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their judgment and conscience, in this matter, to the au thority of their Baptist brethren, they have presumed to follow their own judgment and their own conscience, as enlightened by a careful study of the word of God.
“ To the law and to the testimony.” That word shall judge us in the last day, and by that will we be determined
In our investigation of the mode of Baptism, I shall first remark concerning the principles of interpretation to be applied or admitted in determining this question.
Then, I shall, upon the basis of these principles, institute three inquiries :
1. What would the immediate disciples of Christ understand from the simple face of the command, “ Baptize?”
2. Is there satisfactory evidence, that they always administered the ordinance of baptism by immersion ?
3. On the supposition that our Lord was baptized in a given mode, and that the apostles always practised that mode ;--is there evidence that they considered that one mode essential?
The preliminary remarks concerning the principles of interpretation, together with an application of those principles to the method of arguing employed by our Baptist brethren, will occupy this first discourse. I shall be obliged to take up subjects foreign from the common field of sermonizing ; and such as are rather. scholastic, and not very interesting to a mixed assembly. I shall be obliged to tax your patience somewhat : but I will make the matter as clear and as interesting as I can: and discuss no topic which you will not perceive to have a weighty bearing upon the argument before we get through.
There cannot be much Gospel in such a discussion as this ; as the whole genius of the Gospel is averse to disputations about the mere modes of rites and ordinances. I will try, however, to discuss the matter in the spirit of the Gospel ; and will endeavor to bring in as much of the Gospel of salvation as a disputation about the mere ceremony of an ordinance will admit. I proceed
1. TO THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION TO BE AP
PLIED OR ADMITTED IN DETERMINING THIS CASE. Sir William Blackstone, in his “ Commentaries on the Laws of England,” cites the following example for the purpose of illustrating one of the principles on which laws are to be interpreted.*
6 A law of Edward JII. forbids all ecclesiastical persons to purchase provisions at Rome.” Now the word “provisions” commonly means “victuals ;" “ things to eat ;' and at first sight the law of Edward III. seems to forbid the purchasing of rictuals ;-meat,-grain,-eatables,--at Rome.
Suppose now, on a debate concerning the import of this law, one should say, “ The law is express : it says ' provisions,' and provisions are victuals." " Granted : such is the common acceptation of the word. Suppose he should urge it; and bring a hundred dictionaries, in all of which the first and most common meaning of the word“ provisions” should be “victuals." Suppose, when I question whether the law meant victuals, and endeavor to give my reasons, he should lift up his hand toward the
cry, “ It is as plain as the sun in the heavens, and the man who does not sce it is not worth argu
* Blackstone, Introduction, $ 2, 3.
ing with : all the dictionaries say so: it has been conceded a thousand times that provisions' means 'victuals.'” Suppose he should go further : suppose he should hunt up the word "provisions" as used in all the classic English authors from the days of Chaucer and Spenser, and show in ten thousand instances that the word provisions means victuals : and that, even in its figurative uses, it still refers to something to support and nourish : e. g. as when Mrs. Isabella Graham selected a multitude of texts of Scripture calculated to give her comfort in death, she called them “ Provisions for passing over Jordan.” “Here," says the stickler for victuals," here I take my stand. If I have not settled the meaning of the word provisions,' nothing can be settled.” And so he stretches the law to his dictionaries and classics. Provision shall mean victuals; and all further reasoning is barred away from any concern in settling the question.
You have here, if I mistake not, and as I think I shall be able to show, the substance of the Baptist principles of arguing concerning the question at issue.
But no, says Blackstone ; see first for what reason the law was made. Search out the meaning of the word "provisions” as used in the “ Canon law" of those days.
“ The law,” says Blackstone, "might seem to prohibit the buying of grain and other victuals : but when we consider that the statute was made to
usurpations of the Papal See, and that the nominations to benefices by the Pope were called provisions, we shall see that the restraint is intended to be laid on such provisions only."*
* Mr. Carson says, p. 396, that this “is just an example that he would select to illustrate his views of the laws of language. The English language gives nominations to ecclesiastical benefices by the The word “provisions” in this law of Edward III. does not mean grain or victuals, or stores of any kind : but " nominations to ecclesiastical benefices by the Pope :" and for this law, people may purchase as much meat and Pope, as one of the meanings of the word provisions; and when used with reference to ECCLESIASTICAL THINGS, it is self-evidently clear that this, and not rictuals, is its meaning.” In this case, after all other writers and lexicons have made the word provisions mean vic. tuals, he will allow writers on EccLESIASTICAL THings to show for themselves, that they use the word in a sense entirely different and peculiar. But he will not allow Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul the same privilege, in explaining their own meaning of the word baptize. O no: they must mean, they shall mean, what the heathen Greeks mean! That point is fixed! As Mr. Carson was so kind as to “bestow” upon me divers“ Canons," I would humbly submit to the common sense of my Baptist brethren the following inquiries: 1. Whether it be not a sound canon of interpretation, that SACRED WRITERS ARE TO BE ALLOWED TO EXPLAIN THEIR OWN MEANING, JUST AS HEATHEN GREEKS ARE ALLOWED TO EXPLAIN THEIRS ? 2. Whether it is not a sound canon, THAT THE HOLY Guost IS A COMPETENT AND CREDIBLE WITNESS, AS TO THE SENSE IN WHICH THE HOLY GIosT USES THE WORD BAPTIZE ? 3. That where the New Testament witness differs from the heathen Greeks, HE IS TO BE HEARD BEFORE ANY HEATHEN, AND ALL THE HEATHEN THAT EVER EXISTED ?
Mr. Carson has built his whole work upon a practical denial of these self-evident canons. He has taken precisely the ground that one would have taken who, having pushed his inquiries concerning the word provisions up to the very times of the writers on ecclesiastical affairs, should there stop, and say, “ Iè is fixed; if I have not settled the meaning of the word provisions, nothing can be settled ; these ecclesiastical writers must mean, and shall mean, nothing but victuals." And having thus set at nought the plainest principles of interpretation, Mr. Carson says, “Let Mr. H. acquaint himself with the philosophy of evidence before he ventures to criticise my reasoning.”
grain and other victuals at Rome as they please. The decision of Blackstone carries all common sense with it. Away go
the hundred dictionaries and the ten thousand quotations from the classics.
No matter how many times it might have been conceded” that the word provisions commonly means something to eat :-Blackstone himself makes the same concession, and still maintains his interpretation of the law.
In the same manner, if it should be proved indubitably, that the word Baptizo (Bantitw) in classic Greek means only to immerse ;—to immerse the subject wholly; this would not settle the question that the command to Baptize in the New Testament means indispensably to immerse.
The classic Greek writers lived from three hundred to eight hundred years before Christ. They lived in another country. They were familiar with another set of ideas, -especially on religious matters. The Greek language in their hands was adapted to the religious ideas of heathen: in the hands of Jews it was adapted to the religious ideas of those who were acquainted with the true God.
More particularly : The Greek was not introduced into Judea till after the conquest of that country by Alexander, 300 years before Christ. It prevailed very gradually ; its genius received a mould from the genius of the Hebrew ; Greek words were applied to Jewish ideas; and to ideas which had never been compounded into an existence in the land of classic Greek :
:-as in the words translated Holy, Holiness, Sin, Faith, Repentance, Justification, Salvation. The Hebrew continued to be spoken with the Greek: and it is even contended with no small force of argument that Matthew wrote his