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§ 7. Baptism.

“Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our engrafting into Christ and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”541541Westminster Shorter Catechism, Ques. 94.

The Mode of Baptism.

According to the definition given above, baptism is a washing with water. By washing is meant any such application of water to the body as effects its purification. This may be done by immersion, affusion, or sprinkling. The command, therefore, to baptize is simply a command to wash with water. It is not specifically a command to immerse, to affuse, or to sprinkle. The mode of applying water as the purifying medium is unessential. The only necessary thing is to make such an application of water to the person, as shall render the act significant of the purification of the soul.

The first argument in favour of this view of the ordinance is an à priori one. As by common consent the design of the institution is either to symbolize or to effect the cleansing of the soul from the guilt and pollution of sin, by the blood and spirit of Christ, it would seem to follow that washing with water, however done, is all that is necessary to the integrity of the ordinance. The idea of purification is as clearly and as frequently signified by affusion as by immersion. Besides, to make anything so purely circumstantial as the manner in which water is used in the act of cleansing, essential to a Christian sacrament, which, according to some, is absolutely necessary to salvation, and, according to others, is essential to membership in the visible Church of Christ, is opposed to the whole nature of the Gospel. It is to render Christianity more Judaic than Judaism, even as understood by the Pharisees; for they purified themselves, their offerings, and holy places and utensils, by immersion, affusion, or sprinkling as was most appropriate or convenient.

Use of the Word in the Classics.

The second argument on this subject, is drawn from the usage of the word. In the Classics; in the Septuagint and the Apocryphal writings of the Old Testament; in the New Testament and in the writings of the Greek fathers, the words βάπτω, 527βαπτίζω and their cognates, are used with such latitude of meaning, as to prove the assertion that the command to baptize is a command to immerse, to be utterly unauthorized and unreasonable.

Ever since the Reformation and the rise of the Baptists as a distinct denomination, who hold that “baptizing is dipping, and dipping is baptizing,” the meaning of the Greek words in question has been a matter of dispute, on which hundreds of volumes have been written. It is evidently impossible to enter on that discussion in these pages. All that can be attempted is a brief statement of the conclusions believed to be established, while the proofs on which those conclusions rest must be sought in works devoted to the subject. As to the classic use of the words in question, it is clear that βάπτω means (1.) To dip. (2.) To dye by dipping. (3.) To dye without regard to the mode in which it is done; as a lake is said to be baptized (i.e., dyed) by the blood shed in it; a garment is spoken of as baptized by colouring matter dropping on it. (4.) It also means to gild; also to glaze, as when earthenware is covered with any vitreous matter. (5.) To wet, moisten, or wash. (6.) To temper, as hot iron is tempered; this may be done by plunging or pouring. “Tempered, ὑπὸ ἐλαίου,” does not mean plunged into oil. (7.) To imbue. The mind is said to be baptized with fantasies; not plunged into them, for it is ὑπὸ τῶν φαντασίων.542542There are two recent American writers whose works contain all that most students would be disposed to read on this subject. The one is the Rev. Dr. Conant, in his book, Meaning and Use of the Word Baptizein, New York, 1868; and the other the Rev. James W. Dale, in his Classic Baptism; Judaic Baptism; and Johannic Baptism; to be followed by Christian Baptism.

A man is said to be “imbued with righteousness.” This cannot mean “dipped.” It is obvious, therefore, that a command to baptize, made in the use of the word βάπτω, cannot be limited to a command to dip, plunge, or immerse.

As to the classic use of βαπτίζω, it means, (1.) To immerse, or submerge. It is very frequently used when ships are spoken of as sunk or buried in the sea. They are then said to be baptized. (2.) To overflow or to cover with water. The sea-shore is said to be baptized by the rising tide. (3.) To wet thoroughly, to moisten. (4.) To pour upon or drench. (5.) In any way to be overwhelmed or overpowered. Hence men are said to be baptized with wine (οἱ βεβαπτισμένοι are the intoxicated), with opium, with debts, with puzzling questions. Wine is said to be baptized by having water poured into it.543543Illustrations of some of these uses of the word may be found in Stephen’s Thesaurus and Scapula’s Lexicon, and of all the works of Dr. Conant and Dr. Dale, who discuss the bearing of each on the matter in debate from their respective stand-points.

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The word βαπτίζω, as Dr. Dale so strenuously argues, belongs to that class of words which indicate an effect to be produced without expressing the kind of action by which that effect is to be brought about. In this respect it is analogous to the word “to bury.” A man may be buried by being covered up in the ground; by being placed in an empty cave; by being put into a sarcophagus; or even, as among our Indians, by being placed upon a platform elevated above the ground. The command to bury, may be executed in any of these ways. So with regard to the word βαπτίζω, there is a given effect to be produced, without any specific injunction as to the manner; whether by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling.

Use of the Words in the Septuagint and Apocrypha.

These words are of rare occurrence in the Greek version of the Old Testament. In the fifth chapter of Second Kings we have the history of Naaman the Syrian, who came to the prophet to be healed of his leprosy. And “Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times” (ver. 10). “Then went he down and dipped himself (ἐβαπτίσατο) seven times in Jordan” (ver. 14). The only special interest in this passage is the proof it affords that baptism and washing are identical. The command to wash was obeyed by baptizing himself. The Vulgate does not change the words in the two passages, “Vade et lavare septies in Jordane” (ver. 10). “Descendit et lavit in Jordane septies” (ver. 14). The Septuagint has λοῦσαι in verse 10, and ἐβαπτίσατο in verse 14.

In Daniel iv. 33, it is said that the body of Nebuchadnezzar “was wet (baptized, ἐβάφη, [LXX. ver. 30]) with the dew of heaven.” Here the idea of dipping is absolutely precluded.

The word βάπτω, when meaning to dip, does not necessarily include the idea of entire immersion. A mere touch or partial immersion is often all the word is intended to express; as in Leviticus iv. 17: “The priest shall dip (βάψει) his finger in some of the blood.” Leviticus xiv. 6: “As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and shall dip (βάψει) them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water.” All these things could not be immersed in the blood of a bird. Boaz said to Ruth, at meal-time “dip (βάψεις) thy morsel in the vinegar.” (Ruth ii. 14.) Joshua iii. 15. 529“The feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped (ἐβάφησαν) in the brim of the water.” 1 Samuel xiv. 27: Jonathan “dipped” (ἔβαψεν) the end of the rod which was in his hand “in an honey-comb.” Psalm lxviii. 23 (24), “That thy foot may be dipped (βαφῇ) in the blood of thine enemies.” These examples prove that even βάπτω, as used in the Septuagint, does not, when it means to dip, include the idea of complete immersion.

βαπτίζω (according to Trommius), besides the passage already quoted from 2 Kings v. 14, occurs in the Septuagint only in Isaiah xxi. 4, where the Greek is ἡ ἀνομία με βαπτίζει, “iniquity baptizes (or overwhelms) me.” The English version, adhering to the Hebrew, reads, “Fearfulness affrighted me.” The Vulgate has “Tenebræ stupefecerunt me.” The word occurs twice in the Apocrypha, Judith xii. 7, and Sirach xxxiv. 27 [xxxi. 25]. Wahl,544544Clavis Librorum V. T. Apocryphorum Philologica, Auctore Christ. Abrah. Wahl, Philos. et Theol. Doctore, Leipzig, 1853. referring to these two passages, defines “βάπτομαι, me lavo = νίπτομαι, “I wash myself.” In Sirach the expression is, βαπριζόμενος ἀπὸ νεκροῦ, “baptized from a dead body,” i.e., purified from the uncleanness contracted by touching a dead body. Or, as Fritzsche translates it, “Der sich wäscht von einem Todten, einer Leiche, sich reinigt von der Befleckung, die ihm die Berührung des Leichen aus zugezogen, vrgl. 4 Moses xix. 11.”545545Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apokryphen des Alten Testamentes, von Otto Fridolin Fritzsche, Leipzig, 1859, vol. v. p. 195. That is, “He that washes from a corpse purifies himself from the defilement occasioned by touching it.” We learn from the passage referred to for illustration (Numbers xix. 11-13), that this purification was effected by sprinkling the ashes of a heifer. (See ver. 9, and compare Heb. ix. 13.) In Numbers xix. 13, it is said, “Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any one that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel, because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.” The water of separation was the water in which the ashes of a red heifer had been mingled as described in the preceding part of the chapter. And it was the sprinkling of that water which effected the baptism, or purification, of the defiled person.

The passage in Judith determines nothing either way as to the meaning of the word. It merely says, ἐβαπτίζετο ἐν τῇ παρεμβολῇ ἐπὶ τῆς πηγῆς τοῦ ὕδατος,” she baptized herself in the camp at a fountain of water.” If it be a settled point that βαπτίζω always 530means to immerse, then this passage asserts that Judith immersed herself in the fountain. But if, as the vast majority of Christians believe, the word often means to wash, or purify, without regard to the way in which the purification is effected, then the passage cannot be proved to assert anything more than that Judith washed herself at the fountain. The circumstances of the case are all in favour of the latter interpretation. According to the narrative, the land had been invaded by an immense host of Assyrians under the command of Holofernes. Resistance seemed hopeless, and utter destruction was imminent. In this emergency Judith, a young, beautiful, and rich woman, inflamed with zeal for her country and her religion, determined to make a desperate effort for the salvation of her people. For this purpose, arrayed to the best advantage, she made her way into the enemies camp and presented herself to Holofernes and promised to aid him in the conquest of the land. The Assyrian general, captivated by her charms, treated her with great favour. She remained undisturbed in her tent for three days, but was permitted at night to resort to the fountain for purification. On the fourth day she was invited to a great feast, at which Holofernes drank to excess, so that when the guests had retired and the general was in a state of helpless intoxication, Judith, with the assistance of her maid, cut off his head and carried it to the camp of her own people. This led to the overthrow of the Assyrians and the deliverance of the land.

The circumstances in this case which favour the assumption that Judith went to the fountain not for immersion, but for ablution, are, (1.) It was within the camp, necessarily, for such a host, of large dimensions. But a camp filled with soldiers does not seem to be an appropriate bathing-place for a lady of distinction even at night. (2.) Dr. Conant says: “There was evidently no lack of water for the immersion of the body, after the Jewish manner, namely by walking into the water to the proper depth, and then sinking down till the whole body was immersed.”546546Meaning and Use of Baptizein. New York, 1868, p. 85. The probability, however, seems all the other way. It must have been an extraordinary fountain, if it allowed of immersion in any such way. If the word βαπτίζω can only mean “to immerse,” these considerations amount to nothing. But if the word means to wash or to purify as well as to immerse, then they are of sufficient weight to turn the scale in favour of the former explanation. Of itself, however, the passage proves nothing.

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The New Testament Usage.

The word βάπτειν is used four times in the New Testament, in no one of which does it express the idea of entire immersion. In Luke xvi. 24, “That he may dip (βάψῃ) the tip of his finger in water.” The finger, when dipped in water, is not submerged. When placed horizontally on the water and slightly depressed, it retains more of the moisture than if plunged perpendicularly into it. John xiii. 26, speaks twice of dipping the sop (βάψας and ἐμβάψας). But a morsel held in the fingers, is only partly immersed. In Revelation xix. 13, the words περιβεβλημένος ἱμάτιοι βεβαμμένον αἵματι obviously mean ‘clothed with a vesture stained or dyed with blood.’ The allusion is probably to Isaiah lxiii. 1 ff. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? . . . . Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat? I have trodden the wine-press alone; . . . . and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.” In this case, therefore, the baptism was by sprinkling. Βαττίζω occurs in the New Testament about eighty times; βάπτισμα some twenty times; and βαπτισμός four times. As every one admits that baptism may be effected by immersion, and as the purifications under the Old Testament (called by the Apostle, Hebrews ix. 10, in Greek, “diverse baptisms”) were effected by immersion, affusion, and sprinkling, it would not be surprising if in some of these numerous passages, the baptism spoken of necessarily implied immersion. It so happens, or, it has been so ordered, however, that there is no such passage in the whole of the New Testament. The places in which these words occur may be arranged in the following classes: (1.) Those in which, taken by themselves, the presumption is in favour of immersion. (2.) Those in which the idea of immersion is necessarily excluded. (3.) Those which in themselves are not decisive, but where the presumption is altogether in favour of affusion.

To the first class belong those passages which speak of the persons baptized going into (εἰς) the water, and “coming up out of the water.” (Matt. iii. 16; Acts viii. 38, 39.) Such passages, however, must be isolated in order to create a presumption in favour of immersion. According to ancient accounts, the common way of baptizing was for the person to step into water, when water was poured on his head, and then he came up out of the water, not in the least incommoded by dripping garments. And 532when we remember that it is said concerning John, that “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region around about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. iii. 5, 6), it seems physically impossible that he should have immersed all this multitude. When all the circumstances are taken into view, the presumption in favour of immersion, even in this class of passages, disappears.

2. The second class of passages, those from which the idea of immersion is excluded, includes all those which relate to the baptism of the Spirit. The Spirit is frequently said to be poured out on men; but men are never said to be dipped or immersed into the Holy Spirit. Such an idea is altogether incongruous. When, therefore, it is said that men are baptized by the Holy Spirit, as is so often done, the reference must be to effusion, or affusion of the Spirit by which the soul is cleansed from sin. As the Holy Spirit is a person, and not a mere influence or force, the preposition ἐν used in this connection (Matt. iii. 11; Mark i. 8; John i. 33; Acts i. 5, xi. 16; 1 Cor. xii. 13) must have its instrumental force. The work performed in us by the Holy Spirit is a baptism. As water in the hands of John was the purifying medium for the body, so the Holy Spirit, as sent or given by Jesus Christ, purifies the soul. Some of the modern commentators are such purists that they are unwilling to allow of the slightest departure from classic usage in the Greek of the New Testament. They speak as though the sacred writers were Greek grammarians, instead of, as was in most cases the fact, unlettered men writing in what to them was a foreign language. Thus because the particle ἵνα in classic Greek has always a telic force, they deny that it is ever used ecbatically in the New Testament, even in such cases as Luke xxii. 30, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, . . . . in order that ye may eat and drink at my table.” John vi. 7, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, in order that every one of them may have a little.” Romans xi. 11, “Have they stumbled with the design that they should fall?” 1 Corinthians xiv. 13, “Let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray in order that he may interpret,” etc., etc. Thus, also, because the words πιστεύω, πίστις, and πιστός in the classics are rarely found in construction with the preposition ἐν they give the most unnatural interpretation to many passages in order to avoid admitting that construction in the New Testament. This is done in the face of such passagee as Mark i. 15, πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ. Galatians iii. 26, “Ye are all the 533children of God, διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.” Ephesians i. 15, “After I heard of your, πιστιν ἐν τῷ Κυρίῳ Ἰησιοῦ,” and many others of like kind. In like manner because the instrumental force of ἐν is rare in the classics, it is avoided as much as possible in the Scriptures. Baptism ἐν πνεύματι, instead of being understood as meaning a baptism by, or with the Spirit, is made to mean “in the sphere of the Spirit,” and baptism ἐν πυρί, baptism “in the sphere of fire.” What this means, it would be difficult for most of those for whom the Bible is intended to understand. The baptism of John and that of Christ are contrasted. The one baptized with water; the other with the Holy Spirit. In Acts i. 5, it is said, “John truly baptized with water (ὕδατι, the simple instrumental dative); but ye shall be baptized (ἐν Πνεύματι ἁγίῳ) with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” As to baptize ὕδατι, cannot mean to immerse in water, so neither can baptising ἐν τῷ Πνεύματι mean immersing in the Spirit. The fact is βαπτίζειν does not express any particular mode of action. As to dye, expresses any kind of action by which an object is coloured; to bury, any kind of action by which an object is hidden and protected; so to baptize, expresses any act by which a person or thing is brought into the state of being wet, purified, or even stupefied, as by opium or wine.

Another passage in which this word occurs where the idea of immersion is precluded, is 1 Corinthians x. 1, 2, “All our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” The people went through the sea dry shod. As far as known not a drop of water touched them. The cloud referred to was doubtless the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night which guided the people through the wilderness. The simple and generally accepted meaning of the passage is, that as a man is brought by Christian baptism into the number of the professed and avowed disciples of Christ, so the Hebrews were brought by the supernatural manifestations of divine power specified, into the relation of disciples and followers to Moses. There is no allusion to immersion, affusion, or sprinkling in the case.

Another passage belonging to this class is Mark vii. 4, “When they come from the market, except they wash (βαπτίσωνται), they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables (κλινῶν, couches).” To maintain that beds or couches were immersed, is a mere act of desperation. Baptism 534means here, as it does everywhere when used of a religious rite symbolical purification by water, without the slightest reference to the mode in which that purification was effected.

3. The third class of passages includes all those in which the idea of immersion, though not absolutely precluded, is to the last degree improbable. The late Dr. Edward Robinson, than whom there is no higher authority on all that relates to the topography and physical geography of Palestine and the habits of its inhabitants, so far as they are determined by the nature of the country, says: (1.) “The idea of private baths in families in Jerusalem and Palestine generally is excluded.” (2.) “In Acts ii. 41, three thousand persons are said to have been baptized at Jerusalem apparently in one day at the season of Pentecost in June; and in Acts iv. 4, the same rite is necessarily implied in respect to five thousand more. Against the idea of full immersion in these cases there lies a difficulty, apparently insuperable, in the scarcity of water. There is in summer no running stream in the vicinity of Jerusalem, except the mere rill of Siloam a few rods in length; and the city is and was supplied with water from its cisterns and public reservoirs.547547See Biblical Researches in Palestine, vol. i. pp. 479-516. From neither of these sources could a supply have been well obtained for the immersion of eight thousand persons. The same scarcity of water forbade the use of private baths as a general custom; and thus also further precludes the idea of bathing” in such passages as Luke xi. 38; Mark vii. 28. He confirms his conclusion by further remarking, (3.) “In the earliest Latin versions of the New Testament, as, for example, the Itala, which Augustine regarded as the best of all,548548De Doctrina Christiana, ii. 22 [xv.]; Works, edit. Benedictines, Paris, 1836, vol. iii. p. 54, d. which goes back apparently to the second century and to usage connected with the apostolic age, the Greek verb, βαπτίζω, is uniformly given in the Latin form, “baptizo,” and is never translated by “immergo,” or any like word, showing that there was something in the rite of baptism to which the latter did not correspond.549549See Blanchini, Evangeliorum Quadruplex, etc., Rom. 1749. (4.) The baptismal fonts still found550550See Robinson’s Biblical Researches in Palestine, edit. Boston, 1841, vol. ii. p. 182; vol. iii. p. 78. among the ruins of the most ancient Greek churches in Palestine, as at Tekoa and Gophna, and going back apparently to very early times, are not large enough to admit of the baptism of adult persons by immersion, and were obviously never intended for that use.”551551See Robinson’s Lexicon of the New Testament, word βαπτίζω, New York, 1850.

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It is, therefore, to the last degree improbable that the thousands mentioned in the early chapters of Acts were baptized by immersion. The same improbability exists as to the case of the centurion in Cæsarea and the jailer at Philippi. With regard to the former, Peter said, “Can any man forbid water?” which naturally implies that water was to be brought to Cornelius, and not he be taken to the water. As to the jailer, it is said (Acts xvi. 33) that he and all his were baptized within the prison, as the narrative clearly implies, at midnight. There is the same improbability against the assumption that the eunuch, mentioned in Acts viii. 27-38, was baptized by immersion. He was travelling through a desert part of the country towards Gaza, when Philip joined him, “And as they went on their way they came unto a certain water (ἐπί τι ὕδωρ, to some water).” There is no known stream in that region of sufficient depth to allow of the immersion of a man. It is possible, indeed, that there might have been a reservoir or tank in that neighbourhood. But that is not a fact to be assumed without evidence and against probability. It is said they “went down both into the water,” and came “up out of the water.” But that might be said, if the water were not deep enough to cover their ankles.

The presumption is still stronger against immersion in the case mentioned in Mark vii. 4. It is there said of “the Pharisees and all the Jews,” that “when they come from the market, except they baptize themselves (ἐὰν μὴ βαπτίσωνται) they eat not.” Let it be here considered, (1.) That private baths were in Jerusalem very rare, from the necessity of the case. (2.) That what is said, is not said merely of men of wealth and rank who might be supposed to have conveniences and luxuries which the common people could not command. It is said of the “Pharisees,” a large class, and not only of that class, but of “all the Jews” It is wellnigh incredible, under such circumstances, that “all the Jews” should immerse themselves every time they came from the ἀγορά, i.e., “a place of public resort in towns and cities; any open place, where the people came together either for business or to sit and converse. In oriental cities such open places were at the inside of the gates; and here public business was transacted, and tribunals held, as also markets.”552552Robinson, sub voce. That all the Jews immersed themselves every time they came from such a place of public resort, is very hard to believe, considering that the facilities for such immersion were not at their command. (3.) The 536words baptize and wash are interchanged in this whole connection in such a way as to show that, in the mind of the writer, they were synonymous expressions. The Pharisees complained that the disciples ate with unwashen (ἀνίπτοις) hands; for they eat not unless they wash (νίψωνται) their hands; and when they come from the market they do not eat unless they wash (βαπτίσωνται), and they hold to the washing (βαπτισμούς) of cups, and pots, of brazen vessels, and of tables or couches. To baptize the hands was to wash the hands, and the usual mode of ablution in the east is by pouring water on the hands (see 2 Kings iii. 11).

It is notorious that the various ablutions prescribed by the Mosaic law were effected sometimes by immersion, sometimes by affusion, and sometimes by sprinkling. And it is no less true that all these modes of purification are called by the sacred writers διάφοροι βαπτισμοί, as in Hebrews ix. 10, and Mark vii. 4.

So far, therefore, as the New Testament is concerned, there is not a single case where baptism necessarily implies immersion, there are many cases in which that meaning is entirely inadmissible, and many more in which it is in the highest degree improbable. If immersion were indispensable, why was not the word katadu,w used to express the command? If sprinkling were exclusively intended, why was not ῥαίνω or ῥαντίζω used? It is simply because the mode is nothing and the idea everything, that a word was chosen which includes all the modes in which water can be applied as the means of purification. Such a word is βαπτίζω, for which there is no legitimate substitute, and therefore that word has been retained by all the Churches of Christendom, even by the Baptists themselves.

The Patristic Usage.

This is a wide and densely wooded field, in which a man may find anything he chooses to look for, unless it be for proof that the fathers always used the word βαπτίζω in the sense of immersion. They speak of the waters of chaos as baptized by the Spirit of God brooding over them; they were thereby sanctified and a sanctifying power was imparted to the waters. The only point of interest here is, that Tertullian, for example, regarded this as “baptismi figura,” a figure of baptism. The point of resemblance assuredly was not immersion.

But besides this, Suicer gives and copiously illustrates, from the writing of the fathers, no less than eight “significations of the word baptism (vocis βάπτισμα significationes).” (1.) The 537deluge was a baptism, not only for the world, purging away its sins, but also for Noah and his family, as a means of salvation. As they were saved by the waters buoying up the ark, so are we saved by baptism. (2.) The baptism of Moses when he passed through the Red Sea. The sea was the symbol of the water of baptism; the cloud, of the Holy Spirit. (3.) That of the Hebrews, as among them any person or thing impure, ἐλούετο ὕδατι, was washed with water. This washing, however done, was baptism. (4.) The baptism of John, which was regarded as introductory, not spiritual, or conferring the Spirit, but simply leading to repentance. (5.) The baptism of Jesus. Βαπτίζει Ιησοῦς, ἀλλ᾽ ἐν τνεύματι. Here immersion is precluded. (6.) Of tears, δια δακρύων. “I know a fifth,” says Gregory Nazianzen,553553Oratio, xxxix.; Opera, Cologne, 1680, vol. i. p. 634. “by tears, but very laborious, when a man washes (ὁ λούων) his pillow and his bed every night with his tears.” (7.) Of blood. The martyrs were baptized with blood. Christ’s cross and death were called his baptism, because thereby purification was made for the sins of men. (8.) The baptism of fire. This is sometimes understood of the Holy Spirit, who purifies as fire does; at others of the final conflagration when the earth is to be purified by fire. With the fathers, therefore, the act of purification, and not simply or only the act of immersion, was baptism.554554Joh. Caspari Suiceri, Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus e Patribus Græcis ordine alphabetico exhibens Quæcunque Phrases, Ritus, Dogmata, Hæreses, et hujusmodi alia spectant. Opus viginiti annorum indefesso labore adornatum, 2d edit., Amsterdam, 1728.

It is not denied that βαπτίζειν means to immerse, or that it is frequently so used by the fathers as by the classic authors; it is not denied that the Christian rite was often administered, after the apostolic age, by immersion; it is not even denied that during certain periods of the history of the Church, and in certain regions, immersion was the common method in which baptism was administered. But it is denied that immersion is essential to baptism; that it was the common method in the apostolic Churches; that it was at any time or in any part of the Church the exclusive method; and more especially is it denied that immersion is now and everywhere obligatory or necessary to the integrity of Christian baptism.555555See Hermann Cremer, Biblisch-Theologisches Wörterbuch der Neutestamentlichen Gräsität, Gotha, 1866. After referring to the Old Testament ablutions the authors says, on p. 87: “We must, therefore, by βαπτίζειν understand a washing, the design of which, as of the theocratical washings and purifications, was the purification of the soul from sin (Entsündigung).” On p. 89 it is said, “We find the secondary meaning of βαπτίζειν in Matthew iii. 11: Βαπτ. ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί, opp. ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν. comp. Luke iii. 16, John i. 33. That is not the meaning of immersion, but of ‘washing with the design of purification,’ that is transferred, is plain from the antithesis between ἐν ὕδ. and ἐν πν. whereby the two baptisms are distinguished.”

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The Catholicity of the Gospel.

The third general argument on this subject is derived from the fact that the Gospel is designed for all classes of persons and for all parts of the earth. It is not intended exclusively for the strong and robust, but also for the weak, the sick, and the dying. It is not to be confined to the warm or temperate regions of the earth, but it is to be preached and its ordinances are to be administered wherever fallen men can be found. Baptism by immersion would be to many of the sick certainly fatal; to the dying impossible. To the inhabitants of Greenland, if possible, it would be torture and to those dwelling in the deserts of Arabia or Africa, it could be administered only at long intervals or at the end of a long pilgrimage. Yet baptism is an imperative duty. The command of Christ is, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” It is not to be believed that our blessed Lord would have enjoined an external rite as the mode of professing his religion, the observance of which, under many circumstances, would be exceedingly difficult, and sometimes impossible.

Argument from the Design of the Ordinance.

This argument was adverted to in the beginning of this section. It requires, however, a more particular consideration. (1.) It is admitted that baptism is a sign, and that the blessing which it signifies is purification from sin. (2.) It is admitted that the theocratical purifications, having the same general import, were effected by immersion, affusion, and sprinkling. (3.) It is admitted that the soul is cleansed from the guilt of sin by the blood of Christ. (4.) It is admitted that under the Old Testament the application of the blood of the sacrifices for sin was expressed by the act of sprinkling. It was sprinkled on the people (Ex. xxiv. 8) for whose benefit the sacrifices were offered; it was sprinkled upon the altar; and, by the High Priest, upon the mercy seat. In the New Testament the application of the blood of Christ is expressed by the same word. “Elect . . . . unto . . . . sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. i. 2.) “The blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Heb. xii. 24.) (5.) It is admitted, further, that the purification of the soul from the moral pollution of sin is effected by the renewing 539of the Holy Ghost. (6.) It is admitted that the communication of the sanctifying influences of the Spirit is expressed in the use of two familiar figures, that of anointing with oil, and that of the pouring of water. Kings, priests, and prophets were anointed. The people of God are called his “anointed.” The Apostle John says to believers: “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. . . . . The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you.” (1 John ii. 20 and 27.) The other figure is no less familiar. (Is. xxxii. 15; Joel ii. 28.) The Spirit’s influences are compared to rain which waters the earth, and to the dew which falls on the mown grass. From all this it appears that the truth symbolized in baptism may be signified by immersion, affusion, or sprinkling; but that the ordinance is most significant and most conformed to Scripture, when administered by affusion or sprinkling.


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