BAPTIST PRINCIPLES RESET
Immersion is Baptism.
inspired writers use only one term, with its derivatives, to denote the act
required by the ordinance under consideration. That word, it has been elsewhere
stated, as expressed in Roman letters and changed in form to suit the English
idiom, is baptize. What does it mean?
writers maintain, and multitudes of people believe, that baptize signifies
equally to sprinkle, to pour, or to immerse. We will not affirm that a word
might not be employed with a meaning so comprehensive and yet so indefinite. We
have no knowledge of any such term. There is certainly no such word in the
English tongue. If there is any such term in any language, modern or ancient, it
has not come to our knowledge. We do not perceive what use could be made of so
vague a word. Sprinkling, pouring, and immersing are entirely distinct acts, and
are never confounded in human conception. Terms to express these different acts
are needed in the intercourse of society, and are found, we doubt not, in all
languages; but a word denoting them all would not only be a nondescript,
but tend merely to confuse or mislead. If baptize means sprinkle or pour, it
does not mean immerse.
persons insist that baptize signifies neither sprinkle, pour, nor immerse, but
wash or cleanse; that it denotes an effect, not an act. This definition will be
found to be utterly irreconcilable with the inspired use of the term.
maintain that baptize means immerse or dip, and that, like these terms, though
it may be used in a figurative sense, it invariably has reference to its primary
import. To learn the meaning of the word, let us go, not to lexicons, but to the
common version of the Scriptures. We decline an appeal to lexicons, not because
we have any dread of the result, but because we wish to present an argument in
support of our views that may be fully understood and appreciated by every
intelligent reader of the Scriptures.
must be borne in mind that the translators of the English version were
Pedobaptists, and, either from the order of King James or their own views of
propriety, failed to translate the Greek term baptizo, with its
cognates, used in the Scriptures to denote the act required by the ordinance.
must, therefore, learn its meaning from its various connections in the New
Testament. We may infer the import of baptism from the places of its
administration. John, having received his commission to baptize from heaven,
commenced preaching "the baptism of repentance for the remission of
sins"; and "then went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of
Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river Jordan" (Mark
1:5). No intelligent person, reading this passage with an unbiased mind;
would have any doubt that these multitudes were immersed in the river.
suppose that they went into the stream merely to have water sprinkled or poured
upon them, is, in our view, a puerility undeserving a reply.
again: "John was baptizing in ?on, near to Salim, because there was much
water there; and they came and were baptized" (John 3:23). The necessity of
"much water" for the purpose of immersing is quite plain; but it was
not needed for sprinkling or pouring. It is said, however, by the advocates of
sprinkling, that great multitudes attended the ministry of John, and that
"much water" was needed to quench their thirst and that of their
beasts. This is not what the evangelist says. His words are, not that John was
preaching or encamped at ?on, because there was "much water" there,
but that "John was baptizing in ?on, because there was much
water there." If language can make anything clear, it is plain
that John baptized in ?on on account of its furnishing an ample supply of
water for the purpose.
is sometimes said that these passages refer to John?s baptism, and not to
Christian baptism. This is true; but we are simply inquiring for the meaning of
the word baptize. The thing which John did, Christ commanded his apostles to do.
If he immersed, they immersed. It can hardly be supposed that the meaning of the
word "baptize" was changed in the short period from the commencement
of John?s ministry to the beginning of the apostolic ministry.
baptism of the jailer and his family, at Philippi, is supposed by some to
furnish proof that the rite was administered by sprinkling or pouring. He was
baptized, it is said, in the prison, at night, without previous preparation for
the administration of the ordinance, and it is not probable that there was any
convenience in the jail for immersion. This argument cannot rise above
probability. There might have been ample means for immersion. If the word
"baptize" means immerse, there is nothing in this case to create the
slightest doubt that the jailer and his family were immersed. On the contrary,
the recorded facts furnish strong probability in favor of their immersion. The
jailer, alarmed by an earthquake, brought Paul and Silas
"out"?doubtless out of the "inner prison"?and inquired
for the way of salvation. -?And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and
to all that were in his house." This teaching clearly
occurred in the jailer?s house?probably a portion of the prison set apart
for his occupancy. In the same horn- or the night, he "was baptized, he and
all his, straight-way." Now, notice, after the baptism, he "brought
them into his house." Why had they left it? If the baptism had been
sprinkling or pouring, there would have been no need for going out of it.
Immersion, in all probability, rendered it necessary to leave the jailer?s
house, and, the ordinance having been administered, the company very naturally
returned to the house for refreshments (Acts 16:25-34).
meaning or the word "baptize" is clearly indicated by the import of
the prepositions used in connection with it. Notice the following passages:
"Baptized in Jordan"?Matthew 3:6; "Jesus, when he was
baptized, went up straightway out of the water"?verse 16;
"They went down both into the water, both Philip and the
eunuch, and he baptized him; and when they were come up out of the water,"
&c. The prepositions used in these texts are in perfect harmony with the
practice of immersion, but are utterly discordant with that of sprinkling or
pouring. The unbiased mind, in reading these passages, would never imagine that
baptism was anything but immersion.
attempt has been made to weaken the force of this argument by appealing to the
ambiguity of the Greek prepositions contained in these Scriptures. That they
were used with considerable latitude and indefiniteness need not be denied. It
must be conceded, however, that the best Pedobaptist scholars have translated
the prepositions as we have them in the above passages. So far as we know. there
is not a respectable version of the Scriptures in the English tongue in which
these prepositions are not rendered substantially as in the common version.
is, however, in this version a notable exception to the rendering of the
preposition under consideration. We read in Matthew 3:11: "I indeed baptize
you with water unto repentance." This preposition cannot be well
construed with immerse. It would be awkward and bad English to say, "I immerse
with water." The language, "I sprinkle you with water,"
sounds well; but it would be intolerable to say, "I pour you with
seems strange that the Greek preposition en, which in the 6th
verse is rendered in?"in Jordan"?should in the 11th
verse be translated with?"with water." Uniformity of
translation is desirable, if not forbidden by the sense of Scripture. In these
passages, there is nothing to prevent a uniform rendering. It would be
incongruous to say "with Jordan;" but it is in perfect harmony and
good taste to translate the passages "in Jordan" and "in
water." Dr. George Campbell, of Edinburgh, a learned Presbyterian
divine, and president of Marischal College, not only translates the passage
"in water and in the Holy Ghost," but makes the
following comments on the subject:
the modern translations from the Greek which I have seen render the words as our
common version does, except Le Clerc, who says, dans 1? eau?dans
le Saint Esprit. I am sorry to observe that the Popish translators
from the Vulgate have shown greater veneration for the style of that version
than the generality of Protestant translators have shown for that of the
original; for in this the Latin is not more explicit than the Greek. Yet so
inconsistent are the interpreters last mentioned that none of them have scrupled
to render en to Jordane, in the 6th verse, in Jordan, though
nothing can be plainer than that, if there be any incongruity in the expression in
water, this in Jordan must be equally incongruous. But they
have seen that the preposition in could not be avoided there, without
adopting a circumlocution, and saying with the water of Jordan, which
would have made their deviation from the text too glaring. The word baptizein
(baptize), both in sacred authors and in classical, signifies to dip,
to plunge, to immerse, and was rendered by Tertullian, the
oldest of the Latin fathers, lingere; the term used for dyeing
cloth, which was by immersion. It is always construed suitably to this meaning.
Thus it is en udati (in water), en to Jordane (in Jordan). But I
should not lay much stress on the preposition en . . . which
may denote with as well as in, did not the whole
phraseology in regard to this ceremony concur in evincing the same thing. . . .
When the Greek word baptizo is adopted, I may say, rather than
translated, into modern languages, the mode of construction ought to be
preserved, so far as may conduce to suggest its original import. It is to be
regretted that we have so much evidence that even good and learned men allow
their judgments to be warped by the sentiments and customs of the sect which
they prefer. The true partisan, of whatever denomination, always inclines to
correct the diction of the Spirit by that of the party."? "The Four
Gospels," Boston Edition, Vol. IV., pages 23, 24.
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