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sacrament, to be provided with it. It was at length concluded that they must receive it at the expiration of eight days, because that was the period at which, among the Jews, they were circumcised. In the Greek church, this is still the custom.
Such as died in the first week were damned, according to the most rigorous Fathers of the Church. But Peter Chrysologos, in the fifth century, imagined limbo, a sort of mitigated hell, or properly the border, the outskirt of hell, whither all infants dying without baptism go, and where the patriarchs remained until Jesus Christ's descent into hell. So that the opinion that Jesus Christ descended into limbo, and not into hell, has since then prevailed.
It was agitated, whether a Christian, in the desarts of Arabia, might be baptised with sand; this was answered in the negative. It was asked if rose-water might be used; it was decided that pure water would be necessary, but that muddy water might be made use of. It is evident that all this discipline depended on the discretion of the first pastors who established it.
The anabaptists, and some other communions out of the pale, have thought that no one should be baptised without a thorough knowledge of the merits of the
You require, say they, a promise to be of the Christian society; but a child can make no engagement. You give it a sponsor; but this is an abuse of an ancient custom. The precaution was requisite in the first establishment. When strangers, adult men and women, came and presented themselves to be received into the society and share in the alms, there was need of a guarantee to answer for their fidelity; it was necessary to make sure of them; they swore they would be Jews; but an infant is in a diametrically opposite case. It has often happened that a child baptised by Greeks at Constantinople, has afterwards been circumcised by Turks: a Christian at eight days old, and a Mussulman at thirty years, he has betrayed the oaths of his godfather. This is one reason which the anabaptists might allege; it would hold good in Turkey, but it has never been admitted in Christian countries, where baptism ensures a citizen's condition. We must conform to the rites and laws of our country.
The Greeks re-baptise such of the Latins as pass from one
of our Latin communions to the Greek communion. In the last century, it was the custom for these catechumens to pronounce the following words~"1 spit upon my father and iny mother, who had me ill baptised.” This custom still exists, and will, perhaps, long continue to exist in the provinces.
Notions of rigid Unitarians concerning Baptism.
“ It is evident, to whosoever is willing to reason without prejudice, that baptism is neither a mark of grace conferred, nor a seal of alliance, but simply a mark of profession.
“That baptism is not necessary, neither by necessity of precept, nor by necessity of means.
“ That it was not instituted by Christ; and that it may be omitted by the Christian, without his suffering any
That baptism should be administered neither to children, nor to adults, nor, in general, to any indivi dual whatsoever,
“ That baptism might be of service in the early infancy of Christianity, to those who quitted paganism, in order to make their profession of faith public, and give an authentic mark of it; but that now it is absolutely useless and altogether indifferent."
Baptism, immersion in water, abstersion, purification by water, is of the highest antiquity. To be cleanly, was to be pure before the Gods. No priest ever dared to approach the altar with a soil upon his body. The natural inclination to transfer to the soul that which appertains to the body, led to the belief that lus-trations and ablutions took away the stains of the soul, as they removed those of the garments, and that washing the body washed the soul also. Hence the ancient custom of bathing in the Ganges, the waters of which were thought to be sacred; hence the lustrations so frequent among every people. The Oriental nations, inhabiting hot countries, were the most religiously attached to these customs.
The Jews were obliged to bathe after any pollution -after touching an unclean animal, touching a corpse, and on many other occasions.
When the Jews received among them a stranger converted to their religion, they baptised after circumcising him ; and if it was a woman, she was simply baptised—that is, dipped in water in the presence of three witnesses. This immersion was reputed to give the persons baptised a new birth, a new life; they became, at once, Jewish and pure. Children born before this baptism had no share in the inheritance of their brethren, born after them of a regenerated father and mother. So that, with the Jews, to be baptised and to be born again were the same thing; and this idea has remained attached to baptism down to the present day. Thus, when John the forerunner began to baptise in the Jordan, he did but follow an immemorial usage. The priests of the law did not call him to account for this baptising as for any thing new; but they accused him of arrogating to himself a right which belonged exclusively to them, -as Roman catholic priests would have a right to complain, if a layman took upon himself to say mass. John was doing a lawful thing, - but was doing it unlawfully.
John wished to have disciples, and he had them. He was chief of a sect among the lower orders of the people, and it cost him his life. It even appears that Jesus was at first among his disciples, since he was -baptised by him in the Jordan, and John sent some of his own party to him a short time before his death,
The historian Josephus speaks of John, but not of Jesus,--an incontestable proof that in his time John the Baptist had a greater reputation than he whom he baptised. A great multitude followed him, says that celebrated historian; and the Jews seemed disposed to undertake whatever he should command them.
From this passage it appears that John was not only the chief of a sect, but the chief of a party. Josephus adds, that he caused Herod some uneasiness. He did indeed make himself formidable to Herod, who at length put him to death ; but Jesus meddled with none but the Pharisees. Josephus, therefore, mentions John as a man who had stirred up the Jews against King Herod; as one whose zeal had made him a state crimipal; but Jesus, not having approached the court, was unknown to the historian Josephus.
The sect of John the Baptist differed widely in discipline from that of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see that, twenty years after the execution of Jesus, Apollos of Alexandria, though become a Christian, knew no baptism but that of John, nor had any idea of the Holy Ghost. Several travellers, and among others Chardin the most accredited of all, say that in Persia there still are disciples of John, called Sabis, who baptise in his name, and acknowledge Jesus as a prophet, but not as a God.
As for Jesus Christ himself, he received baptism, but conferred it on no one : his apostles baptised the catechumens, or circumcised them, as occasion required: this is evident, from the operation of circumcision performed by Paul on his disciple Timothy.
It also appears that when the Apostles baptised, it was always in the name of Jesus Christ alone. The Acts of the Apostles do not mention any one baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; whence it may be concluded, that the author of the Acts of the Apostles knew nothing of Matthew's gospel, in which it is said—“Go, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The Christian religion had not yet received its form. Even the Symbol, which was called the Symbol of the Apostles, was not made until after their time: of this no one has any doubt. In Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, we find very singular custom which was then introduced—that of baptising the dead; but the rising Church soon reserved baptism for the living alone: at first, none were baptised but adults; and the ceremony was often deferred until the age of fifty, or the last sickness, that
the individual might carry with him into the other world the unimpaired virtue of a baptism recently performed.
Now, all children are baptised: none but the ana. baptists reserve this ceremony for mature age; they plunge their whole bodies into the water. The Quaa kers, who compose a very numerous society in England and in America, do not use baptism: the reason is, that Jesus Christ did not baptise any of his disciples; and their aim is, to be Christians only as his disciples were-which occasions a very wide difference between them and other communions. Addition to the Article BAPTISM by the Abbé Nicaise.
The Emperor Julian the philosopher, in his immortal Satire on the Cæsars, puts these words into the mouth of Constantius, son of Constantine" Whosoever feels himself guilty of rape, murder, plunder, sacrilege, and every most abominable crime, so soon as I have washed him with this water, he shall be clean and pure."
It was, indeed, this fatal doctrine that occasioned the Christian emperors, and the great men of the empire, to defer their baptism until death. They thought they had found the secret of living criminal and dying virtuous.
How strange an idea-that a pot of water should wash away every crime! Now all children are baptised, because an idea no less absurd
supposes them all criminal; they are all saved until they have the use of reason and the power to become guilty! Cut their throats, then, as quickly as possible, to ensure their entrance into paradise. This is so just a consequence, that there was once a devout sect that went about poisoning and killing all newly-baptised infants. These devout
persons reasoned with perfect correctness, saying - We do these little innocents the greatest possible good; we prevent them from being wicked and unhappy in this life, and we give them life eternal.”
END OF VOLUME THE FIRST.