Did They Dip?
IMMERSION IN ENGLAND.
I have not space, nor has the busy reader time to read, a complete history of immersion in England. It began with Christianity in England, continued as the general practice till the seventeenth century and is even now the theory of the Established Church. France was the first country that tolerated sprinkling for baptism in the fourteenth century. Although the climate, in England was cold, immersion did not give place to sprinkling till long after. Scotland under the influence of Calvin and Knox, soon after the Reformation, began to practice sprinkling and pouring, but it had but little effect upon England. These facts are fully set forth by the historians, but I shall take space for the words of but a few of them.
Dr. Wall, an Episcopalian, says:
"One would have thought that the cold countries should have been the first that should have changed the custom from dipping to affusion, because in cold climates the bathing of the body in water may seem much more unnatural and dangerous to the health than in the hot ones (and it is to be noted, by the way, that all of those countries of whose rites of baptism, and immersion used in it, we have any account in the Scriptures or other ancient history, are in hot climates, where frequent and common bathing both of infants and grown persons is natural, and even necessary to the health). But by history it appears that the cold climates held the custom of dipping as long as any; for England, which is one of the coldest, was one of the latest that admitted this alteration of the ordinary way." (Wall's Hist., Vol. I., p. 575).
I will let Dr. Schaff tell something of the universality of immersion in England:
King Edward VI. and Queen Elizabeth were immersed. The first Prayer Book of Edward VI. (1549) followed the Office of Sarum, directs the priest to dip the child in water thrice: "first, dipping the right side; secondly, the left side; the third time, dipping the face toward the font." In the second Prayer Book (1652) the priest is simply directed to dip the child discreetly and warily; and permission is given, for the first time in Great Britain, to substitute pouring if the godfathers and godmothers certify that the child is weak." During the reign of Elizabeth," says Dr. Wall, "many fond ladies and gentlewomen first, and then by degrees the common people, would obtain the favor of the priests to have their children pass for weak children too tender to endure dipping in the water." The same writer traces the practice of sprinkling to the period of the Long Parliament and the Westminster Assembly. This change in England and other Protestant countries from immersion to pouring, and from pouring to sprinkling, was encouraged by the authority of Calvin, who declared the mode to be a matter of no importance; and by the Westminster Assembly of Divines (1643-1652), which decided that pouring and sprinkling are "not only lawful, but also sufficient." The Westminster Confession declares: " Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person." (Teach., pp. 51, 52).
Sir David Brewster says:
During the persecution of Mary, many persons, most of whom were Scotchmen, fled from England to Geneva, and there greedily imbibed the opinions of that church. In 1556 a book was published in that place containing "The Form of Prayer and Ministration of the Sacraments, approved by the famous and godly learned man, John Calvin," in which the administrator is enjoined to take water in his hand and lay it upon the child's forehead. These Scotch exiles, who had renounced the authority of the Pope, implicitly acknowledged the authority of Calvin; and returning to their own country, with Knox at their head, in 1559, established sprinkling in Scotland. From Scotland this practice made its way into England in the reign of Elizabeth, but was not authorized by the Established Church. In the Assembly of Divines, held at Westminster in 1643, it was keenly debated whether immersion or sprinkling should be adopted: 25 voted for sprinkling and 24 for immersion; and even this small majority was obtained at the earnest request of Dr. Lightfoot, who had acquired great influence in that assembly. Sprinkling is therefore the general practice of this country. Many Christians, however, especially the Baptists, reject it. The Greek Church universally adheres to immersion. (Edin. Ency., Vol. III., p. 236).
I shall give but one other authority in this connection and that is the scholarly Dean Stanley. He says:
We now pass to the changes in the form itself. For the first thirteen centuries the almost universal practice of baptism was that of which we read in the New Testament, and which is the very meaning of the word baptize; that those who were baptized were plunged, submerged, immersed into the water. That practice is still, as we have seen, continued in Eastern Churches. In the Western Church it still lingers among Roman Catholics in the solitary instance of the Cathedral of Milan; amongst Protestants in the numerous sect of the Baptists. It lasted long into the Middle Ages. Even the Icelanders, who at first shrank from the water of their freezing lakes, were reconciled when they found that they could use the warm water of the geysers. And the cold climate of Russia has not been found an obstacle to its continuance throughout that vast empire. Even in the Church of England it is still observed in theory. The Rubric in the public baptism for infants enjoins that, unless for special causes, they are to be dipped not sprinkled. Edward VI. and Elizabeth were both immersed. But since the beginning of the seventeenth century the practice has become exceedingly rare. With the few exceptions just mentioned, the whole of the Western Churches have now substituted for the ancient bath the ceremony of letting fall a few drops of water on the face. (Christian Institutions, pp. 17, 18).
Many events of English history show how deeply imbedded in the English mind was the idea of immersion. In the year 429 the Britons won a great battle over the Saxons. The following events then occurred;
"The holy days of Lent were also at hand and were rendered more religious by the presence of the priests, insomuch that the people being instructed by daily sermons, resorted in crowds to be baptized; for most of the army desired admission to the saving water; a church was prepared with boughs for the feast of the resurrection of our Lord, and so fitted up in that martial camp as it were in a city. The army advanced, still wet with the baptismal water; the faith of the people was strengthened, and whereas human power had before been despaired of, the Divine assistance was now relied upon. The enemy received advice of the state of the army, and not questioning their success against an unarmed multitude, hastened forward, but their approach was, by the scouts, made known to the Britons, the greater part of whose forces being just come from the font, after the celebration of Easter, and preparing to arm and carry on the war, Germanus declared he would be their leader." (Bede's Eccl. Hist., B. I. c. XX.).
One of the most notable events of English history was the baptism, A. D. 596, of ten thousand Saxons in the river Swale. Fabyan, the old chronicler, thus speaks of the success of the work of Augustine:
"He had in one day christened xm. of Saxons or Anglis in ye west ryur, yt is called Swale." (Fabyan's Chronicle, Vol. I., p. 96).
Pope Gregory in a letter to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria, informs him of this great success of Augustine's. He says:
"More than ten thousand English, they tell us, were baptized by the same brother, our fellow bishop, which I communicate to you to announce to the people of Alexandria, and that you may do something in prayer for the dwellers at the ends of the earth." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. LXXVII, p. 951).
Gregory understood this baptism to be an immersion. He said:
"We baptize by trine immersion." (Patrol. Lat., Vol., LXXVII, p. 498).
Gocelyn, in his life of Augustine, says:
"He secured on all sides large numbers for Christ, so that on the birthday of the Lord, celebrated by the melodious anthems of all heaven, more than ten thousand of the English were born again in the laver of holy baptism, with an infinite number of women and children, in a river which the English call Sirarios, the Swale, as if at one birth of the church from the womb. These persons, at the command of the divine teacher, as if he were an angel from heaven, calling upon them, all entered the dangerous depths of the river, two and two together, as if it had been a solid plain; and in true faith, confessing the exalted Trinity, they were baptized one by the other in turns, the apostolic leader blessing the water. * * * So great a prodigy from heaven born out of the deep whirlpool." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. LXXX, p. 79).
It is also reported that Paulinus, A. D. 629, baptized ten thousand in the same river. Camden says the Swale was accounted sacred by the ancient Saxons, above the ten thousand persons, besides women and children, having received baptism in it in one day from Paulinus, Archbishop of York, on the first conversion of the Saxons to Christianity. (Britannia, Vol. III., P. 257).
Alcuin says of King Edwin and his Northumbrians:
"Easter having come when the king had decided to be baptized with his people under the lofty walls of York, in which by his orders, a little house was quickly erected for God, that under its roof he might receive the sacred water of baptism. During the sunshine of that festive and holy day he was dedicated to Christ in the saving fountain, with his family and nobles, and with the common people following. York remained illustrious, distinguished with great honor, because in that sacred place King Edwin was washed in the water." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CI., p. 818).
Bede, referring to a period shortly following the baptism of the king, says:
"So great was there the fervor of the faith, as is reported, and the desire of the washing of salvation among the nations of the Northumbrians, that Paulinus at a certain time coming with the king and queen to the royal country seat, which is called Adgefrin, stayed with them thirty-six days, fully occupied in catechizing and baptizing; during which days, from morning till night, he did nothing else but instruct the people, resorting from villages and places, in Christ's saving word; and when instructed, he washed them with the water of absolution in the river Glen, which is close by." (Bede's Eccl. Hist., B. II. c. xiv.).
Bede also tells us of the baptism of the Deiri:
"In that of the Deiri also, when he [Paulinus] was wont often to be with the king, he baptized in the river Swale, which runs by the village Cateract; for as yet oratories, or fonts, could not be made in the early infancy of the church in these parts." (B. II. c. xiv.).
Bede says that a priest, A. D. 628, by the name of Deda told him that one of the oldest persons had informed him, that he himself had been baptized at noonday, by the Bishop Paulinus, in the presence of King Edwin, with a great number of people, in the river Trent, near the city, which is called in the English tongue Tiovulfingacestir. (B. II. c. xvi.).
Alcuin states that after the death of Penda, Osway the king of the Mercians caused them to be washed in the consecrated river of baptism. (Patrol. Lat., Vol. Cl., p. 824).
The Venerable Bede, A. D., 674-735, gives this testimony:
" For he truly who is baptized is seen to descend into the fountainhe is seen to be dipped into the waters; but that which makes the font to regenerate him can by no means be seen. The piety of the faithful alone perceives that a sinner descends into the font, and a cleansed man ascends; a son of death descends, but a son of the resurrection ascends; a son of treachery descends, but a son of reconciliation ascends; a son of wrath descends, but a son of compassion ascends; a son of the devil descends, but a son of God ascends." (In John Evan. Ex. 3:5. Patrol. Lat., Vol. XCII., pp. 668, 669).
Alcuin tells of the baptism of Caedwalla, the king of the West Saxons, at Rome. He says:
"Whilst the happy king was deemed worthy to be immersed in the whirlpool of baptism." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CL, p. 1310).
The Council of Cealchythe, held under Wulfred, A. D. 816, says:
"Let presbyters also know, that when they administer baptism they ought not to pour the consecrated water upon the infants' heads, but let them always be immersed in the font; as the Son of God himself afforded as example unto all believers, when he was three times immersed in the river Jordan." (Hart's Eccl. Records, p. 197. Cambridge, 1846).
Collier, the English Church historian, says of this canon:
"By enjoining the priests not to sprinkle the infants in baptism shows the great regard they had for the primitive usage; that they did not look upon this as a dangerous rite, or at all impracticable in those northern climates; not that they thought this circumstance essential to the sacrament, but because it was the general practice of the primitive church, because it was a lively instructive emblem of the death, burial and resurrection of our Saviour; for this reason they preferred it to sprinkling." (Collier's Eccl. Hist., Vol. I., p. 354).
Hastine, the Dane, A. D. 893, gave his two sons hostages to Alfred, king of England, with the as understanding if "he wished he might imbue them with the sacraments of faith and baptism," and the boys soon afterwards were "regenerated in the sacred font." (Roger de Wendover's Flowers of History, p. 228).
Fridegod, a monk of Canterbury, about A. D. 900, says in his life of Wilfred:
"He showed that those to be saved should be immersed in the clear waters."
And elsewhere he says:
Common people seeking holy baptism are immersed." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CXXXIII., pp. 993, 1003).
The Constitution of the Synod of Amesbury, 977, was drawn up by Oswald and required:
"All children to be baptized in nine days after their birth."
Collier remarks upon this canon:
"It is plain, as will be shown further, by and by, that the English Church used the rite of immersion. It seems that they were not at all discouraged by the coldness of the climate, nor thought the primitive custom impracticable in the northern regions; and if an infant could be plunged into the water at nine days old without receiving any harm, how unreasonable must their scruples be who decline bringing their children to public baptism for fear of danger? How unreasonable, I say, must this scruple be when immersion is altered to sprinkling?" (Eccl. Hist., Vol. I., p. 474).
William Malmesbury, A. D. 979-1009, says of the baptism of king Ethelred:
"When the little boy was immersed in the font of baptism, the bishops standing round, the sacrament was marred by a sad accident which made St. Dunstan utter an unfavorable prophecy." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CLXXIX., p. 1131).
Roger Wendover gives an account of Sweyn, king of the Danes, and Anlaf, king of the Norwegians, coming against London in 994. They were repulsed but over-ran the provinces so that king Ethelred had to pay them a bounty. Wendover continues:
"King Ethelred dispatched at this time Elfege, Bishop of Winchester, and Duke Athelwold to King Anlaf, whom they brought in peace to the royal vill where King Ethelred was, and at his request dipped him in the sacred font, after which he was confirmed by the bishop, the king adopting him as his son and honoring him with royal presents; and the following summer he returned to his own country in peace." (Flowers of History, p. 272).
Lanfranc, the thirty-fourth archbishop of Canterbury, 1005-1089, was born in Italy and came to England by way of Normandy. Commenting on Philippians iii:20 he says:
"For as Christ lay three days in the sepulcher, so in baptism let there be a trine immersion." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CL., P. 315).
Cardinal Pullus, 1144, was born in England, became a professor in Paris, and was highly honored of the Pope. In his book on Divinity he says:
"Whilst the candidate for baptism in water is immersed, the death of Christ is suggested; whilst immersed and covered with water, the burial of Christ is shown forth; whilst he is raised from the waters, the resurrection of Christ is proclaimed. The immersion is repeated three times, out of reverence for the Trinity and on account of the three days' burial of Christ. In the burial of the Lord the day follows the night three times; in baptism also trine emersion accompanies immersion." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CLXXXVI., p. 843).
The Synod of Cashel, A. D. 1172, was held under Henry II.:
"It was ordained that children should be brought to the church and baptized in clear water, being thrice dipped therein, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Roger de Wendover's Annals, p. 352).
We have an account of the baptism of Arthur, the oldest son of Henry VII. He married Catherine of Aragon, who after his death became the wife of Henry VIII. Leland says of the baptism of Arthur:
"The body of all the cathedral church of Westminster was hung with cloth of arras, and in the middle, beside the font of the said church, was ordained and prepared a solemn font in manner and form of a stage of seven steps, square or round like, an high cross covered with red worsted, and up in the midst a post made of iron to bear the font of silver gilt, which within side was well dressed with fine linen cloth, and near the same on the west side was a step, like a block, for the bishop to stand on, covered also with red saye; and over the font, of a good height, a rich canopy with a great gilt ball, lined and fringed without curtains. On the north side was ordained a traverse hung with cloth of arras, and upon the one side thereof, within side, another traverse of red scarsnet. There was fire without fumigations, ready against the prince's coming. And without, the steps of the said font were railed with good timber. * * * And Queen Elizabeth was in the church abiding the coming of the prince. * * * Incontinent after the prince was put into the font the officers at-large put on their coats, and all their torches were lighted." (Lelandi Collectanea, Vol. IV., pp. 204-206.London, 1774).
Leland also gives a description at great length of the baptism of Margaret, the sister of Arthur, 1490, and of Queen Elizabeth, 1533. The royalty were all immersed.
Walker says of baptism during the reign of Edward VI., 1537-1553:
"Dipping was at this time the more usual, but sprinkling was sometimes used." (Doctrine of Baptism, Ch. X., p. 147. London, 1678).
The prayer book of Edward VI. provides:
"Then the priest shall take the child in his hands and ask the name; and naming the child shall dip it in the water thrice. First dipping the right side; second, the left side; the third time dipping the face toward the font; so it be wisely and discretely done; saying, I baptize, &c. And if the child be weak, it shall suffice to pour upon it, saying the words." (Collier's Eccl. Hist., Vol. II., P. 256).
The Sarum or Saulsbury Liturgy, 1541, according to Collier, provides:
"Upon Saturday, Easter-even, is hallowed the font, which as it were vestigium, or a remembrance of baptism, that was used in the primitive church; at which time, and Pentecost, there was used in the church two solemn baptizings, and much concourse of people came into the same.
"The first was at Easter, because the mystery of baptism agrees well to the time. For like as Christ died and was buried, and rose again the third day, so by putting into the water is signified our death to sin, and the immersion betokens our burial and mortification to the same; and the rising again out of the water declares us to be risen to a new life, according to the doctrine of St. Paul. (Rom. vi.)
"And the second solemn baptizing, i. e., at Pentecost, was because there is celebrated the feast of the Holy Ghost, which is the worker of that spiritual regeneration we have in baptism. And therefore the churches used to hallow the font also at that time." (Eccl. Hist., Vol. II., p. 196).
We select a part of the ceremony omitting the explanations:
"Then follow the questions to the godfathers and godmothers, as representatives of the child. Forsakest thou the devil? Ans. I forsake him. All his works? Ans. I forsake them. And all his pomps and vanities? Ans. I forsake them. Satisfied with these, the minister then anoints the child with holy oil upon breast and betwixt the shoulders. Questions to ascertain the orthodoxy of the child- are propounded. Then follows another series: For example, to the child the minister says: What asketh thou? Ans. Baptism. Wilt thou be baptized? Ans. I will. Satisfied with these replies the minister calling the child by name, baptizes it in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (putting it into the water of the font and taking it out again, or else pouring water upon it.) Hist., Vol. II., Pp. 192, 193. Note A.).
In 1553 instructions were given to the archdeacons as follows:
"Whether there be any who will not suffer the priest to dip the child three times in the font, being yet strong and able to abide and suffer it in the judgment and opinion of discreet and expert persons, but will needs have the child in the clothes, and only be sprinkled with a few drops of water." (Hart's Eccl. Records, p. 87).
Watson, Bishop of Lincoln, 1558, says:
"Though the old and ancient tradition of the Church hath from the beginning to dip the child three times, etc., yet that is not such necessity; but if he be once dipped in the water, it is sufficient. Yea, and in times of great peril and necessity, if the water be poured on his head, it will suffice." (Holsome and Catholic Doctrine Concerning the Seven-Sacraments, Pp. 22, 23. London, 1558).
The baptism of James I., King of England was by immersion. He was born in the Castle of Edinburgh, 1556. Of his baptism it is said:
"At convenient time you are to present her the font of gold, which we send with you. You may pleasantly say that it was made as soon as we heard of the prince's birth, and then it was big enough for him; but now he being grown, he is too big for it. Therefore it may be better used for the next child, provided it be christened before it outgrow the font." (Turner, Vol. IV., P. 86, note).
James refers to "the font wherein I was christened." (Works, London, 1616).
Bishop Horn, of England, in writing to Henry Bullinger, of Zurich, in 1575, says of baptism in England:
"The minister examines them concerning their faith, and afterwards dips the infant in the water." (Zurich Letters, Second Series, Parker Society, P. 356).
The Greek lexicons used in England in the first half of the seventeenth century were Scapula, Stephens, Mincaeus, Pasor and Leigh. These all define baptizo as dipping or submerging.
Dr. Joseph Mede, 1586-1638, was a very learned English divine. He says:
"There was no such thing as sprinkling or rantism used in baptism in the Apostles' days, nor many ages after them." (Diatribe on Titus iii.2).
Henry Greenwood in 1628 published "A Joyful Tract of the most blessed Baptism that ever was solemnized." It is printed in black letter. When I first read it I was led to think that it was by an Anabaptist preacher, but after further examination I found that he was of the Episcopal Church. He says of the baptism of Jesus :
"The place where he baptized Christ was in the River Jordan * * * A duplicate River, so-called, because it was composed of two Fountains, the one called Jor, the other Dan, and therefore the river hath this name Jordan: In which River Naaman was washed and cleansed from his leprosy 2 Kings, 5.14; which River Elijah and Elisha divided with their cloak, 2 Kings, 2:8,13. In this Jordan did John baptize our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (pp. 7, 8.)
Daniel Rogers, 1633, published A Treatise of the two Sacraments of the Gospel Baptism and the Supper of the Lord. He was an Episcopalian. He says:
"Touching what I have said of Sacramental dipping to explain myself a little about it; I would not be understood as if schismatically I would instill a distaste of the Church into any weak minds, by the act of sprinkling water only. But this (under correction) I say: That it ought to be the churches part to cleave to the Institution, especially it being not left arbitrary by our Church to the discretion of the minister, but required to dip or dive the Infant more or less (except in cases of weakness), for which allowance in the church we have cause to be thankful; and suitably to consider that he betrays the Church (whose officer he is) to a disordered error, if he cleaves not to the institution; To dip the infant in water. And this I do so aver as thinking it exceeding material to the ordinance, and no slight thing: yea, which both Antiquity (though with some addition of a threefold dipping: for the preserving of the doctrine of the impugned Trinity entire) constantly and without exception of countries hot or cold, witnesseth unto: and especially the constant word of the Holy Ghost, first and last, approveth: as a learned Critique upon chap.3, verse ii, hath noted, that the Greek tongue wants not words to express any other act as well as dipping, if the institution could bear it." (p. 77. London, 1633).
It is a very significant fact that Daniel Rogers was quoted by the Baptists of 1641 as having upheld their opinion. This could not have been if the Baptists of that period had been in the practice of sprinkling.
Stephen Denson, 1634, says:
"Bee Baptized. The word translated baptizing doth most properly signify dipping over head and ears, and indeed this was the most usual manner of baptizing in the primitive Church: especially in hot countries, and after this manner was Christ himself baptized by John. Mat. 3:16.For there is said of him, that when he was baptized he went out of the water; Which doth imply that in his baptizing he went under the water, and thus all those that were baptized in rivers they were not sprinkled but dipped." (The Doctrine of Both Sacraments, pp. 39, 40. London, 1634).
Edward Elton, 1637, says:
"First, in sign and sacrament only, for the dipping of the party baptized in the water, and abiding under the water for a time, doth represent and seal unto us the burial of Christ, and his abiding in the grave; and of this all are partakers sacramentally." (An Exposition of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Colossians, p. 293. London, 1637),
John Selden, 1584-1654, was regarded as the most learned Englishman of his time. He says: "The Jews took the baptism wherein the whole body was not baptized to be void." (De Jure Nat., C. 2).
Bishop Taylor, 1613-1677 says:
"If you would attend to the proper signification of the word, baptism signifies plunging into water, or dipping with washing." (Rule of Conscience, I., 3, c. 4).
The Rev. Thomas Blake, who lived in Tamworth, Staffordshire, A. D. 1644, says:
"I have been an eye witness of many infants dipped, and I know it to have been the constant practice of many ministers in their places for many years together." (The Birth Privilege, p. 33. London, 1644).
Alexander Balfour says:
"Baptizing infants by dipping them in fonts was practiced in the Church of England (except in cases of sickness or weakness) until the Directory came out in the year 1644, which forbade the carrying of children to the font." (Anti-PedoBaptism Baptism Unveiled, p. 240. London, 1827).
Wall is even more definite. He says of the Westminster Assembly of Divines:
"So (parallel to the rest of their reformations) they reformed the font into a basin. This learned Assembly could not remember that fonts to baptize in had been always used by the primitive Christians, long before the beginning of popery, and ever since churches were built; but that sprinkling as the common use of baptizing was really introduced (in France first, and then in other popish countries) in times of popery." (Hist. Inst. Bapt., Vol. II., p. 403). And in another place he remarks: "And for sprinkling, properly called, it seems that it was at 1645 just then beginning, and used by very few. It must have begun in the disorderly times of 1641." (Hist. Inst. Bapt., Vol. II., p. 403).
Sir John Floyer, one of the most careful writers, says:
"I have now given what testimony I could find in our English authors, to prove the practice of immersion from the time the Britons and Saxons were baptized till King James' days; when the people grew peevish with all ancient ceremonies and through the love of novelty and the niceness of parents, and the pretense of modesty, they laid aside immersion, which never was abrogated by any canon, but is still recommended by the present rubric of our church, which orders the child to be dipped discreetly and warily." (History of Cold Bathing, p. 61).
But dipping was not then left off, for Floyer further says:
"That I may further convince all of my countrymen that Immersion in Baptism was very lately left off in England, I will assure them that there are yet Persons living who were so immersed; for I am so informed by Mr. Berisford, minister of Stutton in Derbyshire, that his parents Immersed not only him but the rest of his family at his Baptism." (P. 182 London, 1722).
Walter Cardiac preached a sermon before the House of Commons at St. Margaret's, July 21, 1646. Among other things he said:
"There is now among good people a great deal of strife about baptism; as for divers things, so for the point of dipping, though in some places in England they dip altogether." (P. 100).
From the testimony introduced above we reach the conclusion from the introduction of Christianity in Britain to 1650 immersion was common in England, and was the prevailing practice among all Christian denominations. It is manifest that dipping was the prescribed order of
The Catholics. The Catholic ritual in use in England in 1641 was not opposed to immersion. In fact, the Roman Church never has been opposed to immersion.
The Episcopalians. The Episcopal prayer book and ritual prescribed immersion as the ordinary act of baptism then as now. But there was the difference that immersion was often administered in the Episcopal Church of that day, as is not the case now.
The Presbyterians. We have already seen that sprinkling, or rather pouring, was introduced in Scotland by John Knox and his followers from Calvin. But it did not prevail in England among Presbyterians until the Westminster Assembly excluded immersion by a vote of 25 to 24, Dr. Lightfoot, the president, casting the deciding vote. This was only done after the most heated debate. Dr. Lightfoot himself gives this. account:
Then we fell upon the work of the day, which was about baptizing "of the child, whether to dip him or to sprinkle." And this proposition, "It is lawful and sufficient to besprinkle the child," had been canvassed before our adjourning, and was ready now to vote; but I spoke against it, as being very unfit to vote; that it is lawful to sprinkle when every one grants it. Whereupon it was fallen upon, sprinkling being granted, whether dipping should be tolerated with it. And here fell we upon a large and long discourse, whether dipping were essential, or used in the first institution, or in the Jews' custom. Mr. Coleman went about, in a large discourse, to prove tbilh to be dipping overhead. Which I answered at large. After a long dispute it was at last put to the question, whether the Directory should run thus, "The minister shall take water, and sprinkle or pour it with his hand upon the face or forehead of the child;" and it was voted so indifferently, that we were glad to count names twice; for so many were so unwilling to have dipping excluded that the votes came to an equality within one; for the one side were 24, the other 25, the 24 for the reserving of dipping and the 25 against it; and there grew a great heat upon it, and when we had done all, we concluded upon nothing in it, but the business was recommitted.
Aug. 8th. But as to the dispute itself about dipping, it was thought safe and most fit to let it alone, and to express it thus in our Directory: "He is to baptize the child with water, which, for the manner of doing is not only lawful, but also sufficient, and most expedient to be by pouring or sprinkling of water on the face of the child, without any other ceremony." But this lost a great deal of time about the wording of it. (Works, Vol. XIII., p. 299. London 1824).
Sir David Brewster is regarded as high authority. He says: "In the Assembly of Divines, held at Westminster in 1643, it was keenly debated whether immersion or sprinkling should be adopted: 25 voted for sprinkling, and 24 for immersion; and even that small majority was obtained at the earnest request of Dr. Lightfoot, who had acquired great influence in that assembly." (Edinburgh Ency., Vol. III., p. 236).
All this took place three years after the alleged "invention"of immersion by the Baptists.
4. The Baptists. In this connection I only wish to say that if the Baptists between 1509 and 1641, in England, were not in the practice of immersion, they hold the world's record for dissent. Here are all denominations who recognize and practice immersion and the Baptists alone standing out against them all. As soon as the other denominations adopt sprinkling as their custom, all of a sudden, the Baptists change their practice from sprinkling to immersion. There is no reason for all of this. For my part I do not believe any such charge, and, I think, the following pages will demonstrate, that they did no such thing.
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