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rent object with the utmost possible clearness. Can such relative clearness (philosophers call it subjective, in allusion to the subject on whom the impression is made) be attributed to the object (whence the word objective) from which the various impressions are derived ? May it not be said with more accuracy of language, that the impressions in themselves may be clear, but the object is obscure ?
Yet, in spite of all this well-known variety of impressions received from the Scriptures by different individuals, there is a surprising unity in the perception which Christians, free from passionate zeal, have of the spirit of the New Testament, and of the moral tone of conduct (internal and external; of intellect and sentiment,) which that spirit, cherished by the soul, never fails to produce. Since, therefore, this is the only invariable result of what has been revealed to mankind through Christ, this alone can be essential to the safety or salvation promised by him. Otherwise that salvation would depend on interpretations of passages, to which no human skill, however conscientiously applied, can give any tolerable certainty.
In this fragment, (which, though not properly connected with philosophy, is yet offered to the Christian Teacher with views similar to those which produced one already favoured with admission to its pages,)* it is intended to apply the general observations already made, to the subject of Baptism; a ceremony, which, if the agreement of multitudes upon any thing of this kind, could be taken as the proof of its truth, would unquestionably be the indispensable condition of every advantage offered to mankind in the Gospel. Few indeed are still the professors of Christianity, who allow themselves a doubt whether Christ did not make some kind of washing with water, attended with a certain form of words, indispensable to his disciples, and universally, to those who should be saved. In the history of the Reformation there is scarcely a fact so striking to the writer of these pages, as the intuitive perception which the primitive Quakers had in regard to that supposed sacrament, and the boldness with which they rejected the established interpretations of Scripture. Erroneous and extravagant as their notion of individual inspiration was, they were, in reality, the most enlightened of all the reformers; and when Christians shall have cast off all the prejudices which they owe to the false philosophy of the fathers, they will be found wonderfully to agree with the original Society of Friends, their enthusiasm excepted. But to return to Baptism : According to the most generally received notions of Christians, if the Gospels had been intended to acquaint mankind with any one thing, besides the spirit of Christ, as necessary to salvation or spiritual safety, and consequently, to deliver it in clear terms, it would be the manner of administering baptism. And yet to any one who dispassionately consults the New Testament, nothing can be more uncertain. Ecclesiastical history, in spite of the partiality and scarcity of its early documents, shows the unsteadiness of the practice of the early churches on this point. The New Testament itself opposes, by implication, the later supposition of a form of words, which, joined to the application of water, is supposed to operate like a charm. . All this has been abundantly shown by the Anti-Pædobaptists; a denomination of Christians, who, if the established tenets concerning the necessity of baptism were true, would be unquestionably right; and who, if we grant them the grounds on which they have contended with the Pædobaptists, the victory belongs of right. But all this has little or no connection with our object, which is to give a specimen of the indefiniteness of the New Testament, on a subject which language might have conveyed with the greatest precision; for, as far as the matter and form of the supposed sacrament are concerned, human language presents no difficulty of that kind which makes the expression of invisible and supernatural existences quite impossible. The present writer, however, has another object in view—namely, that of allaying the anxiety which still exists among some of the more Liberal Christians in regard to the baptismal rite.
* Vol. I, No. vi.
We here subjoin a view of all the passages relating to baptism, (repetitions excepted,) distributed into three classes. I. "Passages in which the Greek root of Burtibw, (I baptise,) and Barrioka, (baptism,) may express plunging, and, at all events, some external application of water. II. Passages in which it is taken in a moral sense. III. Passages where it is doubtful whether it is taken in a physical sense, or not; and in which the manner of using the water, (if water is literally meant,) is not clearly stated.
I. Passages in which the Greek root * may express plunging, and, at all events, some external application of water.
1. Matt. iii, 5 & 6.— Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.'
Here the doubt occurs whether women as well as men were
It must be known to every one acquainted, even in a slight degree, with the philosophy of language, that the essential notion, whether in noun, verb, or adverb, is expressed by the common root of those words. Bar is the root in this case. • T is added in the root to the p sounds : x2.5T (in x28705, theft) x2€Tow' Thiersch translated by Sandford, p. 234. The plain English readers need only bring to their recollection any of numerous sets of words, which are derived from the same root; v. g. STR-ike, iking, uck, oke, iker. The essential uotion is expressed by the root; all the rest are juodifications.
plunged into Jordan. This form of baptism, considering the obvious objections arising from modesty and delicacy, seems incredible. Was then the baptism performed by affusion, or pouring, as the Roman Catholic painters have represented it, and as the Roman Catholic Church practises it? Why, in that case, did Christ go into the water ? See Matt. ii, 16, Mark i, 10. Why did Philip go into the water with the Eunuch. Acts viii, 39. The figurative applications of the act of baptism which Paul frequently makes, such as being buried and rising again,' evidently imply immersion. Indeed this notion was so established among the early Christians, that in the age of Cyprian (who was put to death as a Christian, A.D. 258) there were many who denied that baptism conferred on per ons dangerously ill, and who could not rise from their bed, (hence called clinici, to be plunged, was valid. Let all this be kept in mind.
2. John i. 31.-'And I knew him not; but,' &c. 'am I come baptising with water. This is said as in contrast with the baptism by the Spirit.
3. Acts viii.- The expressions baptism and baptize evidently mean the use of water by plunging. See v. 39. And when they (Philip and the Eunuch) were come out of the water.'
4. Mark vii. 3. 4.-For the Pharisees, and all the Jews except they wash (v wrai) their hands oft, eat not; and when they come from the market, except they wash (an arbitrary translation, for the word is Barriowa., i. e. bathe or baptize themselves) they eat not.
This is an important passage; and the manner in which the translators have avoided the impression which the word Bamsiowvra! literally translated might produce, betrays the perplexity which it may occasion to those who consider baptism as a sacrament, necessary to salvation. The reader is desired to remember that the Greek word Barricwear, is used here to express an application of water performed by the person who undergoes it. Those who understand Greek will immediately perceive that the word bears one of the senses of the middle voice. Such as are not acquainted with the original language must be told, that words similar to this have exactly the same form in a passive sense.
II. The same expressions used spiritually or morally.
1. Matt. xx. 22, 23.- Are ye able to drink the cup (not, of the cup) that I shall drink (not, I shall drink of), and be baptized with the baptism that I am (not, am to be) baptized with ?'
The baptism of which Jesus speaks is not his death, but that dedication (such was the established signification of the baptisms used by the Jews) to the will and service of his Father, which is proved by every action of his life, and was made perfect on the cross. This should be remembered when we are endeavouring to find the true sense of baptism as a dedication to God, in the character of disciples of Jesus. In the sense of dedication, or profession of attachment to a leader, must the word be understood.
1 Cor. x. 2.- They were baptized unto Moses,' &c.
2. Mark i. 8.— I indeed have baptized you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.'
III. Doubtful sense of the same expressions, in regard to water, or the manner of using it.
1. Matt. xxviii. 19.—'Go ye therefore and teach (literally make proselytes, i. e. call disciples from among all nations) baptizing them into or to (not in, as if the use of the name had a mysterious virtue) the name of the Father,' &c. &c.
Observe that, since the word baptize (as we have found in the preceding passages) is capable of various senses, it must necessarily be subject to the same uncertainty in this place. It may mean, aggregating men to the body of Christ's followers, inducing them to devote themselves to God as disciples of Jesus, which is the sense of Batoiew in Matt. xx. 22, 23.-It may mean to use some bathing, ablution, or dipping, all of which were Jewish ceremonies, used when persons attached themselves to a religious society. It may mean the use of this symbol, not as one of spiritual grace, but of the determination to enter upon a new course of life; the symbol being applied either by some regularly appointed minister (as the Church of England believes) or by any one, man, woman, or child, as the Roman Catholics assert, in regard to cases of necessity ; or by the proselyte himself, as seems to follow from some passages which will be presently mentioned.
2. Acts ii. 38.-Peter said, (to the multitude,) Repent, and be baptized every one of you.'
• Three thousand were added to the church that day.' Did the apostles plunge them all? Did they sprinkle them? Did they pour a stream of water on each ? Or, lastly, did every one perform for himself the well known ceremony of dedication, επι τω ονοματι Ι. Χ. Ρ *
3. Acts viii. 13.—But when they believed Philip'—they were baptized, both men and women.'
I repeat the former question. Were they all plunged by the hands of Philip? Who can believe that such a practice would have passed
without suspicion and reproach on the part of the enemies of Christianity ? Remembering the sense of Bartilojas, in Mark vii. 4., we feel inclined to believe that this multitude baptized themselves. *
* Here again, 'in the name of Jesus Christ,' gives a wrong sense : ETI with a dative expresses subordination. The meaning is that of professing the principles of conduct which the new religious society, formed under the name of Jesus, professed and taught.
4. Acts viii. 16. For as yet he (the Holy Ghost; but there is no he in the original) was fallen upon none of them ; only they were baptized in (into or to) the name of Jesus.'
'This seems to be the baptism which was generally required of proselytes; namely, the acceptance of Jesus as their religious leader. All the doubts in regard to water, and the manner of using it, which the immediately preceding passage admits, apply to this, since both relate to the same Samaritans made
proselytes by Philip.
5. Acts ix. 18, 19. "And immediately there fell from his (Paul's) eyes,' &c. &c., and he received his sight, and arose and was baptized it and when he had received meat, he was strengthened.'
Was the fainting Paul taken to a river ? All the senses of the word ebam.1609 may apply to this passage.
6. Acts xvi. 15.-' And when she (Lydia) was baptized.' (The same Greek tense.) The objections to the supposition that the apostles administered baptism to women by immersion, make it probable that the meaning, baptized herself, is intended.
7. Acts xvi. 33.—“And he (the keeper of the prison at Philippi) took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes ; and was baptized, (Ebarrio0n) he and all his, straightway.'
All the doubts as to the manner occur with increased force, considering the late hour of the night.
8. Acts x. 47.— Then Peter said, Can any man forbid water, that these (Cornelius with his kinsmen and friends') should not be baptized ?—and he commanded them to be baptized.'
Why did he not baptize them himself, especially if he conceived that a proper minister was indispensable? The men of Joppa, who had accompanied Peter, are called brethren, not elders. This seems an additional reason to suppose that he ordered the new converts to perform for themselves the wellknown ceremony of admission into the Christian society.
It seems evident, from all this, that baptism, as an external application of water, in connection with certain words, could not be commanded by Christ as an indispensable condition of salvation. Such a necessity is perfectly inconsistent with the uncertainty as to the matter and form, (such are the strange names gravely uttered by divines in relation to baptism) of the supposed sacrament. The plain inference from our examina
* In verbs capable of that sense of the middle voice which expresses doing any thing for oneself, the aorist passive and the preterit passive frequently take this signification. See Matthia's Greck Gram. § 493. e.
+ The passive aorist. See the preceding note.