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Now what do those who make John take Jerusalem and Judea out to Enon to immerse them because there is much water there? All at once, and very conveniently, there are discovered a number of reservoirs and baths. But it is forgotten that these can belong only to the rich; and not many rich or mighty were in the habit of befriending the followers of Christ; and the great mass of the converts appear to be strangers at Jerusalem. Not the least intimation is found that such bathing places were resorted to. And a simple mathematical calculation will show that the eleven apostles could hardly have immersed three thousand persons in so short a time All these circumstances show a high degree of probability, that there was no immersion here.
The Jailer (Acts xvi. 19-30) was baptized in the night, and it should seem in prison. But it is urged there might be a bath there : and long arguments are held to show that the prison might have been furnished with a bath, in which the Jailer might have been immersed. Surely, surely, that is a happy facility of discovery, which after making it necessary for all Judea to go out to Jordan to find water enough to be baptized, and to go to a particular point on Jordan,—to Enon, because there is much water there ; can presently find water enough anywhere and everywhere. If a bath should perchance be wanted, there is no difficulty: a stroke of the pen places it there; and a certain immersion is performed without a scrap of evidence in the history to show that an immersion was possible !
But this ground is now very generally given up, and a way for immersion is found out even without a bath in the prison. It is now maintained that they went FORTH ; because he was brought out of the prison, and then brought into the house, and it is demanded, as an unanswerable argument, why he was taken abroad in the night, except for immersion ; or why taken abroad at all, if he might be baptized by sprinkling within.
Now this is to give up the baptism in a bath within the prison ; for I take it as a point not to be debated, that he was not baptized both in the prison and out of it, in one and the same baptism. But in letting this stronghold go, as they in justice should, have they found another where they may rest secure? I think not. The Jailer thrust them into the inner prison : then he brought them out of that into the more common part of the prison;—not out of doors abroad; for we see that he was ready to kill himself when he supposed the prisoners had escaped, even by means of an earthquake. In this prison proper the baptism was performed: then the Jailer brought them into his house ; i. e., into his dwelling apartments, doubtless attached to the prison. There was no going abroad at all. Paul would not go out upon leave, till the magistrates came and fetched him out. So, the bath is given up, and the substitute fails : and according to the proper rules of argument we should be entitled to have it granted, on their own ground, that here was no immersion. Every expedient has failed, and we have, in all reason, a simple common baptism by sprinkling or pouring.
Paul's baptism is recorded in Acts ix. 17, 18. He was in his chamber, blind, and weak with fasting three days. “He arose (or stood up) and was baptized; and when he had received meat he was strengthened.” What pretence for a bath in this inner chamber? What is
there to show that he went abroad in his weak state, before he had received meat and was strengthened ? I am unable even to conjecture what. It was, I think, beyond proper question, a baptism by sprinkling or pouring.
The baptism of Cornelius is recorded, Acts x. 44. Those who heard Peter were first baptized with the Holy Ghost. “ And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered. I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost,” Acts xi. 15. He reasoned at the time thus: These have received the Holy Ghost ; can any man forbid water? They have received the greater baptism, can any man forbid the less : they have the reality, can any man forbid the sign? His idea seems to be, not that they might be carried and applied to the water ; but that water might be brought and applied to them. The Spirit's mode of baptizing was a falling upon, and such, it seems clearly, was the probable application of the water here.
Here I rest under the second inquiry. Not only is there no evidence that the apostles always baptized by immersion, but clear evidence to the contrary : and I add, no certain evidence that they immersed at all. The probability, even so far as concerns this, is on the other side. I do profess myself unable, and my belief that all other men are unable, to make out a clear case of baptism by immersion in the New Testament.*
And yet if * Rev. Wm. T. Hamilton, in his work on baptism, says (p. 89), " And I hesitate not to assert that no man can prove that either John or the Apostles baptized by immersion :"_"and for any to assume that one mode only was employed, and then demand that all should
twenty might be made out, it would not invalidate the argument, as I shall show under the third inquiry.
Previously to entering upon this, however, it seems desirable to say a word, in passing, on the argument
It is not indeed essential. I care not who gets the argument from history, provided I get the argument clear and decisive from the word of God.
That immersion was early and extensively practised is certain. That it was not considered essential is also certain.* The practice was never invariable. The sick and feeble were baptized by affusion or sprinkling ; and baptism in such modes was distinctly recognized as valid as in other cases. Novatian was baptized by affusion as he lay upon his bed in sickness. The Emperor Constantine was baptized by Eusebius, of Nicomedia, lying on his
comply with that mode, while they can produce neither express command nor an undeniable example of baptism by immersion in the Bible, is rather a bold stand to take ; especially for those who insist that, in a positive ordinance, the law of the ordinance must be our only guide.”
* Justin is relied on to prove that immersion only was practised in his day. But he uses such language as renders it CERTAIN that he by no means considered immersion essential; and such as renders it doubtful whether he meant immersion at all. Thus, when he is writing to the Emperor he invariably DESCRIBES the baptism, and does not use the word baptize at all. He describes the baptism by the words λουω (louo) “ Το WASH,” and λουτρον,
But these words referred to no particular MODE of applying water, least of all to an indispensable immersion; and if he thought immersion essential he wilfully misled the Emperor, who would of necessity understand that they were washed in any mode, and not necessarily immersed; but if in any specific mode, -by an application of water to the subject, not of the subject to the water.--Chapin, p. 65.
bed, clothed in white. Sixty or seventy years after the Apostles, a Jew while travelling with Christians fell sick and desired baptism. Not having water, they sprinkled him thrice with sand. " He recovered. His case was reported to the bishop, who decided that the man was baptized, if only he had water poured on him again.' LAURENTIUS is mentioned as baptizing two persons, Romanus and Lucilius, by affusion. “A little while before he suffered, he baptized one of his executioners with a pitcher of water.”+ Many such cases are all along incidentally recorded. Upon the best search that I can make, I am compelled to abide by the conclusion of Dr. Pond, who says (p. 43), “I propose it as an indubitable fact that immersion was never considered essential to baptism till the rise of the Anabaptists in Germany, in the sixteenth century."
History shows that Christians early laid an improper stress upon baptism, attributing to it an efficacy which by no means belongs to it. To the simple rite of baptism by sprinkling or affusion practised by the Apostles, they soon added a more thorough washing with a greater quantity of water. I And this is scarce to be wondered at when we remember how Peter said, “ Lord, not my feet only, but my
head.” And yet our Saviour did seem to caution his disciples against this tendency to overdo and overburden religious rites, when he replied, “He that is washed, needeth not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” The tendency was
* In Pond, p. 45
† Ibid., p. 48. Jerome speaks of a mode of baptism as common in the ancient church, which was not to dip the whole body, but a “thrice dipping of the head," Augustine mentions the same. (Pond, p. 46.)