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of the laver, or washing-place of regeneration, the anointing of the Holy Ghost, and the blood of sprinkling. In the sacrament of the passover the sprinkling of blood was typically employed, as well as in the ratification of the Sinai covenant, and at other times similar cere. monies were used. Ex. 12:7 and 24:6-8, with Heb. 9:18–22. In the consecration of Aaron and his sons, we find washing with water, sprinkling with blood, and anointing with oil, the principal ceremonies used. We are not informed of the mode of washing; but the circumstances are not favorable to the impression that immersion was em. ployed. The laver was placed between the tabernacle of the congre. gation and the altar, that the priests might" wash their hands and feet thereat.” It could not be large, as it had to be carried through all their journeys. If, therefore, they were washed all over, it is probable that it was by affusion. It is a confirmation of this view, that, in allusion to this laver, the apostle says: “According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing (or laver) of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior." From this phraseology, as well as from the circumstances we have noticed, it appears very plain that this washing was all performed by affusion, or shedding upon the subject to be washed; but the hands and feet are particularly specified as the parts to be washed thereat. The blood was applied to the extremities of their right ears, thumbs, and toes, and the altar and the people were sprinkled, as well as the priests. The priests, too, were anointed with the oil by its being poured on the head. This ointment, which they were forbidden to imitate, was peculiarly fitted to represent the inimitable graces of the Spirit. This ointment was never renewed, say the Jews, after the captivity, on which Patrick says, “ Providence overruling that want, as a presage of the better unction of the Holy Ghost in gospel times, the variety of whose gifts was typified by the variety of these sweet ingredients.” Leprosy was a loathsome disease to which our moral corruption is frequently compared, and the mode of ceremonial purifi. cation, as typifying the efficacy of the blood and Spirit of Christ when sprinkled upon the conscience, is thus recognized by David in his expression of penitence: “ Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Hyssop, scarlet wool, water and blood, were the ingredients necessary in preparing and applying the purifying mixture. Would our limits permit we might multiply references; but in the washing with water, which represents the sanctifying influences of the word and Spirit of God-in the application of blood, which refers to the atoning sacrifice of Christmand in anointing with oil, which emblematizes the unction, gifts, and graces of the Holy Spirit-all are represented as poured, shed, sprinkled, ap. plied with the finger, and similar methods of partial application, and especially to or on the head. And surely these actions refer to the same things represented in baptism.
II. We consider the prophecies and exhortations of Scripture, in re. lation to the subject.
In the predictions respecting the dispensation of the Spirit, we usually-not to say always find some term employed expressive of affu. 'sion or sprinkling. Wisdom is represented as saying, “Turn you at my reproof; behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” Prov. 1:23. Isaiah, speaking of the desolations of the Jews, intimates that they would continue “ until the Spirit be poured out upon us from on high," Is. 32:15, plainly referring to the affusion of the Spirit under the gospel dispensation, Again, the same prophet says in another place, “ For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring." Is. 44:3. The prophet Ezekiel, speaking of the same events, says,
66 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you.” Ez. 36:25. And in a promise securing to his people the permanence of these bless. ings, he says, “ Neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.” Ez. 39:29. This mode of application is also used in relation to the special influences of the Spirit. “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications.”. Zech. 12:10. Thus we see the constant phraseology of the Bible, in relation to these things, is altogether on the side of affusion or sprinkling. There is, therefore, nothing of weight to sustain the form of immersion, and still less to exclude all other modes of application.
III. Let us next consider the practice, or examples, recorded in the New Testament,
1. Of these examples the first that occurs is that of John's baptism. Although not Christian baptism, John's is introduced with much confidence as an example of the mode, and the only scriptural mode of administration. To this assumption it may be objected, that it would be necessary to sustain the exclusive mode by showing, not only that some had been immersed, but that none had been baptized in any other form, or otherwise some precept to forbid it. The friends of immersion are bound to do this, or their position is not supported.
With respect to John, the language of the sacred historian is, that they “ were baptized of him in Jordan.” Matt. 3:6, and that “ Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water,” v. 16. It has been demonstrated by a number of writers, that into and out of, which
appear to contain the whole strength of the argument, are as correctly translated to and from, and frequently, will not bear any other meaning. But our limits, and a wish to be understood by the most unlearned, remind us of the expediency of passing this view, more especially as it has been conclusively done by others. To the English reader, however, we would say, that the most zealous advocate of immersion, if dipping his feet in a small vessel, or passing through a small pond, even less than a foot deep, would never think of using other language than that he had went into the water, or through the water, and had come out of the water. Let this be marked as a truism, and then let us inquire, why it is that going into or coming out of water, on all other occasions, are unhesitatingly applied to partial, and even to very little wetting; but when they are applied to baptism, they must intend nothing less than the submersion of the whole body.
But why was much water, or many waters or streams so necessary, if a partial application were sufficient?
Judea was a warm country; ablutions of various kinds were very frequent by habit, for health and comfort, and for religious forms, and water for these washings and for drinking, for such a multitude, in a country in many parts of which waters were scarce, required a place such as the neighborhood of Jordan, where water was plenty. This is a very plain case. But still more: running water was much prized by the Jews, often called living water, and in the observance of some of their rites, it was positively required. For the cleansing of the leper--for the water of purification-and for other uses. See Num. 19:17, Lev. 14:5, 51, 52. In Jeremiah, Jehovah is denominated the $ fountain of living waters.” Jer. 2:13 and 17:13. Our Savior, at the well of Samaria, and on the great day of the feast, uses the same figure to represent heavenly or spiritual blessings; and in the Apoca. lypse, the believer is promised an introduction to " living fountains of waters, and to “drink of the waters of life.” It is, therefore, no way surprising, that for the use of the multitude and for the purpose of a religious rite, a running stream or streams should be selected. If
, then, John went so far as to lift the water with a vessel or with his hand, he went into the water and came out of it; and if he had any regard to the Old Testament observances, it was applied by sprinkling or by affusion. Assuredly, however, there is nothing to prove that immersion was the form, or that no other is lawful in the administra. tion of this sacrament.
2. The day of pentecost affords us the next example. Christ said to his disciples, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:49. Again, “ John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost
, not many days hence.” Acts 1:5. Now, if baptism means immersion, they must have been immersed with the Holy Ghost.
We shall see, however, in what form this baptism was effected. “ And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:2-4. The rushing sound filled the house those present were filled with the Spirit, not immersed with it--and the symbol of its communication, gifts and operations, sat on their heads, as tongues of flame. This was in exact correspon. dence with the actions, types, and predictions of the Old Testament, and the sprinklings and outpourings there mentioned. Certainly, then, immersion has nothing to sustain it in the prophecy or in the fulfillment, in the type or in the antitype.
We next remark, that when Peter addressed the collected multitude, it was the third hour of the day, according to the Jewish reckoning, that is, nine of the clock-- after this the discourse took effect, but how much time he occupied we know not, only the historian says
that, “ with many other words he exhorted them.” Now there is no risk in the assertion, that under these circumstances, immersion was not only improbable, but impossible. We hear nothing of preparation for immersion in the place where they were-nothing of their retiring for the purpose; matters which would scarcely have been passed over by the history had they taken place; and the same remark will apply to the baptism of Paul, Cornelius, the jailer, and others. We conclude, therefore, that neither the time occupied—the circumstances attendantthe multitude assembled—nor the language in which the transactions are recorded, will at all sustain the opinion of immersion having been the mode of baptism on that occasion.
3. The last instance our limits will permit us to notice, is that from which our text is selected. Let us then notice, that the Ethiopian was reading the prophet Isaiah-that the Bible was not divided into chapters for twelve hundred years after the time when this occurred--the division was by prophecies or subjects, not by chapters that the prophecy which the Eunuch was perusing is in the 53d, and commenced at the 13th verse of the preceding, or 52d chapter—and that the last verse of the 52d chapter, in this prophecy of the Messiah, says, “So shall he sprinkle many nations.” It was from this very prophecy that Philip “began at the same Scripture and preached to him Jesus.” Now when the passage they took spake of sprinkling, would the preacher_say, not so, it must be immersion. Is it at all probable, that the Ethiopian or Philip would think of immersion, when consid. ering this part of Scripture! Again, when the Eunuch yielded his aşsent to the gospel offer, and they had come to a stream, the abrupt manner of the exclamation would evince that they had no water, and perhaps no vessel in company. Whether surprise, or joy, or both, were expressed, his exclamation, “See, here is water, or as the original, “See! water!" evinces much interest in the thing, but little about the form. But the history says, “ And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the Eunuch, and he baptized him." The argument here is short. If into necessarily means immersion, Philip was immersed as well as the Eunuch, for they went both into the water. As this is not supposable and not pretended, into does not necessarily mean immersion, and from all the circumstances we cannot see that it is supported here or any where else in Scripture.
1. From what has been said, we infer, that no language of Scripture, and no practice of the church, proves one single case of unquestionable immersion, in the administration of baptism.
2. That in some of the instances of baptism recorded, immersion was not only improbable, but seems to have been impracticable.
3. That the use of the word into, to mean immersion exclusively, is a straining of language beyond its proper or legitimate use, and entirely gratuitous.
4. That, therefore, immersion is not necessary; but the ordinance is rightly administered by sprinkling or affusion, which best represents the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus and the affusion of the Holy Spirit. May our desire and prayer be for more and more of his copious outpourings on his church and on the world!
In conclusion, let us remember the things represented in this ordi. nance; that is, regeneration by the Spirit of God-forgiveness of sins through his atoning blood-adoption into his family-and resurrection
to eternal life. These benefits are signified and sealed to believers; but the external form is altogether vain, to any who are not believers according to the scriptures, or their offspring.
As these are the things represented in the sacrament of baptism, so they are also the blessings pledged and sealed to the people of God, and to their children for ever. Those who are the spiritual children of God, are the true children of the promise, and heirs of its blessings.
In this ordinance, too, the parents, as Abraham and the Israelites in the time of Moses, as heretofore noticed, enter their children into the covenant of God, and engage on their part the performance of corres. pondent duties.
Thus they engage and profess to believe the truths of Christianity; and promise to teach them to their children, that it may be “ well with them and their children for ever.”
It implies also an engagement to observe the ordinances of Christ, or the institutions of the New Testament. Renouncing the world they become the professed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and engage to bring up their children “ in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Of the baptism of children and the advantages attending its administration, it may be said as of circumcision: “Much every way, chiefly, because unto them are committed the oracles of God.” Let them not only have the watch and care of parents and of the church, but the ministry of the word, the earnest prayers of the church of God and of his people; and let all remember that external forms, however scriptural, unless accompanied with the effectual operation of the Spirit of God, will be worse than in vain; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.
We would again take the opportunity to urge the remark, that the shameful negligence of many professing parents, with respect to the vows they have made when dedicating their children to God—the dereliction of duty on the part of the church in relation to their baptized youth, have done much to counteract the benefits of this ordinance, and to bring it into disrepute. It has put the most formidable weapon into the hands of its opponents, who can see no good effects from the use of the ordinance in this way. But if parents and the church were to use those means, and exercise that discipline, which their respective circumstances and obligations infer, by the good hand of God upon us, we would soon see a more important revival of true and genuine religion, than by almost all the other efforts of the present day, and thus by well-doing we would put to silence the accusations of others, while we could say of the ordinance, by its fruits it is to be known.