|« Prev||The Celebration of Baptism||Next »|
§ 70. The Celebration of Baptism.
The Lit. see in vol. I. § 54, p. 465 sq., especially Wall and Höfling. On the archaeology of baptism see Bingham’s Antiquities, Augusti’s Denkwürdigkeiten, the first vol. of Binterim, and the art. Baptism in Smith and Cheetham, I. 155–172. Also Schaff, on the Didache (1885), p. 29–56. For pictorial illustrations see the monumental works of Cav. de Rossi, Garrucci, Roller, on the catacombs, and Schaff, l.c.
The "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" (ch. 7,) enjoins baptism, after catechetical instruction, in these words: "Baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost in living (running) water. But if thou hast not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, pour water upon the head thrice, into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
Justin Martyr gives the following account of baptism:426426 Apol. I., c. 61 (I. 164 ed. Otto).26 "Those who are convinced of the truth of our doctrine, and have promised to live according to it, are exhorted to prayer, fasting and repentance for past sins; we praying and fasting with them. Then they are led by its to a place where is water, and in this way they are regenerated, as we also have been regenerated; that is, they receive the water-bath in the name of God, the Father and Ruler of all, and of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost. For Christ says: Except ye be born again, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. (John 3:5) Thus, from children of necessity and ignorance, we become children of choice and of wisdom, and partakers of the forgiveness of former sins .... The baptismal bath is called also illumination (φωτισμός) because those who receive it are enlightened in the understanding."
This account may be completed by the following particulars from Tertullian and later writers.
Before the act the candidate was required in a solemn vow to renounce the service of the devil, that is, all evil,427427 Abrenunciatio diaboti. Tertullian: "Renunciare diabolo et pompae et angelis ejus." Const. Apost.: Ἀποτάσσομαι τῷ Σατανᾷ καὶ τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ καὶ ταὶς πομπαῖς αὐτοῦ, καὶ ταῖς λατρείαις αὐτοῦ, καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ὑπ’ αὐτόν This renunciation of the devil was made, at least in the fourth century, as we learn from Cyril of Jerusalem, in the vestibule of the baptistery, with the face towards the west, and the hand raised in the repelling posture, as if Satan were present (ὡς παρόντι ἀποτάσσεσθε Σατανᾷ), and was sometimes accompanied with exsufflations, or other signs of expulsion of the evil spirit.27 give himself to Christ, and confess the sum of the apostolic faith in God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.428428 Ὁμολόγησις, professio. The creed was either said by the catechumen after The priest, or confessed in answer to questions, and with the face turned eastwards towards the light.28 The Apostles’ Creed, therefore, is properly the baptismal symbol, as it grew, in fact, out of the baptismal formula.
This act of turning front sin and turning to God,
or of repentance and faith, on the part of the candidate, was followed
by an appropriate prayer of the minister, and then by the baptism
itself into the triune name, with three successive immersions in which
the deacons and deaconesses assisted. The immersion in thrice dipping
the head of the candidate who stood nude in the water.429429 See the authorities
(Quoted in Smith and Cheetham, I. 161, and more fully in Augusti..
l.c."Ter mergitamur, " says Tertullian.
Immersion was very natural in Southern climates. The baptisteries of
the Nicene age, of which many remain in Asia, Africa, and Southern
Europe, were built for immersion, and all Oriental churches still
adhere to this mode. Garrucci (Storia della Arte Cristiana, I. 27) says: "Antichissimo e solenne fu il rito
d’ immergere la persona nell’
acqua, e tre
volte anche it capo, al pronunziare del ministro i tre
nomi." Schultze (Die Katacomben, p. 136): "Die Taufdarstellungen vorkonstantinischer
Zeit, deren Zahl sich auf drei beläuft, zeigen
sämmtlich erwachsene Täuflinge, in zvei
FälIen Knabent von etwa zwölf Jahren, im dritten
Falle einen Jüngling. Der Act wird durch Untertauchen
vollzogen." Dean Stanley delights in pictorial
exaggeration of the baptismal immersion in patristic times as
contrasted with modern sprinkling. "Baptism," he says, "was not only a
bath, but a plunge—an entire submersion in the deep
water, a leap as into the rolling sea or the rushing river, where for
the moment the waves close over the bather’s head, and
he emerges again as from a momentary grave; or it was a shock of a
shower-bath—the rush of water passed over the whole
person from capacious vessels, so as to wrap the recipient as within
the veil of a splashing cataract. This was the part of the ceremony on
which the Apostles laid so much stress. It was to them like a burial of
the old former self and the rising up again of the new self."Christian
Institutions, (1881), p. 9. See Schaff, l.c. p. 41 sqq.29 Single
immersion seems to have been introduced by Eunomius about 360, but was
condemned on pain of degradation, yet it reappeared afterwards in
Spain, and Pope Gregory I. declared both forms valid, the trine
immersion as setting forth the Trinity, the single immersion the Unity
of the Godhead.430430 Ep. I. 41 in reply
to Leander, bishop of Hispala. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theol., Tom. IV.,
f. 615, ed. Migne) quotes this letter with approval, but gives the
preference to trina immersio, as expressing "triduum sepulturus Christi
et etiam Trinitas personarum."30 The Eastern church, however, still
adheres strictly to the trine immersion.431431 The Russian
Orthodox Catechism defines baptism as "a sacrament, in which a man who
believes, having his body thrice plunged in water in the name of God
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, dies to the carnal life of
sin, and is born again of the Holy Ghost to a life spiritual and holy."
In the case of infants the act is usually completed by pouring water
over the head, the rest of the body being, immersed. So I was informed
by a Greek priest.31 Baptism by pouring water from a
shell or vessel or from the hand on the head of the candidate very
early occurs also and was probably considered equivalent to
immersion.432432 Pouring or affusion
is the present practice of the Roman Catholic church. It is first found
on pictures in the Roman catacombs, one of which De Rossi assigns to
the second century (in the cemetry of Calixtus). "It is remarkable that
in almost all the earliest representations of baptism that have been
preserved to us, this [the pouring of water from vessels over the body]
is the special act represented." Marriott in Smith and Cheetham, I.
168. But the art of painting can only represent a part of the act, not
the whole process; in all the Catacomb pictures the candidate stands
with the feet in water, and is undressed as for immersion, total or
The Didache allows pouring in cases of scarcity of water. But
afterwards this mode was applied only to infirm or sick persons; hence
called clinical baptism.433433 "Baptismus
clinicorum" (κλινικοί, from
Clinicus or grabbatarius designated one who was baptized on the sick
bed.33 The validity of this baptism was even
doubted by many in the third century; and Cyprian wrote in its defence, taking the ground that the
mode of application of water was a matter of minor importance, provided
that faith was present in the recipient and ministrant.434434 Ep. 69 (al. 75), ad
Magnum. He answered the question as best be could in the absence of any
ecclesiastical decision at that time. This Epistle, next to Tertullian’s opposition to infant
baptism, is the oldest document in the controversial baptismal
literature. Cyprian quotes (ch. 12) several
passages from the O.T. where "sprinkling" is spoken of as an act of
cleansing (Ez. 36:25, 26; Num. 8:5–7;
19:8–13), and then concludes: "Whence it appears that
sprinkling also of water prevails equally with the salutary washing
(adspersionem quoque aquae instar salutaris lavacri obtinere); and that
when this is done in the church where the faith both of the receiver
and the giver is sound (ubi sit et accipieatis et dantis fides
integra), all things hold and may be consummated and perfected by the
majesty of the Lord and by the truth of faith." But in the same Ep.,
Cyprian denies the validity of heretical and
schismatic baptism in any form. See below, §74.34
According to ecclesiastical law clinical baptism at least incapacitated
for the clerical office.435435 The twelfth canon
of the Council of Neo-Caesarea (after 314) ordains: "Whosoever has
received clinical baptism cannot be promoted to the priesthood, because
his [profession of] faith was not from free choice, but from necessity
,fear of death), unless he, excel afterwards in zeal
and faith, or there is a deficiency of [able] men." This canon passed
into the Corpus jur. can. c. 1 Dist. 57. See Hefele, Conciliengesch, I. 249
(2nd ed.).35 Yet the Roman bishop Fabian ordained
Novatian a presbyter, though he had been
baptized on a sickbed by aspersion.436436 Pouring and
sprinkling were still exceptional in the ninth century according to
Walafrid Strabo (De Rel. Eccl., c. 26), but they made gradual progress
with the spread of infant baptism, as the most convenient mode,
especially in Northern climates, and came into common use in the West
at the end of the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) says,
that although it may be safer to baptize by immersion, yet pouring and
sprinkling are also allowable (Summa Theol. P. III. Qu. LXVI. De Rapt.
art. 7: in Migne’s ed. Tom. IV. fol. 614): "Si totum
corpus aquâ non possit perfundi propter aquae paucitatem,
vel propter aliquam aliam causam, opportet caput perfundere, in quo
manifestatur principium animalis vitae. In Ireland aspersion seems to
have been practiced very early along with immersion." Trine immersion,
with the alternative of aspersion, is ordered in the earliest extant
Irish Baptismal Office, in the composition of which, however, Roman
influence is strongly marked." F. E. Warren, The Liturgy and Ritual of
the CeItic Church, Oxford (Clarendon Press), 1881, p. 65. Prof. Norman
Fox and other Baptist writer., ;, think that " neither infant baptism
nor the use of pouring and sprinkling for baptism would ever have been
thought of but for the superstitious idea that baptism was necessary to
salvation."But this idea prevailed among the fathers and in the Greek
church fully as much as in the Roman, while it is rejected in most
Protestant churches where sprinkling is practiced.
Luther sought to restore immersion, but without effect. Calvin took a similar view of the subject as Thomas Aquinas, but he went farther and declared the mode of application to be a matter of indifference, Inst. IV. ch. 15, §19: " Whether the person who is baptized be wholly immersed (mergatur totus)and whether thrice or once, or whether water be only poured (infusa)or sprinkled upon him (aspergatur), is of no importance (minimum refert): but this should be left free to the churches according to the difference of countries. Yet the very word baptize signifies to immerse (mergere); and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church." Most Protestants agree with Calvin, except the Baptists, who revived the ancient practice, but only in part (single instead of trine immersion), and without the patristic ideas of baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, and the necessity of baptism for salvation. They regard baptism as a mere symbol which exhibits the fact that regeneration and conversion have already taken place.36
Thanksgiving, benediction, and the brotherly kiss concluded the sacred ceremony.
Besides these essential elements of the baptismal rite, we find, so early as the third century, several other subordinate usages, which have indeed a beautiful symbolical meaning, but, like all redundancies, could easily obscure the original simplicity of this sacrament, as it appears in Justin Martyr’s description. Among these appendages are the signing of the cross on the forehead and breast of the subject, as a soldier of Christ under the banner of the cross; giving him milk and honey (also salt) in token of sonship with God, and citizenship in the heavenly Canaan; also the unction of the head, the lighted taper, and the white robe.
Exorcism, or the expulsion of the devil, which is not to be confounded with the essential formula of renunciation, was probably practised at first only in special cases, as of demoniacal possession. But after the council of Carthage, a.d. 256, we find it a regular part of the ceremony of baptism, preceding the baptism proper, and in some eases, it would seem, several times repeated during the course of catechetical instruction. To understand fully this custom, we should remember that the early church derived the whole system of heathen idolatry, which it justly abhorred as one of the greatest crimes,437437 Tertullian calls it "principals crimen generis humani" (De idol. c. 1), and Cyprian, "summum delictum" (Ep. x.).37 from the agency of Satan. The heathen deities, although they had been eminent men during their lives, were, as to their animating principle, identified with demons—either fallen angels or their progeny. These demons, as we may infer from many passages of Justin, Minucius Felix, Tertullian, and others, were believed to traverse the air, to wander over the earth, to deceive and torment the race, to take possession of men, to encourage sacrifices, to lurk in statues, to speak through the oracles, to direct the flights of birds, to work the illusions of enchantment and necromancy, to delude the senses by false miracles, to incite persecution against Christianity, and, in fact, to sustain the whole fabric of heathenism with all its errors and vices. But even these evil spirits were Subject to the powerful name of Jesus. Tertullian openly challenges the pagan adversaries to bring demoniacs before the tribunals, and affirms that the spirits which possessed them, would bear witness to the truth of Christianity.
The institution of sponsors,438438 Ἀνάδοχοι, sponsores, fideijussores.38, first mentioned by Tertullian, arose no doubt from infant baptism, and was designed to secure Christian training, without thereby excusing Christian parents from their duty.
Baptism might be administered at any time, but was commonly connected with Easter and Pentecost, and in the East with Epiphany also, to give it the greater solemnity. The favorite hour was midnight lit up by torches. The men were baptized first, the women afterwards. During the week following, the neophytes wore white garments as symbols of their purity.
Separate chapels for baptism, or baptisteries, occur first in the fourth century, and many of them still remain in Southern Europe. Baptism might be performed in any place, where, as Justin says, "water was." Yet Cyprian, in the middle of the third century, and the pseudo-Apostolical Constitutions, require the element to be previously consecrated, that it may become the vehicle of the purifying energy of the Spirit. This corresponded to the consecration of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, and involved no transformation of the substance.
|« Prev||The Celebration of Baptism||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version