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2. It is argued, that immersion is the only mode in which baptism can be validly administered, from history. That immersion may be traced to a very early date, cannot be denied. But this is not suffi. cient to establish it as the exclusive mode. To do this, the advocates of this system must show that the early Christians baptized by immer. sion, and in no other way. They may cite Mosheim and Milner, who say that immersion was practised in the early ages; or Venema, King, and others, who give it as their opinion that immersion was the ancient mode practised, the nine hundred and ninety-ninth time, if they have not already : but this will only prove what we are ready to admit. To make their argument valid, they must show from authentic history, not merely that immersion was practised in the early ages of the church, but that it was practised exclusively, and alone.
That they cannot do this is obvious from the following quotations: Irenæus, who was born about the time the Apostle John died, says of a certain sect of Christians, that “they baptized by an affusion of water, mixed with oil.” Athanasius speaks of another sect, who baptized by sprinkling. Lawranu, who became a Christian about fifty years after the apostles, a little while before he suffered martyrdom, baptized one of his executioners with a pitcher of water. Did he im. merse, think you? Eusebius says of Novatian, the philosopher, that “ he was baptized in a fit of sickness, according to the custom of those times, (120 years after Christ,) by affusion or sprinkling." And it is said of Eusebius, that he baptized Constantine the Great, while lying on his bed, in a solemn manner. Gennadius, who flourished about the year 490, says, “ the person to be baptized makes confession of his faith before the priest-and, after confession, he is either wetted with water, or plunged into it.” Other authorities might be cited, were it necessary, to show with equal clearness that different modes of baptism have been practised from the apostolic age down to the present time; but these must suffice. Thus it appears history proves nothing for exclusive immersion.
3. Again : it is urged John baptized by immersion ; therefore im. mersion is the only mode. To this I reply, Could it be demonstrated that John practised this mode, it by no means follows that it should be practised now, because John's was not the Christian baptism. For it was not instituted by Christ-it was not administered in the name of the Holy Trinity-it was not under the Christian dispensationand, finally, some whom he baptized were baptized again : whereas Christian baptism is an institution of Christ—is to be administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—and is in no case to be repeated. But, how is it proved that he did baptize by immersion ? Is it by his being in the vicinity of Jordan? This proves as much for pouring as immersion. It, however, proves nothing for either, as it does not appear that John sought this place on account of its convenience to baptize, but to preach. Is it by that passage, which says “ they were baptized of him in Jordan ?” This is not conclusive, even though we understand in Jordan to mean in the river, as our opponents would have us; because they might have had the water poured on them in the river, as well as to have been immersed, as thousands have had. But this phrase admits of a different meaning.
It is said by Greek scholars—and every man who knows the Greek alphabet may read for himself-that en, here rendered in, is translated in the New Testament at, more than one hundred times; with, one hundred and fifty times; by, about one hundred times. Hence the passage may read, with equal propriety, they were baptized of him at Jordan, with Jordan, or by Jordan ; two of which readings represent en as rather a note of place than of mode, which was probably its de sign, as the parallel passage in another of the evangelists describes the scene of John's baptizing as being in Bethabara, beyond, or situ. ate on Jordan.
Is it proved that John baptized by immersion by the passage which says "he baptized in, or at Enon, because there was much water there?” Much, it must be remembered, is a relative term of very indefinite signification. It may mean a common well, or a lake, the fountain of On, or Enon, or an ocean. What quantity it is used to designate here, therefore, it is difficult to determine. I may say, a spring, or several springs; and for aught immersionists can show to the contrary, this is correct.
But, to leave this term, it is inquired, Why did John go where "there was much water," if it were not to baptize by immersion ? To reply, in the language of Mr. Fowler, “Why did the king of As. syria need much water, though he did not baptize at all? Plainly for the people and the beasts that were with him. It may be asked, also, Why are camp-meetings always located near much water ? Plainly for the accommodation of the people and the beasts. John baptized in the wilderness—in Bethabara-beyond Jordan—and in, or at Jordan; and as the people flocked to hear him by thousands and tens of thousands, he located himself at Enon because there was much water there, for the accommodation of the vast multitudes that followed him. Much water was necessary, not for immersion, but to supply the immense multitude and their beasts, by means of which they had assembled from all parts of Judea, and from Jerusalem, itself some fifty miles distant. Now, suppose it should be said a camp. meeting was held last September in • because there was much water there,' would any mortal suppose from this expression, that the sole or principal object of meeting in that place was to immerse the people? Certainly not. Hence the expression, because there was much water there, furnishes no conclusion, nor even probable proof, that John baptized by immersion.”
A word more, and I pass on. Matthew says, “ Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, went out and were baptized of John in Jordan.” The distance was considerable. Many who were baptized, doubtless, went not less than fifty miles. And for what did they go? To be baptized? They did not think of it. No; they went to see and hear the extraordinary stranger, who was exciting great attention among the people. Of course they did not go prepared to be immersed; or, in other words, they did not carry a change of raiment. Hence, if they were immersed, they were either immersed naked, or they suffered the inconvenience of a protracted and dangerous wetting. But, do you think, my friends, they did either ? Make the case your own, and would you have done either ?
To say nothing, then, of the impossibility of one man's immersing this vast number, the position assumed in the argument is entirely un. founded.
4. It is argued from the passage, that Jesus, after he was baptized, " went up straightway out of the water," that he was immersed; and that we should be also; or that immersion is the only valid mode. To this, it may be replied, Were it indisputable that Christ was immersed, it would still remain a question whether we should be, because Christ was not baptized, as we are frequently told, to set an example to his followers; but for an entirely different object. Hear his own account of it: “Suffer it to be so now-for thus it becometh us, (not to exemplify the mode of baptism,) but to fulfil all righteousness." Is it asked, What righteousness this fulfilled ? I answer, The righteousness of that law, which required that every priest be inducted into his office by the washing of water and the anointing of oil. Thus Moses took Aaron and his sons, and washed or baptized them before the assembled nation, “ And in conformity to this Levitical law,” says Reid in his Apology, “Christ was baptized by John in the presence of many wit. nesses. Says Cogswell on this passage, “ John baptized Christ, as an induction into the priestly office.” “ All the priests,” says he, “ under the law were baptized, and thus inducted into office, at thirty years of age—the age which Christ had attained at the time of his baptism.” Scott, Clarke, Lathrop, and indeed nearly every other commentator whose works are much in use, say the same.
But to the question, Was Christ immersed? The affirmative of this question is based exclusively on the expression, “ He went up straightway out of the water.” This, it should be remembered, proves no less for pouring than immersion ; for thousands have come up straightway out of the water” who were not immersed, but had the water poured upon them. But the usual translation of apo, here rendered out of, is not out but from. In the first five books of the New Testament it is translated from two hundred and thirty-five times, and out of only forty.five times. Hence, according to the usage of the New Testa. ment writers, there is five times the authority for reading the passage, “ He went up straightway from the water," there is for reading it, “ He went up straightway out of the water ;” and therefore, if it prove any thing, it proves five times as much for sprinkling or pouring as it proves for immersion.
5. Again : the baptism of the eunuch is quoted by immersionists as conclusive. St. Luke describes it as follows :- :-“ And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth binder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and 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, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip," &c. On reading this passage, without prejudice, several questions naturally arise. And first, How much water did they find ? Was it a little rivulet, spring, lake, or pond? Was there enough to immerse in, or not? Who can tell ? No one. Supposing, however, the country to be like other countries, there are ten reasons for believ. ing it a little rivulet, brook, or, in other words, a mere watering place, where there is one to believe it sufficient for immersion, since in tra. veling we pass ten of those to one of a larger kind.
Another question which arises is, How far into the water did they go? Immersionists say, the eunuch was plunged, because the text reads, “ they went down into the water, and came up out of it.” But if this phrase proves that the eunuch was plunged, it equally proves that Philip was also ; for the same is here said of Philip that is said of the eunuch. Pedobaptists, to accommodate themselves to this ex. pression, may say, they only went in over the soles of their shoes. And who can contradict them? This supposition as perfectly consists with the phraseology of the text as that of the immersionists. But, to vary the question a little, Which supposition is the most probable? The eunuch, it will be remembered, was on his way home from meeting. He had been to a meeting at Jerusalem. To suppose he had an entire change of raiment with him, is unreasonable. Hence, had he been immersed, he must either have denuded himself, or per. formed the rest of his journey wet, which would have been both ridiculous and unsafe. A similar inconvenience would have attended his baptism, on the part of Philip, being doubtless as unprepared for the water as himself. To have gone down to the edge of the water, or even to have stepped into it, would have been perfectly safe and convenient for both. Now, my friends, what do you say? Was the eunuch immersed, or not? Would you have been immersed under such circumstances ? To me the supposition is preposterous in the extreme.
But there is another mode of disposing of this favorite passage. The Greek word eis, here rendered into, is frequently, though not al. ways, rendered to, and unto. It is rendered to and unto, by the four evangelists, two hundred and eighty-five times; and it is rendered to not less than four times in this very chapter. The corresponding preposition ek, is often rendered from, as every smatterer in Greek well knows. Hence there is the same authority for rendering this passage, they went down to the water, and came up from the water, as there is for the present translation. So that this conclusive pas. sage, instead of proving immersion the only mode, stands forth a powerful argument in favor of another mode.
6. The sixth and last argument I shall consider is that deduced from Rom. vi, 3, 4: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death ; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Pengilly, the author of the ablest production I have ever read in support of exclusive immersion, saysand be it said to his honor, it is all he says" The object of the Apostle Paul in this place, and its connection, is to show the church, to which he is here writing, the necessity of a holy walk and conversation. To this end he puts them in mind of their baptism, the profession they made in it, and the obligations they took on themselves to live accord. ing to those truths which the ordinance did plainly signify. Know ye not, says he, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus, into a profession of his religion, were baptized into his death, into a reliance upon, and conformity to his death; the great design of which
was to take away sin: and consequently, as our Lord died, and was buried on account of it, so should we be buried to the love and practice of it.” Then follows this plain and striking allusion to baptism, in the fourth verse:
“ Therefore,” (to express this very design,)“ are we buried by baptism with Christ our Lord; and as he was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we are at our baptism, wherein we likewise are raised up to walk in newness of life.” This was the best this gentleman could do, considering his creed, and his brethren seem not inclined to alter it. His exposition of the third verse is tolerably correct, though perhaps somewhat unhappily phrased; but, when he comes to the fourth, he is evidently embarrassed. In the third, he concedes that those whom the apostle addressed had been baptized. But in the fourth, to make buried certainly refer to the mode of their baptism, and yet to maintain the inspired language, he runs into a grammatical absurdity, from which he can extricate himself only by the abandonment of the passage. Hear him: “So we are (now, that is sometime ago,) at our baptism, wherein we likewise are, (why had he not said, were? Plainly because that would have been departing from the letter of the text,) raised up to walk in new. ness of life,” &c. Let it be remarked, the apostle does not say, “Therefore we were buried,” but “ we are buried with him.” The burial, then, of whatever nature it may be, is in the present tense, is now; and to suppose the apostle to refer to immersion in water, is to say, that both he and his brethren at Rome were in the very act of immersion, or were actually living under water at the time he wrotefor he says, we are buried ;" which could not have been true, though he had been buried a thousand times, if he had been raised as many. The plain meaning of the apostle in this passage is, that as the burial of Christ in the grave was the demonstration to the world of his death, so our baptism is our declaration to the world that we are dead to sin; and as his burial separated his body from the living world, so that it was no longer reckoned among men, so we are buried by the baptism we have received--that is, separated from sin. The connection be. tween sin, and the world, and us, is completely broken, that we may walk in newness of life; which we could not do while alive to sin, and in union with the world. That this is the apostle's meaning, and that he had no allusion to the mode of baptism, is obvious from his proceeding in the two next verses to say “we have been planted,” and also “crucified with him,” by the same means, which certainly can have no reference to the mode of this rite.
Thus I have examined the principal arguments adduced by immer. sionists in support of their system; and what is the conclusion ? That immersion is the only mode? That nine tenths of the Christian Church are yet unbaptized ? Nay, that the Christian Church is restricted to the narrow confines of immersionism? Not so. If they prove immersion to be a valid mode, which I am not disposed to deny, others prove pouring and sprinkling to be equally so. If they prove it to be the exclusive mode, others prove sprinkling to be so too, as I shall soon show. But, certainly, they do not. And if these do not, the position is sustained—for what other arguments remain are hardly worthy the name. Firm, however, as my position stands, two or three further remarks may not be uninteresting. And, VOL. X.-July, 1839.