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1. "The translators of the Bible have not rendered baptizo, to im merse, or dip, in a single instance in the New Testament, though the word is used about eighty times. Wherever they have translated it, they have translated it wash, or some other word that does not signify total immersion. But why did they not translate it immerse sometimes? Did they not know the meaning of it? Did they know, and refuse to give it? I answer, Neither. Why, then, it may be asked, did they not translate baptizo into English? Because there is no word in English that comprehends all its meanings. They did not translate it sprinkle, because they knew it sometimes signifies pour. They did not translate it pour, because they knew it sometimes signifies immerse. They did not translate it immerse, because they knew it sometimes signifies pour, sprinkle, &c. Thus, like honest men, they submitted it to every man's conscience to practice that mode of baptism which to him should seem most proper."
2. I remark, if Christ and the apostles had intended to confine us to one and the same mode of baptism, they would doubtless have specified that mode distinctly. They have not left us in doubt whether we should believe in one God, or more; and had they designed we should all practise one mode of baptism, how easy it would have been for them to use words which could not be misunderstood. Had they used the word dupto, which unequivocally means to dip, we should all have been Baptists without controversy. Had they used the word rantizo, or ekcheo, instead of baptizo, Baptists would have been Pedobaptists, the baptism of John in Jordan and Enon, notwithstanding. As therefore they have taken the middle ground, and adopted a term to designate this ordinance, which means to dip, pour, sprinkle, tinge, wet, &c., we fairly conclude the mode is not essential to the validity of the ordinance; and that, therefore, they left it optional with the candidates.
3. Finally, I remark, that when the inspired writers wished to designate dipping, they used not the term baptizo, as they would, doubtless, had it meant no more than to dip; but bapto. Thus, "He that dippeth with me in the dish." "It is one of the twelve that dippeth with me in the dish." "Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water." "And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot." "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood." In each of these cases the apostles have used bapto, and not baptizo. And it is remarkable, if the hypothesis of the Baptists be correct, that bapto is not once used in the New Testament to designate baptism; and it is no less so, that dipping is not once clearly designated by the term baptizo, or any of its derivatives. With these remarks, I now proceed to show,
III. That three modes of baptism are presumptive: and,
1. That immersion is, appears evident from many of the Scriptures and arguments used to demonstrate it, as the only mode. Though they entirely fail to do this, they furnish so much circumstantial evidence in favor of this mode, that to deny the validity of baptism thus administered would be disingenuous.
2. The same texts and arguments render pouring equally presumptive. For, first, baptizo, as I have shown, signifies to pour, as well as to immerse; and secondly, going to, or into, the water, is as necessary to one mode as the other.
The history of the Church is conclusive on this point. In the year of our Lord 499, Clodovacus, king of the Franks, was baptized by Remigius, archbishop of Rheims, by the pouring of water. Strabo says, "Many have been baptized, not only by immersion, but also by pouring water on them from above; and they may still be so baptized." In the year 858, about the time of Strabo, Nicetas Serronius speaks of those who "have been baptized by pouring." Erasmus says, "with us, (the Dutch,) they have the water poured on them in baptism." Would time permit, I might quote good authority from almost every century since the institution of baptism to show that pouring has ever been practised in the Christian Church. But I must pass.
3. And lastly, to consider sprinkling. That this mode was practiced by John and the apostles in the very cases referred to in proof of exclusive immersion is certainly possible. For, as I have shown, the original word means to sprinkle, as well as pour and immerse; and the circumstances attending these cases are not such as to preclude the possibility of sprinkling. If Jordan and Enon afforded conveniences for immersion, they did also for sprinkling. Hence, when we consider that John did not seek these places for the purpose of immersion, but was preaching here; and consequently these waters were nearest at hand when his hearers applied for baptism, that he practiced sprinkling not only seems possible, but even as likely as that he immersed. Therefore the Scriptures and arguments I may adduce in proof of this mode should be allowed their full weight, without any deduction from these cases. That the apostles practised sprinkling is to be presumed,
(1.) From the fact, that there is not an instance recorded in the Bible where water was sought by leaving the place of conversion. Now, it seems to me, if those who were converted in the house, jail, &c., had gone off in pursuit of water, and been immersed, the apostles would have made some mention of it, either incidentally or otherwise, espe cially if they had been rank Baptists, as is assumed. But, though they have given a particular account of their conversion, and of the circumstances leading to it, and the manner of their life after it, they have not said one word (strange as it may appear,) of their leaving the place of their conversion, and going down the banks of Jordan to be baptized! How they could have passed over so important an item in church history is inconceivable on any other hypothesis, than that no such affair ever took place.
(2.) Sprinkling is evident from the baptism of the three thousand on the day of pentecost. Look at some circumstances attending this event:-They were baptized the day the Holy Ghost fell on them: they were baptized by twelve men-the apostles. Could they have been immersed, think you? The meeting commenced at the third hour, or nine o'clock. The preaching, exhortation, prayer, and private instruction, necessary to be given to such a vast multitude entirely ignorant of the plan of salvation, must have occupied very considerable time. And is it probable, that, after the fatigue of all this labor, these men immersed two hundred and fifty persons each, which they must have done, had they performed alike? The occasion was entirely unanticipated. The people were strangers in the place--" dwellers in Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia," &c. Of course, as
they had not assembled for baptism, they had made no provision for being immersed. Had they been, therefore, it must have been with much inconvenience. This circumstance, together with the impossibility of the apostles immersing so many in so short a time, renders it almost certain that they were not immersed. But there was sufficient time for the twelve to have sprinkled them: for this they needed no outward preparation, and for this a sufficiency of water was at hand. Is it not highly presumptive, then, that they were sprinkled. Immersionists will say, No; sprinkling a little water in the face is not being buried is not going down into Jordan. But such ridicule cannot invalidate this evidence. Though the ignorant and superstitious may not appreciate it, all who are not governed more by their creed than their Bibles must feel its force.
(3.) Again: that the apostles sometimes baptized by sprinkling is highly presumptive from the circumstances attending the baptism of Cornelius and his house. They heard the words of Peter, and “the Holy Ghost," says St. Luke, "fell on them; and the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them, and they magnified God." Then spake Peter, in the language of the text, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized." Though this account is very circumstantial, not one word is said about their leaving the place where they were, and going to a river. Neither did Peter intimate that this was essential to their baptism, but the reverse. "Can any man forbid water?" These words he addressed to those of the circumcision-the Jews. And what could he have meant but this: Are any of you so prejudiced against these Gentiles, as not to furnish, or, as to forbid that water be brought," that these should not be baptized?" If this was not his meaning, to say the least, he was very unfortunate in his phraseology, since his language cannot be construed to mean any thing else, without unpardonable perversion.
(4.) The baptism of the jailer and his house is equally decisive. It is said of him by inspiration, that "he took them (Paul and Silas,) the same hour of the night-(midnight,)—and washed their stripes, and was baptized and all his straightway." Now, is it probable, that he left the jail at this hour of the night, at the hazard of his life, to go in pursuit of water to be immersed in? To settle this, imagine to yourselves that you see the converted jailer at midnight, while all nature sits shrouded in darkness, sallying forth from the shattered prison, amid flying doors and severed chains, under the high responsibilities of his office; and that you see him taking his family-his wife, chil dren, and servants-from the shelter and protection of his mansion, to wander through the half-desolated city, whose inhabitants, terrified and amazed, are flying in confusion for refuge; and fancy that you see them nearing the pond or river of their destination, followed by the scrupulous apostles, who refused to leave the prison by other hands than those which incarcerated them, and going down into the water, that you see them immersed; and then follow them in their meandering return to the tumult of the prison; and say, Is it at all probable that they were immersed? Some immersionists, aware of the folly of supposing they left the prison, have created a font or tank in it, for the health and comfort of the prisoners, which of course afforded
exuberant convenience for immersion! But, with the same creative energy, and with equal propriety, might they create a coach and six for their comfort! Necessity, however, is the mother of invention; and it is not at all extraordinary that this very difficult passage for them has elicited such a development of their imaginative genius. Tank! there was none. History, together with common sense and common usage, laughs the idea to scorn. The presumption--the very strong presumption, supported by all the evidence there is on either side of the question, which is equally conclusive with any other the Bible furnishes on the mode of baptism, is, therefore, that they were sprinkled.
(5.) The baptism of Paul affords further evidence of sprinkling, as the apostolic usage. When the scales had fallen from his eyes, he "received sight forthwith, and arose and was baptized." Had Paul been in the neighborhood of Jordan or Enon, this would have been referred to as a glorious demonstration of immersion; but as he was in the house of Judas, the advocates of immersion pass his case over by simply saying, that nothing is said about the mode. This, however, is not satisfactory.
If nothing is said about the mode here, neither is any thing said about the mode of Christ's baptism, or the baptism of the eunuch. The cases in this respect are parallel. Were Christ and the eunuch by Jordan, or some other water? Paul was in the house. Did their going down to, or into the water, prove that they were immersed ? Paul's not going out of the house proves, then, that he was sprinkled. Is it possible that Judas had a font in his house? It is equally so that the water, down to which Christ and the eunuch went, was not sufficient for immersion; and if it were, they might not have been immersed, as has been sufficiently shown. If, then, those cases prove exclusive immersion, this and other similar ones prove exclusive sprinkling. The least, therefore, that even the immersionist can grant for this passage is, that it renders sprinkling highly presumptive. Having thus considered the subject as I proposed, I shall conclude with two inferences. And,
1. I infer, that for Christian ministers to adopt and practise one mode of baptism exclusively, is an impeachment of the wisdom of God, and an infraction of religious rights. The infinite God, governed by infinite intelligence, has seen fit in his wisdom, as we have proved, to leave the mode undefined. His language to his ministers is, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, baptizing," (not dipping, pouring, or sprinkling them, but baptizing,' that is, washing them with water,)" in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The name is specific, and so is the element to be used; but the mode is indefinite: from which we learn, that it is not essential to the validity of the ordinance.
But this exclusive system, with a sanctified audacity, repulsive to Christian modesty in the extreme, says peremptorily that the mode is essential that immersion is the only mode; and boasting, with popery, of infallibility, it looks down with scorning contempt upon its less confident neighbors, and self-complacently smiles at the solemn ordinance, otherwise administered.
It is also an infraction of religious rights. God has made it the
duty of all Christians to be baptized. Accordingly he has commissioned his ministers to baptize them; and it is no less their duty than to preach the gospel. But this system prohibits it, and says to certain classes of God's children, you shall not be baptized. As for instance, those who are on beds of sickness and death, and those who live in exceedingly frigid countries, cases in which immersion would prove instant death. For its refusal to baptize them by sprinkling reduces them to the painful alternative of committing suicide, or going to the judgment unbaptized! thus contravening the economy of God, and becoming wise above what is written, do men bind burdens upon God's people, not only grievous, but fatal to be borne. The fact, that others will baptize such persons, agreeably to their own wishes, is no apology for those ministers who refuse. They shut them away from the ordinances of God's house, and send them unblest to the judgment seat, to stand up the undying witnesses of their unfaithfulness. O what a responsibility do they assume! How can they answer in that great day!
Since, therefore, baptism is the answering of a good conscience, not of the baptizers, but the baptized; and since God has left the mode undefined, and consequently submitted it to every candidate to adopt that most congenial with his own enlightened convictions, it becomes the duty of the minister, the servant of the church, to baptize them as they may prefer, though it subject himself to the vilest contempt.
2. I infer, that making the mode of baptism the condition of church fellowship and communion is contrary to Scripture, and degrading to the principles of Christian union. That this is done by a very large class of immersionists needs no proof. I refer to close communionists. We may be as pious as St. John; we may commune with God from day to day, and have fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ; but, if we have not been immersed, they spurn us from the table of the Lord, and virtually say, "Stand by, for I am holier than thou." And no apology is satisfactory. We may urge our serious conviction of the validity of sprinkling; we may urge physical debility, which, in the judgment of medical men, would render immersion fatal, or any thing else, how. ever rational; but all is to no purpose. It is enough for them to know that we have not been immersed; and with this knowledge they drive us from their communion, as though we were thieves and robbers. And at the same time, ridiculous as it may be, sit down at the table of the Lord with persons whose piety they have every reason to doubt themselves!
Now, were it certain that baptism is absolutely a prerequisite of communion, (which is doubted by many, and for the best reasons,) neither Scripture, reason, philosophy, nor common sense, requires that we should be immersed. We are only required to be baptized. The Bible says nothing about immersion, first or last. Making it, therefore, the condition of Christian communion is to "make the word of God of none effect," by human tradition! It is degrading also to the principles of religious union. These are high and holy. They are love to God and good-will to men: the loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. They are the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, patience, &c. Principles, high as heaven-pure as the gospel of Christ. But this contracted