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BAPTIST PRINCIPLES RESET

PART 1

CHAPTER 8.

Only Immersion is Baptism.

 

The word "immerse" and its derivatives may be substituted for "baptize" and its derivatives in every place where they occur in the New Testament, making good sense, without the slightest incongruity or violence to the language and this is not true of the term "sprinkling. pouring, washing, or cleansing."

When we insert a key in a lock, and it fits every ward and easily turns the bolt, we know that we have the right key. Just so it is in the definition of a word. If it is properly defined, the definition may be put in every place in which the word is rightly used, without force or bad taste; but, if the definition is incorrect, while it may be substituted in many sentences for the original term without obvious inaccuracy, it cannot be so substituted in an extensive use of the term without bad taste, ambiguity, or nonsense. To this principle of language, so far as we know, there is no exception. Let us subject the definitions of the word "baptize" to this test. The process may lead to the repetition of statements made in preceding articles; but its importance will justify the operation.

"And were all baptized of him in the river Jordan." (Mark 1:5). It is obvious that pouring candidates in the river is not good English. That word must stand aside.

"Buried with him in baptism" (Col. 2:12). Buried in sprinkling, or in pouring, or in washing, or in cleansing, are all barbarisms. These substitutes for baptism must be ruled out.

"Be baptized and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). To be sprinkled for the purpose of washing is incongruous; but to be washed or cleansed for that object is simply preposterous.

"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13). "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ" (Gal. 3:27). To be sprinkled, or poured, or washed, or cleansed into a body, or into Christ, is language that no scholar, or writer of clear conceptions, would employ.

By the laws of language, sprinkling, pouring, washing, and cleansing are equally excluded as substitutes for baptism. Immersion is the key that fits all the wards of the philological lock, by which so many commentators and critics have been needlessly perplexed. Immersion and its cognates will substitute baptism and its cognates, through all their moods, tenses, and declensions, without obscurity, confusion, or the slightest violence to the prepositions and other terms used in connection with them. On this point the reader may find conclusive evidence in the Revised Version of the New Testament, published by the American Bible Union.

Immersion was so evidently practiced by the early Christian churches, except in cases of sickness or of supposed necessity, it seems strange that an intelligent person should deny it. Any number of credible witnesses on this point might easily be furnished; but it will be sufficient to present two or three quotations?which, for the sake of convenience, we copy from the "Star Book," a valuable little treatise on baptism:

Mosheim: "In this century [the first], baptism was administered in convenient places, without the public assemblies, and by immersing the candidates wholly in water."

Neander: "In respect to the form of baptism, it was, in conformity with the original institution and the original import of the symbol, performed by immersion, as a sign of entire baptism into the Holy Spirit, and of being entirely penetrated by the same."

Waddington: "The sacraments of the primitive church were two?that of baptism and the Lord?s supper. The ceremony of immersion, the oldest form of baptism, was performed in the name of the three persons of the Trinity."

Schaff: "Finally, so far as it respects the mode and manner of baptizing, there can be no doubt that immersion, and not sprinkling, was the original normal form." Star Book, pages 37, 38.

Not only was immersion practiced by the early Christian churches, but it has been continued by the Greek church, next to the Roman Catholic, the largest of all the Christian sects, and containing the people who have inherited the language in which the New Testament was written, down to the present time. Every well-informed person is acquainted with this fact; but we will quote a single testimony in proof of it:

Coleman: "The Eastern church has uniformly retained the form of immersion as indispensable to the validity of the ordinance; and repeat the rite, whenever they have received to their communion persons who have been baptized in another manner." Star Book, page 45.

The Greek church practices Trine Immersion, which we consider a corruption of the apostolic baptism; but this fact does not weaken its testimony in favor of immersion. The repetition of the act might easily grow out of an erroneous interpretation of the command, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"; but we see no reason for changing sprinkling into immersion. All the motives of convenience, comfort, and taste draw in the opposite direction.

The Roman Catholic church continued immersion, except in extreme cases, to the close of the thirteenth century. On this point the most abundant testimony can be furnished. We need quote but two authorities:

Dr. Brennen: "Thirteen hundred years was baptism generally and originally performed by the immersion of the person. under water, and only in extraordinary cases was sprinkling or affusion permitted. These latter methods were called in question, and even prohibited."

Augusti: "Immersion in water was general until the thirteenth century among the Latins. It was then displaced by sprinkling, but retained by the Greeks." Star Book, pages 40, 41.

The English Episcopal church, in its rubric on baptism, strictly enjoins that the child shall be dipped, unless it be duly certified that it is sickly or weak and unable to endure dipping; and in that case, pouring or sprinkling may suffice.

The baptisteries still preserved in Italy and in the East furnish conclusive evidence that immersion was the practice of the early Christian centuries. These buildings, some of them dating as far back as the third or fourth century, were erected at great expense, and were furnished with ample conveniences for immersing adults, as well as infants. The fonts are in the center of the buildings, circular in form, three or four feet deep, and sufficiently spacious for the immersion of half a dozen adults at one time. These structures furnish proof, not only that immersion was practiced, but of the great importance attached to it. No modern church or sect has furnished proof of their zeal for immersion comparable in strength with that given by the early Christians in the erection of their baptisteries.

If sprinkling was not the primitive baptism, it may very properly be asked when and how was it introduced. On this subject we quote from the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia,. which cannot be suspected of any partiality for Baptists:

"It is impossible to mark the precise period when sprinkling was introduced. It is probable, however, that it was invented in Africa, in the second century, in favor of clinics. But it was so far from being approved by the church in general that the Africans themselves did not account it valid. The first law for sprinkling was obtained in the following manner: Pope Stephen III., being driven from Rome by Astulphus, king of the Lombards, in 753, fled to Papin, who, a short time before, had usurped the crown of France: Whilst he remained there, the monks of Cressy, in Brittany, consulted him whether, in a case of necessity, baptism performed by pouring water on the head of the infant would be lawful. Stephen replied that it would. But, though the truth of this fact should be allowed, which some Catholics deny, yet pouring or sprinkling was only admitted in cases of necessity. It was not till 1311 that the legislature, in a council held at Ravenna, declared immersion or sprinkling to be indifferent. In this country (Scotland), however, sprinkling was never practiced, in ordinary cases, until after the Reformation; and in England, even in the reign of Edward VI. trine immersion?dipping first the right side, secondly the left side, and last the face of the infant?was commonly observed. But, during the persecution of Mary, many persons, most of whom were Scotsmen, fled from England to Geneva, and there greedily imbibed the opinions of that church. In 1556, a book was published at that place, containing ?The form of prayers 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 Scottish 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. Twenty-five voted for sprinkling and twenty-four 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 adhere to immersion."?Art. Baptism.

The origin of sprinkling and pouring for baptism is of historical interest, and tends to confirm the position that "only immersion is baptism." They are clearly of post-apostolic origin. Our chief reliance, however, for the support of immersion is on the import of the word "baptize," as its meaning is disclosed in the Scriptures and confirmed by the highest lexicographical authority. If, as Moses Stuart says?and this country has produced no scholar more eminent than he was?"all lexicographers and critics of any note are agreed" that "baptizo (baptize) means to dip, plunge, or immerse into any liquid," then to baptize by sprinkling or pouring is a gross solecism. The incongruity of the language appears, if we substitute immerse for baptize. To immerse by sprinkling is an absurdity. To immerse by pouring is equally impossible, if the pouring is not sufficiently. copious to overwhelm. How can a man be immersed by pouring a cup of water on his head?

 
 
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