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Is CHRISTIAN-BAPTISM TO BE ADMINISTERED
ONLY BY IMMERSION, OR DIPPING THE BODY UNDER WATER? OR, MAY IT NOT ALSO, BY SPRINKLING, OR POURING WATER ON IT?
THE following tract is intended to prove,
FIRST, That dipping the body under water, was not the only antient and scriptural way of baptizing. And
SECONDLY; That, if it was, yet a strict adherence to it, is not obligatory upon us; but that this circumstance may, very lawfully and properly be now exchanged for that of sprinkling or pouring.
IT is, first, to be shewn that dipping the body under water, was not the only ancient and scriptural way of baptizing. To which purpose, the three following things are premised ; in which all are agreed.
1. That baptism (i. e. water-baptism) is but an emblematical, or figurative thing.
II. That the general nature or design of this emblem or figure, is--by the application of water, to signify or betoken a person to be holy or clean; appropriated to, and fit for the divine service. And,
III. That baptism was really a divine institution; and, by the express command of Gon,
practised as a religious rite in his church; both long before, and at the time of John's and CHRIST'S appearing, and beginning to baptize.
This last proposition is not, perhaps, so carefully attended to, as it ought. We are wont to consider baptism, as a purely christian institution; and to trace it to no higher origin than JESUS Christ, or John the Baptist. But this is certainly wrong. Baptism was, unquestionably, a divine institution ; practised as a religious and sacred ceremony, in the church of God, ages before. There were διαφοροι Βαπισμοι divers kinds of baptisms, , the apostle expressly says,* in which the worship of God stood, under the Jewish dispensation. Neither John, nor our Saviour, did properly institute this rite;t but only took this ancient, standing, religious institution, and applied it to a particular purpose, in their mission : namely, by the application of water, to betoken to certain persons, that they should be accepted of God, as holy and pure; fit for his service, and for a place in that church, or kingdom of the Messiah, which was then going to be set up. I
They made no alteration in its general nature or design. Baptism, under the New Testament, has the very same general meaning, purpose or intent, with baptism under the old; and is but an application of water to signify or betoken a person to be boly, or consecrated to the service of God. It is a ceremonial, and but a ceremonial washing in both.
* Heb. ix. 10. † It is a great truth (says Grotius) what the most learned Broughton notes, that Christ instituted no ner rites. Vid. Tract concerning Communicating, &c.
1 Our Lord took (says Dr. Lightfoot) into his hands baptism, such as he found it; adding only this, that he exalted it to a nobler purpose, and to a larger use. Hor. Heb. Matt.
Now, forasınuch as neither Christ, nor John the Baptist, did properly institute, but only borrowed or continued this before-instituted ceremony; and forasmuch, as it has the very same general meaning and design under the christian scheme of worship, as it had under the Jewish ; it follows, that to look back to the manner of its administralion under the Old Testament, will be of great use to direct us, as to the manner of its administration under the New.
What, then, was the manner, in which baptism was wont to be administered; that is to say, in which water was wont to be applied, by God's express command, to persons or things, to betoken them holy, and consecrated to his service ; at that time, and in that church, in which both John and Jesus Christ were born, and brought up? Was it only by dipping wholly under water? Or, was it not also by sprinkling, or pouring it on? I reply-Undoubtedly by both.
That it was sometimes by dipping, there is no dispute. And that it was also, sometimes, by sprinkling, or pouring on, the case is equally clear. Amongst a multitude, I shall mention but the following texts.
Levit. xiv. When a leper, who had been put out from the camp of Israel (the then enclosure, or church of God) as being unclean or unholy, was again to be taken in, and received to the communion of saints, (i. e. of the Israelites, the holy people) and to a free access to God; by what cereinony was it done? SPRINKLING water on him, was one of the principal rites by which he was thus received. Verse 7. And he, the priest, shall SPRINKLE upon him, that is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean. By the same rite also, of sprinkliny, tlie infected house was to be purified, i. e. declared holy or clean. Verses 51, 52.
Note. It ought carefully to be remembered, that the law is expressly said to be a shadow or exemplar of the christian dispensation; and the then scheme of worship, was intended to be a sacred figure or type of the present.*
Numb. viii. When the levites were to be se. parated from the rest of the tribes, and consecrated a holy priesthood to God (a figure of christians, who, at their baptism, are separated from the rest of the world, and are consecrated a holy priesto hood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices.t) How was it done? Verses 6, 7. Take the Levites, from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them : and thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them, SPRINKLE water of purifying upon them.
NUMB. xix. 11. If a man had touched a dead body, and was thereby become unclean, unfit to approach God, and to stand before him in his sanctuary; by what rite was he to be declared clean, and re-admitted to the divine presence ? The water of separation was to be SPRINKLED upon him, and upon his tent, and upon his vessels.
FINALLY;– When the Israelites were called out from among the idolatrous Egyptians; and were sanctified and set apart as a holy people or church to God; they were all baptised, the apostle says, by the cloud, and by the sea, e th vecias છે. v in bazaçon; i. e. by the cloud pouring down water on them, and by the sea sprinkling them with its surges, as they passed through. And when they were, in the most solemn manner, entered into covenant with Jehovah at Sinai, and formed into a church; by whạt token or rite did
Ileb. viii. 5. ix. 9. x. 1. Vid. Peirce in Loc. + 1 Pet. ii. 5. 1 1 Cor. x. 2. See more concerning this text, p. 236.
Moses, the mediator, initiate or admit them? When Moses had spoken every precept to all the people, according to the law ; and they had publicly consented and promised to obey; he took the blood of sacrificed beasts, and water, and SPRINKLED both the book and all the people.
Hence, then, it is indisputable; that SPRINKLING, or POURING ON water, was one of the principal ways in which it was applied, by God's express command, to betoken persons to be holy : Or, that it was a religious ceremony, by which men were taken from a state of distance, into a state of nearness or access to Almighty God, in the very church, wherein John and Jesus CHRIST were brought up, and from which they borrowed this religious rite of baptizing; for it is carefully to be observed that this is but a borrowed rite.
But, perhaps, it will be replied—“That none “ of the instances, now mentioned, of applying “ water for purification, were really baptizing; “ for the true and the only import of that word is “plunging or dipping."--If this, indeed, can be
proved, all that has been alleged must be owned of little weight. But if the contrary be clearly shewn; if it can be evidently demonstrated that the word Barlow, to baptize, is frequently, (and even generally) used in scripture, where the act of pouring or sprinkling, not dipping, is intended ; and that the above-mentioned applications of water, under the Jewish law, are expressly called baptisms,—the point will be then fully cleared ; and there remains no further room for doubt, as to this matter. But both these, I apprehend, are very evidently to be shewn.--To begin with the latter.
1. The above-mentioned applications of water, under the Jewish law, are, in scripture, accounted
Heb. ix. 19.