
you perceive that the baptisms of the Spirit and of water are associated in the
evangelical narratives in such a way as constrain us to conclude that the mode
of communication was the same in both cases. In fact, there would be a
perversion of all consistent language if there existed any very material
difference between them. To suppose that in the above verses the word baptize is
employed for two such different actions as immersing and pouring, without any
intimation to that effect, would be charging men who wrote as they were moved by
the Holy Ghost and in words divinely inspired (1 Cor.
2:13). We, therefore, infer that the baptisms of the Spirit and of
water were administered in the same manner. Now the only question for our
consideration is by what mode of application were men baptized by the Spirit?
Or, in other words, were they applied to the Spirit in the form of dipping,
or was the Spirit applied to them in the shape of pouring or sprinkling? For it
happens in this case that the manner was ostensible, and the expressions are as
lucid as the light.
To give the subject a fair consideration, we shall refer you, in the first
place, to the promises of the Old Testament, in which we shall discover
that the manner of the Spirit's application to the people was to be by pouring
or sprinkling only. A few citations here will suffice.
32:15. 'Until the Spirit be poured upon
us from on high.'
44:3. '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.'
52:15. 'So shall he sprinkle many
34:29. 'I have
poured out my Spirit upon the house of
2:28, 29. ‘I will pour out of my
Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy; and
upon the servants and upon the handmaids in
those days will I pour out of my Spirit.'
12:10. 'And I will pour upon the
house of David and upon the inhabitants of
passages render it plain that the promises of the Old Testament represent the
Holy Spirit as being poured or sprinkled on the people, especially under the
gospel economy. No instance can be found where it is said they shall be dipped, or even,
as it were, dipped into the Holy Ghost. The promises which were announced by
John, in Matt.
3:11, and by Christ, in Acts
1:5, assure us that the Spirit was to come upon the people under
the Christian dispensation.' The same ideas are suggested in various other parts
of the sacred writings.
We shall, secondly, refer you to the declarations of the Old Testament
respecting the mode of application of the Holy Spirit—and the representation
is universally in our favor. He—
Came upon Balaam (numb.
14:10), Jephthah (judges
11:20), Othniel (judges
3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Samson (Judges
14:6, 19), Saul (1 Sam.
16:13), David (1
Sam. 16:13), Poured out upon, Ezek.
39:29 ; Prov.
1:23. Put upon them, Numb.
11:17, 29; Is. 42:1. Put within them, Ez. 11:19 ; 36:27;
37:14. Given to them, Neh.
9:20. Resting upon them, Numb.
11:26 ; 2 Kings 2:15. Filled with him, Exod.
From this reference you will perceive that under the Old Testament
economy the spirit of God is represented invariably as coming to,
into, and upon the people—while the people are never said to come to, or be
dipped into the Spirit. Those passages in which the working or portion,
since the mode of his communication is the only thing we are now investigating.
He is said to lead, teach, enlighten, quicken, sanctify, comfort, and the like;
but our object is only to consider how he comes into union with mankind, as the
action only of baptizing now solicits a development.
Having shown how the Holy Spirit was applied to the people under the legal
dispensation, and the terms employed to express his future communication under
the gospel economy, we shall proceed to examine the mode of his coming, as
detailed by the evangelists and apostles.
Abiding upon them, John
iii. Breathed on them, John
Coming upon them, Acts
Descending on them, John
Falling on them, Acts
Filling them, Acts
Given to them, Luke
Ministered to them, Gal.
Poured upon them, Acts
Received of the Father, John
Resting on them, 1 Pet.
Sealing them, Eph.
Sent from on high, Luke
24:49; 1 Pet.
Shed on them, Acts
Sitting upon them,
this list of expressions you will easily
discover in what manner the Holy Ghost was given to the people—always by
coming to, into, or upon them—but they are never said to be dipped into the
Holy Spirit. And if you refer to some of the phraseology commonly employed
by our opponents in reference to the action of baptism and
apply it to the case before us—it must make absolute nonsense if not something
much worse:—bathed in the Holy Spirit—buried in the Holy Spirit—descending
into the Holy Spirit— dipping into the Holy Spirit—entombing, immersing, and
interring in the Holy Spirit—planting and plunging in the Holy Spirit—and if
to this you add the corresponding expressions, raising, rising, and ascending
out of the Holy Spirit, the language becomes quite insufferable.
Here it may be right to show you that however our opponents may debate, as to
the mode of baptism by water, they give up the
point in most cases respecting the mode of baptizing by the Spirit. Their
observations are worthy of your attention. Dr. Jenkins says, 'baptism
may fairly express the state of the disciples when overwhelmed with 'the
Spirit, though he fell upon them.' — Booth says, 'a
person may, indeed, be surrounded with subtle effluvia, a liquid may be
so poured, or it may so distil upon him, that he may be as if immersed'
[or baptized.] — Cox says, 'a person may be, indeed, immersed [that is
baptized] ' by means of pouring." — Reach, 'though the baptism
of the Spirit was by pouring forth of the Spirit, yet they were
overwhelmed or immersed in it.' —'If you pour water' on a child until it is
covered all over in water, it may be 'truly said that child was buried [or
baptized] in water.' From these citations, out of many more, we gather that the
word baptize is here used for pouring, since the baptism of
the Spirit came upon the people, or fell upon them from above. Their quibble as
to the quantity, we have noticed before and shall presently refer to it again.
To talk of the condition being baptism is only an
evasion, since the action by which that condition is induced, is the only point
in debate, as our opponents have repeatedly told us, and as a fair consideration
of the case renders unquestionable.
Let it be further observed, that as the sprinkling or pouring of water on the
ceremonially unclean, is said to sanctify (heb.
9:13), purge (Ps. 51:7; Heb.
9:21, 22), cleanse (ezek.
36:25), and wash them (heb.
10:22); so the Holy Spirit, being poured out or sprinkled on the
morally polluted, is said to renew (titus
3:5), cleanse (ezek.
36:25), wash (1 Cor.
6:11), and sanctify them, (1 Cor. 6:11.) Hence we have not only an
analogy between the modes of communicating the Spirit and water in baptism,
but also between the effects produced by that communication. The one
being the thing signified and the other the sign of it. This corroborates the
position we have assumed, that the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit and the
application of water to the object in the shape of pouring or sprinkling were
designed to be like each other.
It may be noticed, also, that the baptism of the
Spirit is called the anointing of the Spirit. 'That word, ye know, which was
published throughout all Judea, and began from
The only material response of our opponents to this reasoning is an application
2:2:—'And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a
rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting'—in
which they would fain discover something like a dipping into the Holy Ghost.
They tell us the disciples were surrounded by the Holy Ghost, or, as it were,
drowned or immersed in it. 'The apostles were as completely immersed in the Holy
Spirit, as the body is immersed in water at baptism.' —
But there are two or three circumstances which completely destroy their
hypothesis on the passage.
was not the Holy Ghost, nor even the wind, that filled the house, but a
sound, a great noise, resembling the rushing of the wind. This might be said
to fill the house, indeed, as the preacher's voice fills the chapel; but if our
friends can find a scriptural precept or apostolic example for denominating the
Holy Spirit a great noise, or can suppose a house crammed with sound, as a
vessel is filled even with air, either quiescent or in motion, we shall give
them credit for erudite researches and refined imaginations. This sound,
however, was not the Holy Spirit. He descended and sat upon the beads of the
apostles in the likeness of cloven tongues of fire, which were a symbol of its
But there is a second reply still more fatal to their objection. Supposing them
correct as to the element, which we have seen they are not, it evidently came
from above, and descended upon them, filling the room where -the disciples had
previously assembled. It came from heaven. They were not plunged into it, for it
fell upon them. As the whole question at issue turns on the action or mode of baptism,
the quantity of the element can have nothing to do with solving it. Nor,
indeed, would they so often recur to the quantity or condition, were they not
perplexed about the mode of its communication.
The disciples, moreover, were to be baptized with the Holy Ghost as they were
with fire, which was a symbol of its external manifestation,' (matt.
3:16.) Now, what was the action here? Were they immersed, plunged,
or dipped into the fire? No.—' And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as
of fire,' (like a bishop's mitre,)' and it sat upon each of them,' (acts
2:3.) The promise refers alike to both elements, the Spirit and
fire, and the application of both are equally called baptism.
Hence, if they were dipped into the Holy Ghost, they were also dipped
into the fire. But the fire came and sat upon them—consequently, the Holy
Ghost descended upon them in like manner. This we must conclude, or imagine the
Baptist speaking more inconsistently than the most blundering Pedobaptist in the
From this concise view of the baptism of the Holy
Ghost, the following deductions appear legitimate:—
That the out-pouring of the Holy Ghost is
really and truly baptism.
It is repeatedly called baptism,
and presented a visible and indubitable exhibition to the eyes of the
spectator.- When our opponents call this a mere metaphorical baptism,
they employ a misnomer, which proves that the subject is somewhat
embarrassing to them, and that there is no method of extricating themselves, but
by resolving the terms into a figure of speech. Their wisest authors, however,
have occasionally conceded this point in an honest manner.
the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of water are so
conjoined and blended in the predictions, promises, narratives, and declarations
of the Old and New Testaments, as to induce the
inference, that both were administered in the same way. Indeed, it would betray a confusion of language, equal
to that at
That as the leading terms employed to designate this institution, are equally
favorable to pouring or sprinkling as to dipping or immersing—as there is no instance found in the Bible where the word baptize is used
for one person plunging another; nor any where in the Greek language, for the
two-fold action of putting under water and raising again—as the circumstances
of the early scripture and Christian baptisms demonstrate that pouring or
sprinkling was the universal and invariable method—and as the baptism
of the Holy Spirit is represented as being always effected in this
manner, we come unhesitatingly to the conclusion, that dipping is not Christian baptism,
and that affusion or aspersion is; and therefore, 'if what is not
commanded by Christ or practiced by his apostles, be virtually ' forbidden as
will-worship'! — if it be ' clear that nothing 'can be baptism,
which varies from Christ's institution'"— then, on their own
principles, the Baptists are all, what they designate us, an un-baptized body of
NUMEROUS DIFFICULTIES ATTENDING IMMERSION
have no hesitation in saying that such are the difficulties attending the system
of our opponents—that it is not likely our blessed Lord should have enjoined
it without an imperious necessity—and that we should not adopt it without the
clearest evidence. We have, however, shown you that it was never instituted by
Christ, that it was never practiced by his immediate followers, and that it is
an invention of men who have endeavored to improve the appointments of the
gospel. Our design is now to show you that the scheme we are combating ought to
be immediately abandoned, not only as unscriptural, but also as presenting
obstacles to its performance, which at once determine the line of conduct we
ought to pursue. We are conducted to this view of the controversy by the
repeated declarations of our brethren respecting the universal practicability of
their mode, the pleasure of submitting to it, and the great significance and
solemnity of its administration—at the same time treating pouring or
sprinkling a few drops of water upon an unconscious baby out of a basin or
porringer, as they express themselves, with ridicule and contempt—as being
unscriptural and childish, and a profanation of the ordinance of baptism.
'Let us examine whether their scheme be really what they pronounce it,
and whether pouring or sprinkling is not more like a New Testament sacrament,
better calculated to preserve every delicacy of Christian worship, and to become
universal with the extending empire of the Son of God, than that of submersion.
Admitting that the original
institution had been to dip the people in baptism, but
which we have shown was by no means the case, if the practice were found in any
age, country, or condition, to militate against health and decency, it might be
changed for some other mode, which, while preserving the spirit of the rite,
removed the difficulties- of a particular
administration. Thus our opponents have repeatedly varied or entirely omitted
several positive institutions of the New Testament. It is a principle of
Christianity that, when moral obligations, the reasons of which fully appear,
besides being divinely enjoined, conflict with mere positive laws, the reasons
of which do not appear, or but very indistinctly, though also divinely enjoined,
the latter are always to give place to the former. For example: it was a
positive institution of God, that the priests alone should eat the shew-bread of
the sanctuary. Yet when David, and the men adhering to his interest, went to
Nob, Abimelech gave this very bread to them to allay their hunger—that is, he
broke a positive law to perform an act of mercy; and our Lord sanctioned the
act, and commended the principle, by adding, ' I will have mercy and not [or,
rather than] sacrifice,' (lev.
24:6-9; 1 Sam.
12:3.) It was a positive institution of the Almighty, that no work
was to be done on the Sabbath day. 'Every one that defileth it, shall surely be
put to death; 'for whoso doeth any work thereon, that soul shall be cut off from
among his people.' But moral obligations, when operating against this enactment,
are to have the entire preponderance. 'The priests profane the temple [by
laboring] on the Sabbath day, and are blameless. What man 'shall there be among
you, that shall have one sheep, if it ' fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will
he not lay hold on it, and [labor till he] lift it out? Now, to preserve female
modesty— our health and our lives—are moral obligations—the reasons for
which we clearly perceive, besides being commanded by God himself. But were immersion-baptism
clearly a positive institution of Christ—the
reasons of which our opponents do not even pretend to see—if it should
appear that in any case or country, such a mode militates against these moral
obligations—our sole Director in such matters has told us plainly how to
interpret his will, and has assured us, that mere positive enactments, under
those circumstances, are to yield to moral obligations; and though there might
be cases in which the illiterate 'ploughman' would feel somewhat perplexed in
determining between what is merely positive and what is moral-positive, and
wherein the advice of a Baptist pastor might be requisite to direct his
conduct—yet the principle of interpretation our Lord has given, will be found
correct and universally available, perfectly harmonizing with the present
subject of controversy. It is also admitted by our opponents.— Mr. Booth says,
'when positive appointments and moral ' duties cannot be both performed—when
the one or the 'other must be omitted—the preference is given to the moral and
spiritual duty.' — But this observation is made by the bye, and, with our view
of the original institution, is not of immediate application. We shall,
therefore, proceed to notice some of the difficulties of immersion-baptism,
as a reason for supposing, after what has been adduced, that Christ would
not have instituted such a rite in his church, and to show that it ought to be
resisted by Christians with all their might.
The natural dread which most people have of being plunged under water by another
person, presents a powerful difficulty in the way of immersion
baptism; a dread which health, nerves, and piety, in nine cases out of
ten, fail to dissipate. And while this assertion holds true, with respect to
most of the male sex, it applies with peculiar force to the more timid and
delicate sisterhood—who are by far the majority that submit to it. Nor do we
wonder at their hesitation. For a female, modest and fearful, who, perhaps, was
never under water, and scarcely ever up to the knee in it before, to be led into
a baptistery or river—then to be taken hold of by a man in whose strength and
skill she may have no great confidence, and to be plunged backward under water,
without the least possibility of helping herself in case of accidents, which she
knows have sometimes occurred, and consequently may still happen, must be a most
formidable operation, especially to such as are timid and bashful, and when the
crowd around is large and unconverted. Perhaps in all the lifetime of most
Baptist ladies, nothing ever occurs so trying to their modesty or so appalling
to their minds, as this dipping; for though their bodies are not truly
overwhelmed with water. their spirits are with perturbation; nor is this an
imaginary difficulty. Their confessions will attest its reality, and if these
were withheld, how ample is the concomitant evidence?
The above may be considered as remarks of a general character. There are
circumstances where the difficulties are greatly increased. In the case of
people converted in old age, unless of very vigorous constitutions, the
obstacles must be immense; for if they must be baptized subsequent to
regeneration, and if it must be done by plunging the poor old creatures
absolutely under water—in nine cases out of ten the rite must be foregone ;
and these truly regenerated people, according to the constitution of most
Baptist churches, must be deprived of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, and
from being members of their societies.
There are difficulties arising from what we hesitate not to pronounce the
indelicacy of this ordinance, as administered by our opponents—at least, in
the estimation of multitudes that witness its performance. We maintain that this
is a good presumptive evidence against immersion, and
as such only shall we adduce it. Our brethren fail not to say all in their power
to oppose aspersion, and we are bound to advance all we can in opposition to
We say then that this rite, in respect of females removed above the lower
classes of society, must be deemed a very great cross; nor can it be always
administered in a way not to produce many misgivings in the minds of its most
partial adherents. The following fact, among thousands more, will establish our
assertion:—A gentleman was about to be dipped, and to join a Baptist
communion; but before undergoing the operation himself, he went to witness the immersion
of two or three women. The sight and the scenes disgusted him. He thought
the Savior could not have enjoined such an indecent rite. He returned
—examined the scriptures—altered his mind—and relinquished the honor of
being dipped. He is now a respectable minister of the Independent denomination.
Ii. It is also
clear, that if immersion-baptism had been the
practice in the days of Christ and of his inspired apostles, and intended by
them to have been so administered to the end of time; and if it be liable to
abuse, as we have shown and shall further establish, that some grave cautions,
respecting its performance, would have been given in the New Testament, That
this rite is obnoxious to numerous difficulties in our day, with all the help of
modern contrivance, cannot be denied. And we may fairly conclude, that when
dipping one another was confessedly a new thing in the earth—when nearly a
whole nation was baptized, probably twice over, in a short time—and when such
facilities as our opponents enjoy were unknown and unavailable—numerous
difficulties of various kinds must have arisen; and, having occurred, would be
still naturally anticipated. And yet it is remarkable, that neither Christ nor
his disciples, in their discourses or writings, ever intimate the existence of
such accidents, or guard against them for the future. If it had been intended
that all converts should be immersed, and conscious of a liability in the mode
to indecorum and the injury of the health, would not the Savior or his followers
have said something about doing it decently and in order, that the health might
not be injured, nor modesty outraged by carelessness or precipitation ? And is
not this inference corroborated by the injunctions of the apostle respecting the
proper administration of the Lord's Supper (I Cor.
11:17-34), and the order of divine worship? (1 Cor. 11:1-16.) The
very circumstance of there being no cautions, where so
much needed, induces us to conclude, that immersion
was not practiced in the apostolic age, nor
intended to be performed afterwards.
It however is frequently insinuated that what we designate modesty, was not in
such high estimation among the Jews in former times, and consequently that our
reasoning will not apply to New Testament baptisms. This reply however, is
founded on a gross mistake. The greatest delicacy, especially in respect of
women, was considered a virtue of no ordinary lustre. Look at the curse of Noah
enjoined that every thing should be done decently (1 Cor.
14:40), as opposed to indecorum and impropriety, (compare Rom.
13:13, Greek.) To appear unveiled even in the streets was
considered a mark of female immodesty.1All this
being established, we hesitate not to say, that what would be regarded as
immodest in our age and nation, would have been viewed as much more so among the
Jews; and every argument we bring against immersion, founded
on this data, applies with double force against the assumption of the apostles
immersing the men and women either naked or dressed.
Nor let it be supposed that when the gospel was received among the Gentiles, the
dipping of married ladies, at least, in water by the other sex, would have been
more in keeping with their notions of modesty.
Upon the whole we ask whether it is likely that a mode of baptism
should have been instituted by Christ, which would have shocked the
modesty of most virtuous women with Jewish and Grecian prejudices about them—
which would have aroused all the jealousy of their husbands—and which, as a
consequence, must have been a most formidable obstacle to the progress of divine
answer no. And further we assert that it was not only unlikely but never
attempted. We also contend, that the
sooner it is abolished the better—that it has no foundation in scripture or
reason, and was the invention of men laboring to enlarge and amend the
institutions of Christ—and is now adopted and practiced by our opponents, no
doubt, with the best of motives, but, we consider, in ignorance. It is a
scheme which cannot become universal as to climate nor condition. Our opponents
may talk of the meaning of the word baptize, the baptism of
Christ and of the Eunuch, ns long as they please, the indelicacy of their rite
is a valid proof to us that dipping is unscriptural.
The next thing we shall mention, as a
reason for believing that immersion baptism was
never instituted by Christ and should not now be practiced by us, is, that
it destroys all devotion in the minds of most candidates for its reception. The
maxim of the apostle is that we should ' attend upon the Lord without
distraction,' (1 Cor.
7:35.) But in this rite, as administered by our brethren, it is a
thing next to impossible, particularly in the case of many timid and nervous
females. Their mode is truly appalling to multitudes that ultimately submit: it
is really 'passing through water,' and becomes a certain ordeal or test of their
courage. It is formidable in prospect. Many anxious days and sleepless nights
often precede this act of immersion. Our
opponents may ridicule what they term baby-sprinkling as destitute of solemnity;
but if we are not greatly mistaken their own system is a hundred times more so.
Now, if such be the state of the case in our country, where the ladies have so
many precedents and contrivances, how much greater perturbation of mind must
have seized the first women, laid hold of by the harbinger of Christ, to dip
them into the deep and rapid
But there are difficulties which particularly apply to the persons
officiating—and those of various descriptions. Baptist ministers are subject
to sickness and disease in common with other people—now for them to stand up
to the middle in water while baptizing thirty, forty, or fifty persons, as is
sometimes the case, and that after preaching a sermon on this animating topic,
till heated and bathed with perspiration, is enough to cause their death. The
fact is, men may be well qualified for preaching the gospel, administering the
other Christian sacrament, be excellent pastors, and every way fitted for good
ministers of Jesus Christ, and not be able to baptize their people by immersion.
We infer, therefore, that dipping is not Christian baptism,
and that pouring or sprinkling being universally feasible, is the only
scriptural and proper mode.
There are further difficulties arising from the state of the climate and the
peculiar habits of a people. Our opponents sometimes speak of
We shall mention another difficulty arising from the impossibility of always
ascertaining whether the person dipped is perfectly baptized. It appears
requisite for them, that the people should be wetted all over or entirely—no
part being exempted. Suppose but the top of the thumb or of the great toe were,
per accident, not brought in contact with the water, the ceremony is valid, or
it is not. If valid, then suppose the whole thumb and great toe, were to escape
the cleansing touch, would the rite be still valid? If they answer yes, then we
ask—suppose the hand and foot are unfortunate enough to escape, is it valid
then? Here they hesitate—because they perceive 'whereunto this thing would
grow'—since we naturally argue, if but a small part of the body may escape the
water with absolute impunity, why not a trifle more? and if this triflle,
why not another, till we came to merely dipping the head, or even to the foolish
practice of pouring or sprinkling! —A Baptist minister gave a man a second
plunge, because in the first a small part of his face, probably the protuberance
called a nose, was not under the element! In one instance, a deacon applied to a
lady, to have her dipped afresh, because he saw some of her clothes floating
above the Water while her body was under!
Before we conclude this article, it may be proper to notice an observation
frequently made by our opponents, and hinted at before in this discourse. They
say that ' many Pedobaptists agree with them in sentiment, and yet, 'through
shame or fear, refuse to take up the cross and 'submit to the operation.' —
Mr. Gibbs observes, ' nor ' are there wanting many in communion with Independent
' churches, who are compelled to acknowledge that we are '
right; yet, from motives of policy or self-indulgence, they ' decline to follow
the Lord through this despised ordinance. The number of these dry Baptists, as
they may 'be called, is by no means inconsiderable—they are to be found in
almost all societies of professing Christians."— In reply to these
remarks, we observe—
That it is possible for many among us to make blunders similar to those of our
antagonists, respecting the original practice of baptism,
without feeling any powerful obligation to adopt the same in the present
age and country. Of this changing or omitting what they think a primitive mode,
our opponents have furnished them with several pertinent examples. Consequently,
for the Baptists to claim as dippers all who suppose that Christ and his
followers were plunged, is preposterous. Whatever ideas these 'dry Baptists' may
have formed, respecting the action adopted by John the Baptist and the apostles
of our Lord, they conscientiously regard the application of water to the body in
any form, as the essence of the rite; and consider that it may be done in
accordance with the will of God, in a way that shall be most seemly and
convenient amidst the various habits and manners of mankind. These are,
therefore, as much for pouring or sprinkling as ourselves.
When our good friends talk of rejecting their baptism
through 'self-indulgence,' and of its being 'a cross' too heavy for many
pious and conscientious Christians to take up, they seem to forget that scripture
baptism is never called a difficulty, nor
designated a cross by the apostles, nor by any individual who was baptized in
their day—no, not in the coldest season, nor in reference to any kind of
person, the most delicate or fearful. We never read that any one, however
nervous, sickly, unaccustomed to bathe, or ill provided with change of raiment,
or surrounded by a ridiculing crowd, complained of baptism
in any place as a difficulty or a cross. Whatever mode the apostles
observed, it was perfectly consistent with the condition and feelings of all the
people who submitted to it. What does this imply, but that, though modern immersion
is a cross which comparatively few of the Baptists themselves take up
without trepidation of mind, there was none as the rite was administered in the
first age of the Christian church, when dipping would have been a ten-fold
heavier cross than in the present day, and that the modes of the apostles and of
our opponents are very materially different?
That to be baptized by immersion
is a cross, we readily admit; but of this we are persuaded, that no pious
Pedobaptist refrains from carrying it merely on account of its weight.
A person may indeed suppose that immersion
was the primitive mode—he may even think it the better method now; but to
imagine that a true follower of Christ considers dipping as the only mode and
essential to a profession of the gospel, and yet will not submit, is what we are
unwilling to believe—at any rate, none but those who are Baptists in
principle, and consequently Baptists in reality, can be regarded as feeling the
lash of our opponents' insinuation. But, alas ! as Dr. Campbell remarks, 'such
is the presumption of vain man, (of which bad quality the weakest judgments have
commonly the greatest share), that
it is with difficulty any one person can be brought to think, that any other
person has, or can have, as strong conviction of a different set of opinions, as
he has of his.'
DANGER OF DIPPING IN MANY CASES
present branch of our subject is nearly allied to the preceding and may be
regarded as a continuance of it. This investigation, besides being a fair
subject of enquiry, where the circumstances of baptism are
considered the only evidence of real importance in the debate, is forced upon us
by various observations on the other side of the question. Our opponents
repeatedly assure us, either that no person ever received the least harm from
being plunged into the water in baptism—or that
if he did, it must have been for want of skill in the baptizer or of faith in
the baptized. A Baptist, speaking in defense of dipping, lately mentioned one
person in particular who had been cured of some complaint by immersion.
Recourse is often had to the benefit of bathing as an argument for
dipping in baptism—at least, as an evidence of
its harmlessness. Nor is this kind of reasoning confined to conversation. Mr.
Keach tells us of 'an ancient women in
the whole we may fairly come to this conclusion, that the institution of a rite
which endangers the lives of believers, was not likely to have been appointed by
Christ, to be of universal and perpetual obligation—that he did not enjoin
such a ceremony, we conceive we have, from a diligent consideration of the holy
oracles, fully established. The mode observed in the apostolic age was not
dipping, plunging, or applying the person to the element—but pouring,
sprinkling, or applying the element to the person—and the mode to be
scriptural and valid, must be performed in this manner in the present day,
unless our opponents can show substantial reasons for its alteration.
Editor's Note: Mr. Thorn gave a multitude of anecdotal examples of where people's health was negatively affected. I thought that the examples just connected with the obvious conclusion that immersing people in a cold stream in the winter-time was obviously not sensible, especially for the infirm. Basically, the argument stands in stating that the Baptism commanded by Christ could not be performed in many places at certain times of the year without a great potential for negative results if it were immersion. No universal command of God that could not be performed in an arid desert where there is not enough water to drink alone immerse in, or in frigid climates where water is frozen for long periods, and safety and health would be affected, could possibly be the universal command of baptism that Christ intended.
bringing these discourses to a close, we beg to make a few concise observations.
We shall offer a few remarks respecting the manner in which we have conducted
We have been as concise as the nature of the subject would fairly
admit—perhaps have, in some parts, injured the strength of our positions by a
too great condensation of the arguments. With all this brevity, however, we are
not aware of having omitted a single point of importance on either side of the
question. Whatever our opponents have said, in favor of immersion,
have been clearly stated, and few answers, adduced by Pedobaptists, in
support of pouring or sprinkling, have been overlooked. We have presented you
with a tolerably correct epitome of the debate on the Mode of Baptism.
Though many things have been advanced that may be considered offensive by our
opponents, we can assure them that nothing has been said which we do not
consider fair and valid argument and relative to the subject. On the other side,
all is brought forward, which immediately or remotely makes for their doctrine;
and surely offence cannot be taken, if we conscientiously do the same. We should
have acted unfaithfully in this dispute, if a single argument
we have adduced had been kept out of sight. At all events, those who treat the
affusion of infants with so much contempt, and oft times with asperity—who
ridicule our practice as childish and unmeaning—will have no reason,
consistent with their own conduct, to condemn any kind of treatment from
We can most sincerely aver, that, in arguing this point, we are actuated by no
disposition unfriendly toward the Baptists. We do regard them with unfeigned
affection as the children of God; and if any expression has been dropped, which
might indicate a different feeling, we are sorry for it; and hope our
regrets will be construed into an ample apology. We debate with their
principles, and seek only to correct an error, which, we imagine, they have
fallen into. For this, we rather merit their thanks than deserve their censure.
We have been candid and fearless in our statements and deductions—openly
avowed our intention—and assiduously labored to carry it into effect. We
despise any thing like maneuvering in matters involving our religious
In the diversified methods of contemplating and arguing the numerous topics
which have come under our notice, not a species of debate has been adopted, for
which our opponents have not afforded us ample precedents. Whether we have had
English—fathers—utility—inutility—or the like — we have either shown
you, or might have shown you, from the principal authors on the other side, that
such weapons are, used by themselves, or that the character of their reasoning
obliged us to employ them.
We have been careful to avoid mis-stating the practice
and sentiments of the Baptists, or to take any unfair advantage of their
remarks. As our dispute is not with any one individual but with the system of
our brethren, as portrayed in their writings, we have not been led into any
thing like personalities; nor have we thought it worth our while to pay any
regard to many things which too often fill the pages of polemical treatises. Our
object has been to seize upon our opponents' arguments and objections, and to
examine them to the best of our ability—to show what was not relative to the
subject, and what was invalid. It is well known that, in most controversies,
much is frequently introduced having nothing in reality to do with the question
at issue—of which Dr. Cox has given us a curious example, in devoting
two-and-twenty octavo pages in combating an etymological conjecture of Mr.
Ewing, on which he professedly lays not the smallest weight in the course of his
With respect to the plan of the work, and the style we have adopted, we would
merely say, that they were the best we could devise and the simplest we could
employ. We are aware that two or three sections in the latter part might have
been placed in the former—and that many things said in the first might as well
have been deferred till the second. But to divide the work as near as might be
into equal heads, and to render the arguments increasingly interesting, we
deemed our present arrangement the best. Repetitions will have been observed,
but they were unavoidable; and the composition was intended to convey arguments,
rather than display itself.
We shall briefly recapitulate the arguments adduced in these discourses to
establish our position. These may be
under two heads—first, such as overturn the exclusive system of our
opponents—and, secondly, such as maintain our own.
With regard to the former, we have endeavored to show you that all our
antagonists have said respecting the natural conclusions of common readers—the
concessions of numerous Pedobaptists—the history and practice of the Christian
church—the meaning of the Greek word baptize— the import of certain Greek
prepositions — the circumstances of the first baptisms—and certain allusions
to this scripture rite—by no means prove their point. We have also shown that
all the parade about scripture precept and apostolic example, amounts to nothing
like tangible evidence. We have proved likewise that their writers are at issue
among themselves on every material principle of this enquiry ; and that, from
the various difficulties and dangers attending their mode, we have, a priori,
evidence that immersion baptism is
unscriptural and improper. Whether the force of the reasoning has satisfied all
your minds, it is not for us to determine—to ourselves, it is entirely
In establishing our own position, that pouring, sprinkling, or applying the
element to the subject, is exclusively Christian baptism,
we have shown—that this action is in accordance with the frequent use
of the verb baptize —that the mode of ministerial baptism
among the Jews, was only sprinkling or pouring—that the instances of
the New Testament baptisms, in which the mode of administration is at all
intimated, support the idea of pouring or aspersion — that the vast multitudes
baptized by John, and by our Lord's disciples, on the day of Pentecost and
subsequently, must have received the rite in this manner. The mode of baptism
by the Holy Ghost was always by coming to or upon the
persons baptized. We have, as said before, adduced the dangers and difficulties
of immersion as
auxiliary evidence in defense of our sentiment. Our assumption was, that the
original mode of baptism could
not be discovered by the import of isolated terms, but by the circumstances of
its administration. These we have extensively investigated, and shown from
evidence, anterior and collateral, that dipping one another was never practiced,
and that pouring or sprinkling was the only mode observed formerly and is the
only one valid now.
Deductions from the whole discourse :— i. We
come now to the conclusion that immersing, dipping, or plunging one another is
not baptism at all—and that those who have not
received this sacrament by pouring or aspersion are yet un-baptized. That our
opponents may not regard this inference as uncharitable, however they may deem
it unscriptural, we have only to observe that this is precisely their assumption
with respect to Pedobaptists. A few citations will prove this
declaration.—Mr. Booth says, 'it appears to us, on the most deliberate
enquiry, that immersion is not a mere circumstance or mode of baptism,
'but essential to the ordinance—so that, in our judgment, 'he who is
not immersed is not baptized." —Dr. Roland says, ' Christian baptism
is neither more nor less than an 'immersion of
the whole body in water.' — Dr. Gale says, 'Tertullian's maxim will
hold true: They who are 'not duly baptized are certainly not baptized at
all." — Again, 'I think it is clear that nothing can be Christian 'baptism
which varies from Christ's institution.'—Mr.Dore says, 'baptism
is properly administered by immersion and
only by immersion.' —' If,' says Dr. Jenkins,
‘ the words ' of the apostle (eph.
4:5) are to be regarded, there can 'be but one baptism,
as but one faith. So that dipping or sprinkling must be the true. Both
cannot be true." — Mr. J. SCennelt contends, that 'baptism
ought not to be 'administered more than once.' After these assertions
they may controvert our arguments, but must not question our charity. Now as we have proved that one person dipping another is not baptism,
and that this rite was always performed by pouring or sprinkling, we must
come to the conclusion that the Baptists are all wrong, in fact, are un-baptized
; and ought, without delay, in order to fulfill all righteousness, to receive
this sacrament by affusion or aspersion—and that whoever is induced by
persuasion to be immersed, will submit to a rite that has no foundation in
scripture, but is the mere invention of men, and a part of will worship.'
In closing these remarks, we beg to remind you that if it be of importance that
water baptism should be scripturally administered,
and that to comply with the injunctions of scripture is a duty we owe to God, of
how much greater importance is it that we should be baptized or imbued with the
Holy Ghost; without whose gracious influence all forms and ceremonies, however
scriptural and proper, will avail us nothing in the day of judgment. Unless
the Spirit be poured out upon us, and our hearts are regenerated by his energy,
and our lives made conformable to his blessed will—unless we have sincere
and saving faith in Christ, and holiness flowing from it, all our rites and
sacraments will do us no real good. Let us never so occupy our thoughts and
hearts about external ceremonies as to overlook or slight the internal
operations of divine grace. Let us never give a secondary consideration to
the renewal of our natures and moral sanctity of our conduct. While we
contend for the faith once delivered to the saints in the exhibition of signs
and symbols, let us never forget that the thing signified, inward and spiritual
grace, must be the chief matter of investigation and the supreme object of our
research and prayers—may we be right in both—and,
above all things, may our consciences be sprinkled from all dead works to serve
the living and true God.'—Amen.
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