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themselves the honor of having preserved the ancient sacred rite of the church free from change and from corruption, which would destroy its significancy.' Let the reader mark this. The Greeks themselves affirm that baptizo means to immerse, and can mean nothing else; and that to speak of baptism by sprinkling,' is as absurd as to talk of 'immersion by sprinkling.'
Their testimony is conclusive. It puts the question beyond reasonable dispute. I cannot see how the man who has the perverseness to rise up and contradict them, can be entitled in this matter either to respect or courtesy; for he outrages reason and common sense. If the Greeks them. selves are not competent judges of the meaning of a Greek word, where shall we find those who are ?* 'The testimony of the Greeks,' Mr. Robinson very justly remarks, 'is an authority for the meaning of baptizo, infinitely preferable to that of European lexicographers; so that a man who is obliged to trust human testimony, and who baptizes by immersion because the Greeks do, understands a Greek word exactly as the Greeks themselves understand it; and in this case the Greeks are unexceptionable guides, and their practice is in this instance, safe ground of action.'† But to return. Prof. Stuart has not succeeded in proving
*It is of no consequence at all to affirm that the language has undergone a change, and that the modern Greeks are therefore no better qualified than foreigners, to decide on the meaning of a word in the ancient classics. The Greek language has not undergone a greater change in regard to the meaning of words, nor even with respect to its internal structure, than has the English itself. And whatever change some words may have undergone with respect to their meaning, or rather with respect to their application, baptizo has undergone no change. It has retained the same meaning from the very earliest times to the present day; and it is as vernacular to the modern Greeks as any word in their language.
+ Hist. of Baptism, p. 5.
that the manner of the baptismal rite is left undetermined in the New Testament. The word baptizo, by which the rite is denominated, as clearly and definitely describes immersion, as is possible for language to describe it.* This point is established by such an overwhelming mass of evidence, that it is difficult to conceive how any man who has the least claim to learning or candor can dispute it—evidence, derived not merely from lexicographers and commentators, but from the use of the word by Greek writers, both heathen, Jewish, and Christian, of every age from the earliest period down to the present day. Nor does the thing appear less determinate and certain, if we look at the example of those who received the institution from Christ, and whose conduct in this particular must be regarded as a practical illustration of the Saviour's command. They are represented as resorting to rivers and places where there was much water; and as going down into the stream with their candidates, and baptizing them in the water. And besides, they expressly describe the subject as being buried in baptism, and rising again, as an emblematical representation of death and resurrection. In addition to all this, the exclusive prevalence of immersion throughout the Christian church immediately after the apostolic age, though not in itself decisive, is nevertheless a strong collateral proof, that the rite as transmitted by the apostles to their immediate successors, was immersion. Whether therefore we regard the meaning of the word, or the practice of the apostles and their immediate successors, we are unavoidably led to the conclusion that CHRISTIAN BAPTISM IS IM
* Dr. Carey, late missionary to India, conversing one day with a member of the Armenian church, (which forms a branch of the Greek church,) asked him how they administered baptism? He answered By baptizing.' This was as much as to say that he could not describe the rite more clearly and definitely than by the word itself. See Baptist Periodical Accounts, Vol. II. p. 189.
MERSION. And one would suppose that here ought to be an end to the controversy. If Christ commanded to baptize, and baptize means immerse; and if the apostles, whose practice in respect to the standing institutions of the gos pel must be regarded as a precedent for the churches in all succeeding time, practised immersion, then is not the question settled? What more can the obedient and conscientious disciple wish and what more can he have, than a plain and unequivocal command, illustrated and enforced by apostolic precedent? But this, it seems, is not sufficient for the advocates of sprinkling. Though you prove to demonstration that the command of Christ enjoins immersion, and that the apostles understood and obeyed it in this sense, they do not admit, even then, that it is incumbent on us to adhere to this practice. Prof. Stuart, though he does the utmost he can to throw a mist of doubt over the meaning of baptizo, and the practice of the primitive church, grants nevertheless, so far as the argument is concerned, that the law of Christ literally enjoins immersion, and that the apostles uniformly practised it; but supposes that the lawfulness and propriety of sprinkling may be established on other ground than the authority of the commission, or of apostolic practice. I am not at all concerned,' says he, 'in what way the result of this inquiry may come out in respect to the original mode of baptism. The external mode of an external rite, never can, with my present views of Christianity, become to me a matter of any peculiar interest, in any other point of view than merely that of a historical fact. My full belief is, that since God is a Spirit, he seeks worshipers in spirit and in truth;' and that where the heart is given to him, the manner of external rites can never be essential.**
The reduction of baptism was originally supported on substantially the same ground. The inventors of pouring and sprinkling never pretended to find a cover for their practice, either in the meaning of baptizo, or the example of the apostolic church. Neither did they pretend that it was perfect baptism, or a complete fulfillment of the command. They pleaded for it as a dispensation; supposing that, in cases of necessity, they might lawfully dispense with the instituted ceremony, and substitute some thing else in its place. It should be remarked, however, that anciently a dispensation was advocated only in cases of necessity; but now it is contended that we may in any case, and all cases, lawfully dispense with the original institution. This is the ground maintained by Prof. Stuart. With him, the question is not mainly, whether the command, literally interpreted, affords a cover for sprinkling; but whether we are bound to adhere strictly to the original institution. This is the ground which the advocates of sprinkling must all ultimately take. That baptizo means exclusively to immerse, is too clear to admit of dispute. It is consequently a settled point, that CHRIST COMMANDS US TO BELIEVE AND BE IMMERSED. The only question to be decided, is, whether t is important TO OBEY THE COMMAND.
IMPORTANCE OF THE RITE.
WE come now to a point in this discussion, which deserves the serious and prayerful attention of every professed follower of Christ. If obedience to the Saviour's commands is the acknowledged test of discipleship, and the evidence of love to him, it certainly becomes us to pause and consider, before we adopt a position that leads us to think or speak lightly of any of his institutions. Prof. Stuart frankly admits that baptizo in the New Testament, when applied to the rite of baptism, does in all probability involve the idea that the rite was usually performed by immersion, and he finds nothing in the circumstances that absolutely forbids the conclusion that immersion was uniformly adhered to; he fully concedes that the churches immediately after the apostolic age, for several centuries, plainly construed the word as meaning immersion, and that the Greek fathers, and the Latin ones who were familiar with the Greek, must undeniably have understood its meaning; and yet he supposes, that although it were even demonstrably certain that baptizo means only to immerse, and that the apostles uniformly practised immersion, it nevertheless would not follow that we must adhere to the original ceremony. He is not at all concerned in what way the result of the inquiry may come out in respect to the original mode of baptism; for the external mode of an external rite, never can, with his present views of Christianity, become to him a matter of any peculiar interest, in any other point of view than merely that of a historical fact.' Adopting the words of Calvin in his Institutes, iv. c. 15. § 19, he says: 'It is of no consequence at all whether the person baptized is totally immersed, or whether he is merely sprinkled by an affusion of water. This should be a