Posts Tagged ‘Baptism’

A Treatise on Church Order: Baptism- Chapter I- Section III-V- Subjects of Baptism




Repentance and faith are associated graces in the hearts of the regenerate, each of them implying the existence of the other. Sometimes one of them is particularly mentioned as a qualification for baptism, and sometimes the other. They manifest themselves by confession of sin; by profession of dependence on Christ, and subjection to his authority; and by holy obedience.

John the Baptist required repentance, with its appropriate fruits, in those whom he admitted to baptism. It has been denied that the rite which he administered was identical with Christian baptism; but, for our present purpose, nothing more is necessary than to satisfy ourselves, that John did not require more spiritual qualifications for his baptism, than were required by Christ and his apostles. . If he proclaimed repentance to be necessary because the kingdom of heaven was at hand, it could not be less necessary after the kingdom was established. That John did require repentance, as a qualification for baptism, the following Scriptures testify: “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . . and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.”[207] “Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father.”[208]

During the personal ministry of Christ, he made and baptized disciples. “There he tarried and baptized.”[209] “The Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.”[210] Those only were baptized by Christ, who were made disciples; and discipleship implies repentance and faith.

The commission which Christ gave to his apostles, connects faith and discipleship with baptism as qualifications for it: “Go, preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.”[211] “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them.”[212]

In executing the commission of Christ, the apostles and their fellow-laborers required repentance and faith as qualifications for baptism. Several passages in the Acts of the Apostles clearly indicate this: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ. . . . Then they that gladly received the word were baptized.”[213] “When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”[214] “And the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.”[215] “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we.”[216] “Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized.”[217] “He was baptized, he and all his straightway . . . and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”[218] . . . “ Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.”[219]

In the Epistles of the New Testament, baptism is mentioned in such connections as prove that all the baptized were believers in Christ: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death.”[220] Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through faith.”[221] “Ye are all the children of God by faith; for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”[222] “Baptism doth now save us, . . . the answer of a good conscience toward God.”[223]

All these quotations from Scripture harmonize perfectly with each other, and incontrovertibly establish the truth, that repentance and faith are necessary qualifications for baptism. This is universally admitted with respect to adult persons; but a special claim is urged in behalf of infants, and the practice of administering the rite to them has prevailed very extensively. The arguments in its defence will be examined in the Chapter on Infant Membership.




The religion of Christ was intended for the whole world, and it is made the duty of his followers to propagate it. Men are required not only to receive, but also to hold forth the word of life. The lepers who found abundance of food in the Syrian camp, could not feast on it by themselves while their brethren in the city were famishing; and, if any one thinks that he can enjoy the blessings of religion, and shut up the secret in his own breast, he mistakes the nature of true Christianity. The light kindled within must shine, and the Spirit of love in the heart must put forth efforts to do good.

Profession is, in general, necessary to salvation. With the heart, man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.[224] Divine goodness may pardon the weakness of some, who, like Joseph of Arimathea, are disciples secretly through fear; but it nevertheless remains a general truth, that profession is necessary. Christ has made the solemn declaration, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”[225]

Profession is the appointed public outset in the way of salvation The apostles exhorted, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”[226] The world lies in wickedness, and under the curse of God. They who would be saved, should escape from it, as Lot escaped from Sodom. God calls: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.”[227] This call is obeyed, when converted persons separate themselves from the ungodly, and publicly devote themselves to the service of Christ. They then set out in earnest to flee from the wrath to come. The resolution to flee must first be formed in the heart; but the public profession may be regarded, in an important sense, as the first manifest step in the way of escape.

The profession of renouncing the world, and devoting ourselves to Christ, might have been required to be made in mere words addressed to the ears of those who hear; but infinite wisdom has judged it better that it should be made in a formal and significant act, appointed for the specific purpose. That act is baptism. The immersion of the body, as Paul has explained, signifies our burial with Christ; and in emerging from the water, we enter, according to the import of the figure, on a new life. We put off the old man, and put on the new man: “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”[228]

The place which baptism holds in the commission, indicates its use. The apostles were sent to make disciples, and to teach them to observe all the Saviour’s commands; but an intermediate act is enjoined, the act of baptizing them. In order to make disciples, they were commanded, “Go, preach the gospel to every creature.” When the proclamation of the good news attracted the attention of men, and by the divine blessing so affected their hearts, that they became desirous to follow Christ, they were taught to observe his commandments, and first to be baptized. This ceremony was manifestly designed to be the initiation into the prescribed service; and every disciple of Christ who wishes to walk in the ways of the Lord, meets this duty at the entrance of his course.

The design of baptism is further indicated by the clause “baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The rendering of our version, “in the name of,” makes the clause signify that the administrator acts by the authority of the Trinity; but the more literal rendering “into the name of,” makes it signify the new relation into which the act brings the subject of the rite. He is baptized into a state of professed subjection to the Trinity. It is the public act of initiation into the new service.

The design of baptism proves its importance. The whole tenor of the gospel forbids the supposition that there is any saving efficacy in the mere rite: but it is the appointed ceremony of profession; and profession, we have seen, is, in general, necessary to salvation. As the divine goodness may pardon disciples who fear to make public profession, so it may, and we rejoice to believe that it does pardon those, who do not understand the obligation to make ceremonial profession, or mistake the manner of doing it. But God ought to be obeyed; and his way is the right way, and the best way. Paul argues from the baptism of believers, their obligation to walk in newness of life. The ceremony implies a vow of obedience, a public and solemn consecration to the service of God. The believing subject can feel the force of the obligation acknowledged in the act, and Paul appeals to this sense of obligation: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”[229] Though it is an outward ceremony, it is important, not only as an act of obedience, but as expressing a believer’s separation from the world, and consecration to God, in a manner intelligible and significant, and well adapted to impress his own mind and the minds of beholders.

The faith which is professed in baptism, is faith in Christ. We confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead.[230] If the doctrine of the resurrection be taken from the Gospel, preaching is vain, and faith is vain. So, if the symbol of the resurrection be taken from baptism, its chief significancy is gone, and its adaptedness for the profession of faith in Christ, is lost. Hence appears the importance of adhering closely to the Saviour’s command, “immersing them.”

The obligation to make a baptismal profession of faith, binds every disciple of Christ. Some have converted the Eucharist into a ceremony of profession; but this is not the law of Christ. Baptism was designed, and ought to be used, for this purpose. If infant baptism be obligatory, the duty is parental; and if it be a ceremony in which children are dedicated by their parents to the Lord, it is a different institution from that in which faith is professed. He who has been baptized in infancy, is not thereby released from the obligation to make a baptismal profession of faith in Christ. If it be granted, that his parents did their duty in dedicating him to God, he has, nevertheless, a personal duty to perform. The parental act of which he has no consciousness, cannot be to him the answer of a good conscience toward God. Had it left an abiding mark in the flesh, an argument of some plausibility might be urged against the repetition of the ceremony. But the supposed seal of God’s covenant is neither in his flesh, nor in his memory, and his conscience has no Scriptural release from the personal obligation of a baptismal profession.



It will be shown hereafter, that in a Church, organized like the primitive churches, none but baptized persons can be admitted to membership. On this account, the present chapter on baptism has been introduced, as a necessary preliminary to the subsequent discussions on church order.

[207] Matt. iii. 2, 6.

[208] Matt. iii. 8, 9.

[209] John iii. 22.

[210] John iv. 1.

[211] Mark xvi. 15, 16.

[212] Matt. xxviii. 19.

[213] Acts ii. 38, 41.

[214] Acts viii. 12.

[215] Acts viii. 36, 37.

[216] Acts x. 47.

[217] Acts xvi. 14, 15.

[218] Acts xvi. 33, 34.

[219] Acts xviii. 8.

[220] Rom. vi. 3.

[221] Col. ii. 12.

[222] Gal. iii. 26, 27.

[223] 1 Peter iii. 21.

[224] Rom. x. 10.

[225] Mark viii. 38.

[226] Acts ii. 40.

[227] 2 Cor. vi. 17.

[228] Gal. iii. 27.

[229] Rom. vi. 3.

[230] Rom. x. 9.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology- Volume 2


A Treatise on Church Order: Baptism- Chapter 1- Section II- To Baptize is to Immerse




Argument 1.–There are many reasons for supposing that baptizo, being a derivative from bapto, has a less definite and less forcible sense than the original. And yet even bapto does not always signify a total immersion. This is perfectly evident from Mat. xxvi. 23: “He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish.” Mark has it o embaptomenos, he that dippeth himself. Now, whatever liquid the dish contained, it cannot be supposed, that Judas plunged his hand all over in that liquid; much less that he dipped his entire person.

What the “many reasons” are, for supposing that baptizo has a less definite and less forcible signification than bapto, the argument does not inform us. The mere fact that it is a derivative, furnishes not the slightest proof; for derivatives may be amplificative or intensive. To assume that they must be diminutive, would be utterly fallacious. The termination izo, whether it be frequentative, or causative, is not diminutive. Our examination of the preceding tables has shown, that the primitive generally denotes a slight and temporary immersion; but that the derivative, in nearly one-half of the examples in which it is used, literally signifies total and permanent immersion. This fact is decisive against the supposition, that baptizo is less definite and forcible.

But if the less forcible primitive bapto had been used in the commission, no sufficient reason would exist, for supposing anything less than dipping to be intended. The meaning even of this word, is clearly to dip. The numerous examples of its use which have been adduced, establish this point; and even the very example brought forward in the argument, proves it. Judas dipped his hand in the dish. He did not wash, purify, wet, sprinkle, or pour his hand; but he dipped it. To dip, therefore according to this very example, is the meaning of bapto; and if this word had been employed in the commission, the command would have been, “Go teach all nations, dipping them.” Dipping was commanded in many of the ceremonies prescribed in the Old Testament, and the word bapto expresses the duty enjoined. No one imagines that it signifies, in these cases, to sprinkle or pour. Had this word been used in the commission, Christian worshippers would be less obedient than the Israelites, if they satisfied themselves with anything less than dipping.

But it is alleged, that the word does not always denote total immersion. On re-examining the Table of Examples, we find that frequently, in the use of bapto, less frequently in the use of baptizo, the immersion is not total; but, in no case, does this arise from any defect in the meaning of either verb. When a teacher directs his pupil to dip his pen in the ink for the purpose of writing, no one understands that an immersion of the whole pen is intended. When we read, “Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue;”[177] every one understands that the whole of the part designated, the tip of the finger, is to be immersed. The difference in the two cases does not arise from any difference in the meaning of the verb dip. It is the same word in both cases, and has the same meaning; but the purpose for which the act is to be performed determines the extent to which the immersion is to proceed. If the pupil should stupidly mistake the teacher’s design, the command would be explained, “Dip the nib of the pen in the ink;” and this is all that the first command meant. The greater definiteness of the last command, does not arise from any greater definiteness given to the verb dip. It is definite in the last case, and was equally definite in the first; but in the first, by a very common figure of speech, the whole pen was put for a part. The teacher relied on the nature of the case to limit the meaning of his command, and language is always sufficiently definite, so long as there is no danger of being misunderstood. We say that a pen is dipped, when in strict language the nib only is dipped; but the nib is totally immersed, and hence, in its proper meaning, to dip signifies total immersion. In all cases where the command is to dip, so far as depends on the meaning of the word, total immersion must be understood; and if we had received the commission in English, Go teach all nations, dipping them, it might safely be left to the common sense of mankind to determine whether partial or total immersion was intended.

The middle voice of Greek verbs is used, when an agent acts for his own benefit. This sufficiently explains Mark’s use of embaptomenos in the example cited in the argument. What Judas dipped in the dish, is said by Matthew to have been his hand. A hand may be totally immersed in the cavity of an empty dish, or of a dish containing solids; but the probable meaning in the present case is, that something which the hand held, was dipped in a liquid which the dish contained. The hand, by a figure of speech, is put for what it held; and the dish, by a like figure, is put for what it contained: but amidst these figures, the word dip retains its literal and proper meaning; and nothing was literally and properly dipped, except what was totally immersed.

If the reader will again look through the examples in which baptizo occurs, he may observe that, with very few exceptions, they are all cases of total immersion. Among the few exceptions, there are three (Ex.’s 31, 35, 49) in which the immersion is partial by expressed limitations: “up to the head;” “up to the waist;” “up to the hilt.” The fact that these limitations are expressed, demonstrates that without them, the word would signify total immersion. This is the word which is used in the commission, without any limiting clause, and without anything either in the context, or the nature of the subject, to suggest that partial immersion was intended. Because an example may be found, in which, from the nature of the case, the immersion denoted is partial, we are not justified in inferring that partial immersion is here intended. The humble and teachable disciple desires to know and do what his divine Master meant that he should do; and the language of the command is as definite, as if it had been expressed in English, “Go, teach all nations, immersing them.” It does not read totally immersing; but if any one will refuse total immersion until he finds this expressly written, we must leave him to his own conscience, and to the judgment of Him who gave the command.

Argument 2.–Baptizo does indeed signify to immerse but it also signifies to wash, and under this last meaning, ceremonial purification is included. The Syrian leper was commanded to wash in Jordan; and the act of obedience to this command, is expressed by baptizo. A dispute between the Jews and John’s disciples about his baptism, is called “a question about purifying.”[178] The Hebrew purifications were performed in various ways; chiefly by sprinkling consecrated water. Among their rites, “divers baptisms” are mentioned.[179] The word divers is the same that is applied to spiritual gifts in Rom. xii. 6, and signifies, of different kinds. Now, the baptisms could not be of different kinds, if they were all performed by immersion. Moreover, one of these kinds is expressly stated in the context to be “sprinkling.” Further, the Pharisees are said to have baptized themselves, after returning from market, when nothing more than the washing of hands is intended. They are also said to have held the baptism of pots, cups, brazen vessels, and tables; or, as the last word should have been translated, of beds, or the couches on which they reclined at meals. That all these purifications, and especially of the beds, were performed by immersion, is wholly incredible.

If to immerse, and to wash or purify are two different senses of baptizo, the question arises, in which of these senses did Christ use the term in the commission? We are not at liberty to take either of them at our pleasure. When a teacher commands his pupil to “dip the pen in the ink,” the pupil may, by turning to Johnson’s Dictionary, find that the word dip has four senses; and that one of these is to wet, to moisten. This sense is exemplified by a quotation from Milton:

“A cold shuddering dew dips me all o’er.”

With so high authority for this interpretation of dip, the pupil may conclude to wet or moisten the pen, by putting the ink into it in some other way: and he may adopt this conclusion with the less hesitation, because all the purpose for which he understands the command to have been given, will be as well accomplished. But when he has filled his pen in some other mode, has he obeyed his teacher’s command? Every one knows that he has not. But why? Does not the word dip signify to wet or moisten? We answer, it does not usually signify this; and the usual sense, is that in which the teacher employed the term. So Christ used the word baptizo in its usual sense; and we as truly disobey his command, if we do not obey it in the sense which he intended, as if we substituted some other command in its place. What the usual sense of the word was, the examples which have been adduced fully establish.

But does baptizo signify to wash? Lexicographers say that it does, just as Johnson says that to dip signifies to wet or moisten. Words acquire secondary or accidental significations, from peculiar connections, or tropical usage; and these are enumerated by lexicographers as distinct meanings. Nor are they to be censured for this. Their design is, to give a view of the language, and not a mere collection of primary meanings. Our care, however, should be, when strict accuracy is required, to distinguish what is merely accidental in the signification of a word, from what is its true and proper meaning. To immerse and to wash, cannot both be the primary meaning of baptizo. The last meaning cannot account for the use of the word, in the various examples in which it occurs; and the other meaning, to immerse could not well be derived from it. On the other hand, to immerse, accounts fully and satisfactorily for every use of the word. It must therefore be the primary sense; and so lexicographers have decided. The secondary sense, which is unknown to a large part of the examples, is, in strict criticism, merely the purpose for which the immersion happens to be performed. When the immersion is designed for the purpose of washing, or of ceremonial purification, the accidental signification to wash or purify is ascribed to the word: but its proper meaning remains unchanged, just as the proper meaning of bapto, in Job ix. 30, remains unchanged, by the accidental signification, to defile, which it acquires. In sound criticism, such accidental significations of words are not, strictly speaking, any part of their meaning, as was stated on p. 34. They are ideas, not expressed by the words, but suggested by the connection in which they are used.

A further proof that baptizo does not signify to wash, to purify, to wet, to sprinkle, or to pour, may be drawn from the fact, that the copiousness of the Greek language supplies distinct words to express all these several ideas. If Jesus designed to command any one of these acts, why did he not use the proper word for denoting it? Why did he employ a word which properly denotes a different act, and which, therefore, could not convey his meaning, or must convey it very doubtfully?

The Syrian leper was commanded to wash in Jordan, and, for this purpose, he immersed himself in the river. The word baptizo, denotes the immersion; and informs us, not only that he obeyed the command, but also how he obeyed it. He did not wash, by sprinkling a few drops on his face.

We are informed that “there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.”[180] What the precise question was, we are not told; and it is impossible to determine, what its relation was to John’s baptism. But the passage contains no proof, that to baptize and to purify are identical.

Paul says of the Hebrew worship: “Which stood in meats, and drinks, and divers baptisms, and carnal ordinances.” It is true, as stated in the argument, that the same word “divers” is applied to the gifts mentioned in Rom. xii. 6; but these “gifts” were all gifts. They were gifts of various kinds; but the variety did not cause any of them to cease to be gifts. In like manner, the divers baptisms, or immersions, mentioned in this passage, are all immersions. Their variety does not change them into something different from immersions. The immersion of divers persons and things, at divers times, under divers circumstances, and for divers kinds of uncleanness, constitutes divers immersions, without the supposition that some of them were performed by sprinkling. Had the phrase been, divers sprinklings, instead of divers immersions, no one would have inferred that some of these sprinklings were performed by immersion.

But it is alleged, that Paul has informed us in the context, that some of these divers baptisms were performed by sprinkling. This is a mistake. Paul mentions in the context, “the sprinkling of the ashes of an heifer, sanctifying to the purifying of the flesh. “He classifies the various rites under four heads: 1. Meats. 2. Drinks. 3. Divers immersions. 4. Carnal ordinances, or ordinances concerning the flesh. Under the last of these heads, the sprinkling which sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, was manifestly included. The assumption that it was one of the divers baptisms, is unauthorized and erroneous.

In maintaining that sprinkling and immersion are divers baptisms, the argument opposes the position usually taken by the advocates of sprinkling. Jewish baptisms were divers; but Christian baptism Paul declares to be one: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” In explaining this passage, the advocates of sprinkling allege that sprinkling and immersion are merely different modes of the same rite; but different modes of one baptism do not constitute divers baptisms. If sprinkling is really a different baptism how can the use of it be reconciled with the unity of the Christian rite?

The word baptizo, in Mark vii. 4, does not signify the mere washing of the hands. This act is expressed in the preceding verse, by nipto, the proper word for denoting it. Instead of confounding the meaning of the two words, the sense of the passage requires that they should be carefully distinguished. The act which one of them denotes, was performed on ordinary occasions; but the act denoted by the other, was performed on extraordinary occasions: “when they came from the market.” Some understand an immersion of the things brought from the market; some, an immersion of the arm up to the elbow; and some, an immersion of the whole body. I suppose the last to be the true meaning; but, for our present purpose, there is no necessity of deciding between these interpretations. According to either of them, the word retains its usual signification to immerse.

What has been said on this passage, will assist in explaining a similar one in Luke: “When the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed [baptized] before dinner.”[181] Jesus had been mingling with a crowd of people, who had “gathered thick”[182] around him; and the danger of ceremonial defilement was as if he had come from the market. Hence, the Pharisee expected him to use immersion before dinner, as necessary to the proper sanctity of a religious teacher.

The immersion of beds, the argument rashly pronounces incredible. Dr. Gill, in his comments on the passage, has proved that such immersions were practiced, by quoting at length the regulations of the Rabbins respecting them. To pronounce the statements of the Bible incredible, unless the words be taken in an unusual sense, is not honorable to divine inspiration.

Argument 3.–The Jewish rites were of two kinds; some atoning; others, purifying. The Christian sacraments are a summary of the Jewish rites: the eucharist corresponding to those which were atoning, and baptism to those which were purifying. If both of them took the place of the atoning rites, by referring to the work of Christ, the Christian system would be defective, in having no ceremony to represent the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. But if baptism represents this, it is sufficient to perform it in any mode that will represent purifying; and especially by sprinkling, which is the mode that was commonly employed for this purpose.

It is better to learn the design of the Christian rites, from the Holy Scriptures, than from our own reasonings, as to what is necessary to render the Christian system complete. The supper represents the atoning work of Christ, and it, at the same time, represents our feeding on Christ by faith, which is produced by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Because the supper represents the atoning work of Christ, we have no right to confine it to this single purpose, and refuse to eat and to drink, because these acts do not represent a part of Christ’s work. Baptism represents our purification from sin; but it, at the same time, represents our fellowship with Christ in his burial and resurrection; and if we so perform it as to make it serve one of these purposes only, we do what no one claims the right to do with respect to the other Christian ceremony. We mutilate an ordinance of Christ, and render it unfit to fulfil all the purposes which his wisdom had in view.

Argument 4.–The language of the New Testament, although written in Greek letters, is not the Greek of classic authors; but modified by peculiarities of Hebrew origin. On this account, it avails but little, in ascertaining the sense of baptizo in the New Testament, to collect examples of its use by profane authors. The examples in which the word has reference to purification, Cl. I. 3, are numerous in the Greek Scriptures. As the primitive bapto loses the original sense to dip, when it takes the secondary sense to color; so baptizo was used by the Hebrews in the sense to purify, without regard to the primary sense to immerse. By profane writers, the word was usually construed with the preposition eis; but, in the Scriptures, it is usually construed with the preposition en, and sometimes with the dative without a preposition. This peculiarity of construction may be regarded as proof, that the sense of the word is not identical with that in which it is employed by Greek classic authors.

We cheerfully admit that the Greek of the New Testament contains many Hebrew idioms. It is also true, that some of the words are used to denote things which were unknown to writers unacquainted with the religion of the Hebrews; and these words must therefore be used in a peculiar sense. But notwithstanding all this, the language of the New Testament is Greek. This language, because of its general prevalence, was wisely selected to be the vehicle of the New Testament revelation. The Holy Spirit made the revelation for the benefit of mankind, and not for the Jews exclusively. The selection of a language which was generally understood among the nations, was in accordance with this design; provided the words were generally employed in their known signification. But if the words were used in senses to which men were unaccustomed, the prevalence of the language was a strong objection to its use. Men would unavoidably be misled, by taking words which were familiar in the customary sense.

Baptizo did not denote something peculiar to the Hebrew religion or customs, but an act which had no necessary connection with religion, and which was as well known in every heathen land as it was in the land of Judea. If a peculiar use of it could be proved to have prevailed in Judea, it might still be questioned, whether, in a revelation designed for all nations, the Holy Spirit would have conformed to this peculiar usage. But no such proof exists. Not a single passage can be found, either in the Septuagint, or the New Testament, in which the word departs from its ordinary signification. When it denoted immersion, performed for the purpose of ceremonial purification, the meaning of the word was precisely the same, as if the immersion had been performed for any other purpose. Bapto frequently occurs in the Old Testament in commands which enjoin religious observances. Yet no one concludes that this word had a Hebrew sense different from that which it obtained among the Gentiles; and the supposition that baptizo had a peculiar Hebrew sense, is destitute of foundation.

The language of Christ, “I have a baptism to be baptized with,” cannot be explained, on the supposition that the Hebrew mind attached the sense purify to the word baptize. To render the phrase intelligible and expressive, we must admit the classical sense immerse.

Josephus was a Jew, and wrote soon after the time of Christ. From his use of the word, we may learn what it signified to the mind of a Jew. Table II. contains several examples from this author, in not one of which does the supposed Hebrew meaning to purify appear; but the meaning in all is precisely the same as in the Greek of gentile authors.

That the Hebrews attached the ordinary meaning to the word, may be learned from Jewish proselyte baptism. All admit that this was immersion. Many have maintained that this baptism was practiced as early as the time of Christ. If it was, the fact decides what the word meant in that age and country. But if, as is more probable, the practice did not originate till the second century, the proof is still decisive, that the Jews had not been accustomed to a different sense of the word.

The use of immersion for the purpose of purifying, was not confined to the Hebrew nation. One design of bathing, a process which classic Greek sometimes expresses by baptizo, is the cleansing of the body. The dipping denoted by bapto, in Ex. 36 and 38, is clearly for the purpose of cleansing. The peculiarity in the Hebrew use of these words is, that the immersion which they signify, was performed for the purpose of religious purification. This resulted from the religious character of the nation, and not from a peculiar sense of the terms. Immersion, when performed for religious purification, does not cease to be immersion.

We admit that bapto has a secondary sense to color, as well as the primary sense to dip; but both these senses are found in classic, as well as sacred literature. The case, therefore, furnishes no analogy which can give countenance to the supposition, that to purify is a secondary sense, in which the primary sense of baptizo is lost. No one pretends that this secondary sense is found in classic Greek.

The alleged peculiarity of construction in the New Testament, does not prove that the word has a different meaning in Scripture, from that which prevailed in uninspired writings. As, in English, we say to dip into, or to dip in; so, in Greek, baptizo is construed with either eis or en. Both these prepositions agree perfectly with the sense to immerse. Were one of them invariably used in the Scriptures in construction with the verb, the circumstance would furnish no valid argument for a peculiar meaning in the sacred writing. Though en is commonly used, eis is also found;[183] and the example in which it occurs, Mark i. 9, so connects the sacred use of the word with the classical, as to deprive the argument for a peculiar meaning, of the plausibility which an invariable use of one construction might be supposed to give it. The fact that both constructions appear in the inspired writings, supplies additional assurance that the meaning of the verb is not peculiar. We feel that the Greek language is the same, whether we read it on the sacred or the classic page. Dr. Campbell, in his notes on Matt. iii. 11, says:–“In water–in the Holy Spirit . . .Vulgate in aqua in Spiritu Sancto. Thus also the Syr., and other ancient versions. . . . I am sorry to observe that the Popish translations from the Vul. have shown greater veneration for the style of that version than the generality of Protestant translations have shown for that of the original. For in this the Latin is not more explicit than the Greek. Yet so inconsistent are the interpreters last mentioned, that none of them have scrupled to render en to Iordane in the sixth verse, in Jordan, though nothing can be plainer, than that if there be any incongruity in the expression in water, this in Jordan must be equally incongruous. But they have seen that the preposition in could not be avoided there without adopting a circumlocution, and saying, with the water of Jordan, which would have made their deviation from the text too glaring. The word baptizein, both in sacred authors, and in classical, signifies, to dip, to plunge, to immerse, and was rendered by Tertullian, the oldest of the Latin fathers, tingere the term used for dyeing moth which was by immersion. It is always construed suitably to this meaning.”

Argument 5.–If it were the case that baptizo clearly signifies to dip, or immerse all over in water, when applied to other subjects, it would by no means certainly follow, that it has this signification, when applied to the Christian rite of baptism. The word supper in English, and deipnon in Greek, have a very different sense, when applied to the eucharist, from what they have in ordinary cases. Eating a morsel of bread does not constitute a supper, in the ordinary sense; but it is called a supper, in this religious rite. Now, if the word which denotes one Christian rite, has a sense so very different from its usual sense; why may it not be so, with the word which denotes the other Christian rite? Why may it not signify, instead of a complete dipping or washing, the application of water in a small degree?

This argument claims. that words may have a peculiar sense in religious rites. It does not claim this for Greek words only; for it does not object to supper as a proper rendering of deipnon. It claims that these words, both the Greek and the English, have a sense unknown elsewhere, when they are applied to the eucharist. There is. therefore. no necessity in controverting the argument, to transport ourselves to the foreign territory of the Greek language; but we are at liberty to meet it, and try its validity, on English ground. It does not object that immerse is an improper rendering of baptizo; but it claims that these words, when applied to a religious rite, may have a meaning which they possess in no other case. We are consequently at liberty, in trying the validity of the argument. to use the word immerse as a correct translation of the

The whole argument rests on what is supposed to be a peculiar use of a single word, deipnon; and it deserves special consideration, that there is but a single instance of this peculiar signification, even with respect to this word. The instances are exceedingly numerous, in which other words are used with reference to religious rites; and even deipnon is frequently used with reference to the paschal supper. In all these instances it is invariably true, that words when applied to religious rites, have the same signification as in other cases, and are subject to the same rules of interpretation. If deipnon in 1 Cor. xi. 20, is an exception, it is a solitary exception. It is certainly the part of true criticism, in determining the meaning of baptizo to follow the general rule rather than the single exception. Besides, we have frequent use of bapto with reference to religious rites. The Jewish priests seem never to have thought, that, when Moses enjoined dipping in religious rites, he meant a diminutive dipping, or one that might be performed by sprinkling; and no one has suggested, that these priests mistook the meaning of their lawgiver. Is it not infinitely more probable, that baptizo follows its kindred word bapto, in obeying the general rule, than that it follows a very different word in a solitary deviation from all rule and analogy?

If on a single instance we may establish a rule, that words, when applied to a religious rite, may have a meaning which they obtain nowhere else; who will limit the application of this rule, and tell us, how many of the words which apply to religious rites, obtain an extraordinary meaning, or how far their meaning differs from that which they obtain elsewhere? Perhaps the words, which, in the institution of the supper, are rendered eat and drink, although they have this meaning everywhere else, signify, when applied to a religious rite, nothing more than to handle and to look upon. Who will determine for us? Has the legislator of the Church committed to any one a lexicon of ritual terms, by which his simple-hearted disciples may find out what he meant? Or has he given to any persons on earth authority to decree what ceremonies they may think proper, by assigning to all the ritual terms of Scripture what sense they please?

That the terms used in reference to religious rites, may sometimes have a figurative rather than the literal meaning, a secondary sense rather than the primary, may be admitted. But this is what happens in all other speaking or writing, and the same rules of criticism are to be applied in this as in other cases. We must prefer the literal and primary signification, if nothing forbids it. We understand the word is, in the phrase “This is my body,” to signify represents; because the literal primary signification would make the sense absurd and false. But this word has the same signification, when not applied to a religious rite, in the phrase, “The field is the world.” For the same reason, the phrase “As often as ye drink this cup,” is to be interpreted according to a common figure of speech, as often as ye drink the liquor contained in this cup. The same literal sense of the terms, and the same rules of figurative interpretation, are found here, as in all other cases.

The premises stated in the argument, cannot, in any view of them, justify the conclusion that baptism may be administered by using a small quantity of water. The proper conclusion would rather be, that we ought to change our mode of administering the eucharist. If we do not literally and fully obey the divine command when we restrict ourselves in this ordinance to a morsel of bread and a few drops of wine, we do wrong so to restrict ourselves; and we ought rather to correct the error than establish it as a precedent.

It deserves to be noticed, further, that baptizo and deipnon are not applied to the two religious rites in the same manner. One of them is found in the words of Christ’s command; the other is not, but is, at most, merely a name which the rite has received. Our conduct, in obeying the commands of Christ, must be regulated, not by the names which His institutions may receive, but by the words of his commands. Believers are said, in Scripture, to be buried with Christ in baptism, at least twice as often as the Eucharist is called a supper. Baptism may, therefore, be called a burial; but no one would infer hence that the body should be left for a long time under the water, as in a real interment. Baptism represents a real burial, in which the body of Christ continued three days in the grave. The eucharist represents the free and abundant communion in which the Lord sups with His people,[184] in which a great supper is spread,[185] and which will be perfected at the marriage supper of the Lamb.[186] Yet Christ did not say, “Go, teach all nations, burying them;” nor, “Take a supper in remembrance of me.” His command in the latter case is, “Eat this bread and drink this cup;” and he did not institute this ordinance as a supper, but “after supper.” Now, if the command is eat, drink, could this command be obeyed any otherwise than by eating and drinking? Would it suffice merely to apply the bread and cup to the lips? In like manner, when Christ said, “Go, teach all nations, immersing them,” can the command be obeyed in any other way than by performing a real immersion? In the eucharist, he commanded to eat bread and drink wine, but not to take a full meal; and we know, from the circumstance that this ordinance was instituted immediately after the disciples had taken a full meal, that a full meal was not intended. The Corinthians, when they converted this ordinance into a full meal, did truly eat and drink, yet they did not fulfil the command more strictly and literally than we do; while, on the other hand, they departed from the example, and manifest intention of Christ, and were censured for so doing by the Apostle Paul.

We have suggested that the eucharist may possibly be called a supper, because of the spiritual feast which it represents. So one of the Jewish feasts was called the Passover, because of what it commemorated. But, after all, it is not certain that the eucharist is, in Scripture, called a supper. The eucharist is several times mentioned in the New Testament, but is never called the Lord’s Supper, unless in this instance; and many learned men are of opinion that, what is here called by this name, is not the eucharist itself, but the Love Feast which was anciently celebrated in connection with it. Perhaps it denotes the perversion which the Corinthians made of the eucharist. The phrase is without the definite article in the original text, and might be rendered “a supper of the Lord.” Paul does not deny that the Corinthians had made a supper of it, but he denies that it was a supper of the Lord–a supper which the Lord had instituted, or which he approved. What proof, then, is there, that the Holy Spirit has ever called the eucharist by the name Lord’s Supper? We have no objection to the name in itself considered; but, when so much is made to depend on it, the authority for it needs to be examined. If a universal law of Biblical interpretation, respecting ritual words, is to be established on a single fact, the fact should be well ascertained.

Everywhere throughout the New Testament, the words baptize and baptism are applied to one of the Christian rites; if the word supper is ever applied to the other, it is but in a single instance, and it may be that it is there applied to it as converted by abuse into a full meal. The word baptize was used in Christ’s command, and directly expresses the act commanded. The word supper was not used in the command; and, if it be used as a name of the institution, is not directly descriptive of it. The two cases have no analogy between them to sustain the argument.

Argument 6.–The circumstances attending the baptisms of the New Testament, do not, in any case, prove that they were administered by immersion.

They who urge this argument have alleged that, in the account of Christ’s baptism, the phrase “went up straightway out of the water,” ought to have been translated, “went up straightway from the water.”[187] The emendation of the translation leaves us without proof, they say, that he went into the water to be baptized. We admit, in this case, the correction of the translation. This clause, we concede, does not prove that Christ was in the water. But we have proof of this, in another verse of the same chapter: “And were baptized of him in Jordan.”[188] The testimony of Mark to the same point, is very decisive. His record of the transaction may be properly translated thus: “And was immersed by John into the Jordan.”[189]

In the account of the eunuch’s baptism, the phrases, “they went down into the water,” and “they came up out of the water,” have been subjected to a similar criticism. It has been alleged that these may be translated with equal propriety, “they went down to the water,” and “they came up from the water.” This we deny. The preposition apo used in the former case, is not found here, and our translators have, in the present case, rendered the prepositions eis and ek according to their usual import. The opponents of immersion do not deny this, or maintain that they must be translated otherwise; but a departure from their ordinary signification ought not to be supposed without necessity. That these prepositions signify into and out of, in the common use of them by Greek authors, might be proved by innumerable citations; but, instead of these, the following extracts from Robinson’s Lexicon ought to suffice:–

Apo is used of such objects as before were on, by, or with another, but are now separated from it (not in it, for to this ek corresponds).” “Ek [is] spoken of such objects as before were in another, but are now separated from it.”

This decides that our common version gives the true sense of the passage, in the rendering, “they went up out of the water.” It follows that they must have been in the water when the baptism was performed; and that they must have gone down into the water for its performance.

It has been argued that, if going down into the water proves immersion, Philip was immersed as well as the eunuch; for they both went down into the water. If we maintained that going down into the water signifies going beneath its surface, this argument would be applicable; and it might also be argued against us that the clause which the inspired historian has added, “he baptized him,” is superfluous. But we understand the immersion to be denoted by this last phrase; and which of the two persons was immersed, the context clearly shows. But while the phrase, they went down into the water, does not express the immersion, it proves it. No other satisfactory reason, for going into the water, can be assigned. But in truth this circumstantial proof is not needed. The phrase, “he baptized him,” states expressly what was done.

In the passage, “John was baptizing in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there,”[190] it has been alleged that the proper translation is many waters; and it is argued that the waters were many small springs or rivulets, not adapted to the purpose of immersion, but needed for the subsistence and comfort of the crowds that attended John’s ministry.

The word rendered water properly denotes the element, and not a spring or rivulet. It was used in the plural, as we use the word ashes to denote the element, and not separate collections of it. In the phrase “ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire and into the water,”[191] fire is singular, and water is plural in the original text. If the latter word was put in the plural form, to denote the different collections of the element into which the afflicted youth fell at different times, the word fire would, for the same reason, need to be plural. Hence the phrase many waters does not signify many small springs or streams. When Isaiah said, “The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters;”[192] when David said, “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea;”[193] and again: “He drew me out of many waters;”[194]–when John said, “His voice was as the sound of many waters;”[195] the supposition that many little springs or rivulets are intended, is inadmissible. The same phrase, many waters, is used for the river Euphrates.[196] It follows, therefore, that the proposed change of translation, can be of no avail to lessen the evidence of the passage in favor of immersion. As to the allegation, that the water was needed for the subsistence and comfort of the people; we answer, that this, whether true or not, is not what the historian has stated. “John was baptizing, because there was much water.” Water was needed for baptizing; and the connection of the clauses shows that the place was selected with reference to the administration of the rite.

Argument 7.–In several cases the circumstances which attended baptism forbid the belief that it was administered by immersion.

This is a dangerous argument. If the Holy Spirit affirms persons were baptized, and if to baptize signifies to immerse, it becomes us to receive his testimony; and, if any difficulty respecting the probability of the fact presents itself to our imagination, we should ascribe it to our ignorance. If an ordinary historian relates what cannot be believed, when understood according to the established laws of language, we do not invent new laws to relieve his veracity; but we pronounce his statement incredible. They who urge this argument, should beware lest they impugn the veracity of the Holy Spirit.

It has been imagined that there was not sufficient water to be obtained in Jerusalem for the immersion of three thousand on the day of Pentecost. Jerusalem was the religious capital of a religious nation, whose forms of worship required frequent ceremonial purifications. These purifications were not performed exclusively by the sprinkling of consecrated water; but in various cases, the defiled person was required to wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water.[197] Provision for such bathing was needed throughout the land. At Cana, an obscure town of Galilee, a poor family unable to supply a sufficient quantity of wine for a wedding feast, had six water pots of stone containing two or three firkins apiece, for the purpose of purifying.[198] Such provision was specially needed at Jerusalem, the centre of their worship. Here their sacrifices were to be offered, and here the whole nation were required to assemble for their appointed feasts; and these they were forbidden to celebrate, if in a state of defilement. In preparation for these feasts, we know from the express testimony of John, that the people went up to Jerusalem “to purify themselves.”[199] Some provision, therefore, must have existed, accessible to the people, and sufficient for their use, at these great gatherings. The privilege which was open to the whole multitude out of every nation under heaven at this pentecostal feast, belonged equally to the apostles, and to the three thousand who were baptized; for all these were Jews, fully entitled to enter the temple, and unite in all the public services of the nation. If any of the rulers were inclined to hinder them, they as yet feared the people; for when these baptisms were performed, the administrators and subjects had “favor with all the people.” If, therefore, any one persist in asking where water was found to immerse so many, we ask in turn where was water found sufficient for the purifying of the assembled nation?

In Jerusalem, as it now is, there are large cisterns of water on the grounds attached to private dwellings; and we may suppose that, when the city was in its ancient prosperity, such reservoirs were far more numerous. It is probable that access to these, as to rooms for keeping the Passover, was often obtained by the assembled worshippers. Of the converts who were baptized on the day of Pentecost, it is likely that many resided in the city; and if the use of private tanks was needed for baptism, their tanks were doubtless at the service of the apostles. There were also public pools, of which Chateaubriand, who visited Palestine about the beginning of the present century, gives the following account:–

Having descended Mount Zion on the east side, we came, at its foot, to the fountain and pool of Siloe, where Christ restored sight to the blind man. The spring issues from a rock, and runs in a silent stream. The pool, or rather the two pools of the same name, are quite close to the spring. Here you also find a village called Siloan. At the foot of this village is another fountain, denominated in Scripture Rogel. Opposite to this fountain is a third, which receives its name from the blessed Virgin. The Virgin’s fountain mingles its stream with that of the fountain of Siloe.

We have now nothing left of the primitive architecture of the Jews at Jerusalem, except the Pool of Bethesda. This is still to be seen near St. Stephen’s Gate, and it bounded the temple on the north. It is a reservoir, one hundred and fifty feet long, and forty wide; the pool is now dry, and half filled up. On the west side may also be seen two arches, which probably led to an aqueduct that carried the water into the interior of the temple.

The dimensions of the Pool of Bethesda, as given by Maundrell, are one hundred and twenty paces long, forty broad, and eight deep. Even the smaller dimensions given by Chateaubriand, indicate a sufficient supply of water in this single pool for the whole pentecostal baptism. A doubt has been recently raised, whether the excavation measured by these travellers, is identical with the ancient Bethesda: and attention has been directed to a neighboring intermittent fountain, the water of which, instead of flowing equably, sometimes rises by a sudden movement, and, after a time, subsides to its former level. This has been thought to agree with John’s account of the ancient pool: “For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water.[200] The hypothesis is liable to strong objections, which our purpose does not require us to present. Nor is it necessary for us to defend the correctness of the tradition, which points to this excavation as the ancient Bethesda. Much water was needed in the city; and, when so many tanks were dug at great labor and expense, it is altogether probable that a cavity, which could hold a large supply of the needed element, was not permitted to remain useless. If it contained water, the pool, by whatever name called, may have been the baptizing place on that memorable day.

But the Pool of Bethesda was not the only reservoir sufficiently capacious for the immersion of three thousand. The facilities for travelling which the present times afford have rendered visits to the old world frequent; and men now living, have greatly increased our knowledge of its geography and antiquities by their investigations. The learned Dr. Robinson has twice explored Palestine, with a special view to biblical illustration; and the result of his researches has been given to the world in a large work abounding with valuable information. The Rev. George W. Samson has also visited the same country within a few years, and has directed particular attention to the question now before us, in a short but excellent work entitled, “The Sufficiency of Water for Baptizing at Jerusalem, and elsewhere in Palestine, as recorded in the New Testament.” In this work, the present condition of the pools at Jerusalem, six in number, is described; and the dimensions of five, according to the measurement of Dr. Robinson, are given in feet as follows:–





Pool of Bethesda




Pool of Siloam




Old or Upper Pool in the Highway of the Fuller’s Field





Pool of Hezekiah




Lower Pool of Gihon






The depth of the Pool of Hezekiah varies, its bottom being an inclined plane, and the sides of the Lower Pool of Gihon, which covers more than four acres of ground, are sloping. In these any convenient depth of water for baptizing might be readily obtained. When facilities for immersion were so abundant we can have no plea for inventing a new meaning for the word which the sacred historian has employed in recording the baptisms at Jerusalem. If we were unable to offer any probable conjecture with respect to the supply of water, we ought still to receive the testimony of the Holy Spirit according to the proper import of his words, and to believe his statement to be true; but the investigations which have been made remove all difficulty.

It has been further imagined, that there was not time for the immersion of so many; but this difficulty is not one which ought to impair the credibility of the narrative. Many, if not all of the seventy whom Christ had commissioned, were probably present on the occasion; and the apostles had undoubted authority to command their services in the administration of the rite. With so many agents, the work required but little time. In modern revivals, the number of persons immersed on profession of faith is sometimes large; and, from observing the time required, some have maintained that the apostles themselves could have baptized all the converts on the day of Pentecost. Sprinkling, if performed with the solemnity due to a religious rite, would require not much less time than immersion. We may therefore believe the sacred narrative, without inventing a new meaning for the word baptize.

It has been supposed that the baptism of the Philippian jailer and his household could not have been by immersion; because it took place at night, and in the prison. As to the time; the persecution which had been raised against Paul and Silas, and the relation which the jailer sustained to the government of the city, rendered it more convenient to administer the immersion at night than to postpone it till the next day. As to the place; there is no proof that it was administered in the jail. Paul and Silas had been brought out, and had preached the Word to the jailer, and “to all that were in his house.” After the preaching, they must have left the house for the administration of baptism; for it is expressly stated that the jailer afterwards “brought them into his house and set meat before them.”[201] Where the rite was performed we are not told. There may have been, as is common in the East, a tank of water in the prison enclosure; and we know, because the inspired historian has so informed us, that there was a river[202] near at hand. There was, therefore, no want of water.

Argument 8.–Jesus said to his disciples, “John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”[203] This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit was then poured out upon them; and since Christ called this baptism, we have proof that pouring is baptism.

The Holy Spirit is not a material agent; and all representations of his operation, drawn from material things, are necessarily imperfect. To immerse in the Spirit, and to pour out the Spirit, are figurative expressions, and the things which they signify are conceived to bear some resemblance to immersion in water, and to the pouring out of water. But the resemblance is in our conception, and not in the things themselves; for between what is spiritual and what is material, there cannot, strictly speaking, be any likeness. Different figures may be employed to represent the same thing, and if the figurative expressions pour out the Spirit, and baptize with the Spirit, referred to precisely the same thing, it would not follow that the figures by which they represent it are identical. But if the figures are not identical, they can furnish no proof that to pour is to baptize.

God had promised by the prophet Joel, “I will pour out of my Spirit;”[204] and Christ had promised his disciples, “Ye shall be immersed in the Holy Spirit.”[205] Both the promises were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost; but the two promises exhibit the influence of the Spirit then communicated, in different aspects. In one it is viewed as proceeding from God, and is likened to water poured out; in the other it is viewed as affecting all the powers of the apostles, surrounding and filling them, as water surrounds and imbues substances which are immersed in it. The figures, therefore, not only differ from each other, but are employed to represent different things. Hence, they can furnish no proof that to pour is to baptize.


Argument 1.–Baptism is a mere ceremony, and, in the sight of God, is of far less importance than moral duties. In instituting it, Christ did not design to bind his followers to the very letter of his command; but intended that they should be at liberty to accommodate the mode of their obedience to circumstances which might arise, provided they accomplished the end which he had in view. He commanded his disciples to wash the feet of one another. This command was given at a time when the washing of feet was a usual act of hospitality; and we now rightly judge, that since this usage has passed away, we ought to fulfil the command in some other way. So he commanded to immerse, when immersion for the purpose of purification was in almost daily use; but to us whose ordinary ablutions are partial, another mode of representing purification is better adapted. This has been the judgment of the pious; and God’s abundant blessing on them, shows that they have his approbation.

Baptism is indeed a ceremony; but it is a ceremony of God’s appointing. In moral duties arising from the relations which we bear, and founded on reasons which we are able to comprehend, the duty must vary according to the varying relations, and there is scope for the exercise of enlightened reason; but positive institutes are founded on the mere will of the lawgiver, and with respect to them, to obey or disobey is the only question, and the only variety. A ceremony of positive institution may possibly be in itself of little moment; but obedience in performing it, is of great value in God’s sight; and disobedience to mere ceremonial requirements, he has in some cases punished in an exemplary manner. If he abundantly blesses many who neglect the baptismal command, the fact proves his great goodness, and not their innocence.

They who, acknowledging a departure from the letter of Christ’s command, satisfy themselves with the belief that they attain all the ends of baptism, though they be not immersed, assume that they fully comprehend the subject, and all the ends which the lawgiver had in view. Is not this arrogating too much? It is certainly safer to believe that Christ is wiser than we are, and to render implicit obedience to his precepts. If baptism represents the burial and resurrection of Christ, as well as the washing away of sin, they do not attain all the ends of baptism who neglect immersion. We have reason to believe that positive institutes were in part given, to test and to promote the spirit of obedience They who fail to comply strictly with the divine precepts, not only fail to accomplish these ends which infinite wisdom had in view, but counterwork the designs of the lawgiver.

The command to wash one another’s feet, is not parallel to that which enjoins baptism. The latter, the advocates of sprinkling acknowledge to be of perpetual obligation, a Christian ceremony of positive institution; but the former they do not so regard. This is not the proper place to enter on the inquiry, whether the washing of feet was designed to be a ceremony of perpetual obligation. In our judgment it was not. If it can be made to appear that we have judged wrong, it will be our duty, not to make our error an argument for disobedience, but to amend our practice, and conform strictly to every divine requirement.

Argument 2.–When Christ instituted the eucharist, he commanded, “this do.”[206] Yet no one imagines that we are bound to do all that he did on that occasion. He met in an upper room, and at night; and he reclined while eating. We do not suppose ourselves under obligation to imitate him in these particulars; but only to do so much as is necessary to the moral ends of the institution. By the same rule of interpretation, we are not bound to a literal compliance with the command of baptism.

No reason exists for supposing that the pronoun “this,” in the command “this do,” refers to the place, the time, or the manner, in which Christ ate the last supper. It evidently refers to the acts of eating bread and drinking wine; and precisely what it does signify, is what we are bound to do; and precisely what the word baptize signifies, is what we are bound to do in obeying the command which enjoins baptism. To relieve ourselves from the obligation of strict obedience, on the plea that the moral ends of Christ’s institutions may be attained without it, is to legislate for Christ.

Argument 3.–Christ designed his religion to be universal, and adapted to every climate of earth, and every condition and rank among men. Immersion is not suited to cold climates–is frequently impossible to the infirm and sick–is repulsive to the delicate and refined; and the invariable observance of it cannot have been required by him who said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Our simple reply to this argument is, that it is Christ’s command. We dare not, by our fallible reasonings from general principles, attempt to determine the will of our divine lawgiver, when we have in our possession his express command on the very subject. Christ knew all the climates of the earth, and all the conditions and ranks among men, and he has adapted his religion to these as far as appeared best to his infinite wisdom. If the infirm and sick cannot obey, there is an end of responsibility in their case. If the delicate and refined will not, they must leave the pleasure of obedience to those, who think it no humiliation to tread where they find the footsteps of their Lord and Master. Though Christ’s yoke is easy, it is still a yoke; and pride and false delicacy may refuse to wear it; but love can make it welcome and delightful.

[177] Luke xvi. 24.

[178] John iii. 25.

[179] Heb. ix. 10.

[180] John iii. 25.

[181] Luke xi. 38.

[182] Ver. 29.

[183] In classic Greek also, both constructions are found. Ex. 45 has eis; Ex. 17 has en.

[184] Rev. iii. 20.

[185] Luke xiv. 16.

[186] Rev. xix. 9.

[187] Matt. iii. 16.

[188] Matt. iii. 6.

[189] Mark i. 9.

[190] John iii. 23.

[191] Mark ix. 22.

[192] Isaiah xvii. 13.

[193] Ps. xciii. 4.

[194] Ps. xviii. 16.

[195] Rev. i. 15.

[196] Jer. li. 13.

[197] Lev. xiv. 8, 9; xv. 5, 8, 11, 22; xvi. 26, 28.

[198] John ii. 6.

[199] John xi. 55.

[200] John v. 4.

[201] Acts xvi. 34.

[202] Acts xvi. 13.

[203] Acts i. 5.

[204] Acts ii. 17.

[205] Acts i. 5.

[206] Luke xxii. 19.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology- Volume 2

A Treatise on Church Order: Baptism- Chapter 1- Section II- To Baptize is to Immerse




We have seen that the commission which Christ gave to his apostles, instituted baptism as an ordinance to be observed by his disciples to the end of the world. It becomes important, therefore, to ascertain the meaning of the word “baptizing,” by which this duty is enjoined.

The commission has come down to us in the Greek language; land the word translated ” baptizing” is a participle of the Greek verb baptizo. Our present inquiry is, what does this Greek verb mean?

In the ordinary process of translating the writings of a Greek author, when we wish to ascertain the meaning of some word that he uses, we satisfy ourselves, for the most part, by consulting a Greek lexicon.[13]

The laws of interpretation require us to take the primary signification of words, unless there be something in the context, or nature of the subject, inconsistent with this signification. As there is no such difficulty in the present instance, our first decision, if we follow the lexicons, must be in favor of the sense to immerse.

When, from any cause, the decision of lexicons is unsatisfactory, the ultimate recourse is to Greek authors who have used the word in question. We search out the various examples of its use; and, by an examination of these, we learn in what sense the authors used the word. Since use is the law of language, the sense in which Greek authors used a word is its true meaning. The lexicons themselves yield deference to this law, and cite examples from authors in proof of the significations which they assign to words.

Our search of Greek authors, for the use of baptizo, is greatly facilitated by the labors of learned men who have preceded us in the investigation.

Professor Stuart[14] has collected, from different Greek writers, a number of examples in which baptizo, and its primitive, bapto, occur, with a view to determine the meaning of the words. To his collection, which he considered sufficiently copious for the purpose, I have added many other examples, from a similar collection by Dr. Carson, and a few others, from a smaller collection by Dr. Ryland. All these are included in the following tables, which may, therefore, be regarded as a fair exhibition of the use made of these words in Greek literature. The examples are so classified as to render the examination of them easy. In rendering the words in question, I have not closely followed the learned men of whose labors I have availed myself, but have aimed at a more literal and uniform translation. This is always put in italics; and the reader may consider the spaces, occupied by the italicized words, as so many blanks which he may fill with any other rendering that he may think better fitted to express the author’s meaning. Let it be regarded as a problem to be solved, how these several blanks shall be filled, so that the supply may fit every example, and, at the same time, be consistent, throughout the table, as the meaning of the same word.

In a few of the examples the italicized words are marked with an asterisk. In these cases they are renderings, not of the verbs themselves, which are placed at the head of the tables, but of substantives or adjectives derived from them, and involving the same signification. In the English prepositions which are construed with the verbs, I have sometimes followed Professor Stuart, when, without his authority, I should have been inclined to adopt other renderings. This remark applies especially to the use of “with,” in Class III. of Table II. A different rendering would correspond more exactly with the idea of immersion; but it has been my wish to give immersion no advantage to which it is not clearly entitled.







1. For the purpose of imbuing or covering.–1. He took a thick cloth and dipped it in water.[15] 2. Dipping sponges in warm water.[16] 3. And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the house.[17] 4. Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water.[18] 5. Cakes dipped in sour wine.[19] 6. Dip thy morsel in the vinegar.[20] 7. One of the twelve that dippeth with me in the dish.[21] 8. Who dippeth his hand in the dish.[22] 9. And when he had dipped the sop.[23] 10. Dipping hay into honey, they give it them to eat.[24] 11. Venus dipped the arrows in sweet honey.[25] 12. He put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in a honeycomb.[26] 13. Ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood which is in the basin.[27] 14. The priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood.[28] 15. The priest shall dip his finger in the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it.[29] 16. He dipped his finger into the blood.[30] 17. And shall dip them and the living bird in the blood.[31] 18. And he shall dip it into the blood.[32] 19. The Greeks dipping the sword and the Barbarians the spear-head [in blood.][33] 20. Having dipped a crown into ointment.[34] 21. The priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand.[35] 22. :Dip the probes in some emollient.[36] 23. Dipping the rag in white sweet-smelling Egyptian ointment.[37] 24. :Dipping the rags in ointment.[38] 25. By reason of heat and moisture, the colors enter into the pores of things dipped into them.[39] 26. They dip it [into the dye-stuff.][40]

2. For the purpose of filling, or of drawing out, the verb sometimes taking the sense to dip out.–27. The youth held the capacious urn over the water, halting to dip it.[41] 28. Take a vessel, ancient servant, and having dipped it into the sea, bring it hither.[42] 29. The bucket must be first dipped and then be drawn up again.[43] 30. The lad directed his large pitcher towards the water, hastening to dip it.[44] 31. He dipped his pitcher in the water.[45] 32. Instead of water, let my maid dip her pitcher into honeycombs.[46] 33. Bubbling water dipped up with pitchers.[47] 34. To-day, ye bearers of water, dip not [from the river Inachis].[48] 35. Dip up the sea-water itself.[49]

3. For the purpose of cleansing.–36. The Egyptians consider the swine so polluted a beast, that if any one in passing touch a swine, he will go away and dip himself with his very garments, going into the river.[50] 37. It shall be dipped into water: so shall it be cleansed.[51] 38. First they dip the wool in warm water, according to ancient custom.[52]

4. For the purpose of hardening.–39. The smith dips a hatchet into cold water.[53] 40 Iron dipped.[54]

5. For other purposes.–41. Bring the torch, that I may take and dip it.[55] 42. They cannot endure great changes, such as that, in the summer time; they should dip into cold water.[56] 43. If the crow has dipped his head into the river.[57] 44. The feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water.[58] 45. Of which the remedy is said to be a certain stone which they take from the sepulchre of a king of ancient times, and having dipped it in wine, drink.[59] 46. If any one dips anything into wax, it is moved as far as he dips.[60] 47. Having melted the wax, he took the flea, and dipped its feet into the wax.[61] 48. With his own hand, he shall dip his sword into the viper’s bowels.[62] 49. He dipped his whole chin into the belly of the ram.[63] 50. The one dipped his spear between the other’s ribs, who at the same moment [dipped his] into his belly.[64] 51. Taking his sounding scimitar from the dead, he dipped it into the flesh.[65]



1. In appearance.–52. If the sun dip himself cloudless into the western flood.[66] 53. Cepheus dipping his head or upper part :into the sea.[67]

2. In effect.–54. From the dew of heaven, his body was dipped [as wet as if it had been dipped.][68] 55. Having dipped [wetted or filled as if he had dipped] the hollow of his hand, he sprinkles the tribunal.[69] 56. He was clothed with a vesture dipped [colored as if it had been dipped] in blood.[70]



1. By dipping.–57. The color of things dyed is changed by the aforesaid causes.[71] 58. The dyers,* when they are desirous to dye wool so as to make it purple; . . . and whatever may be dyed in this manner, the thing dyed becomes strongly tinctured. If any one dye other colors. That they may receive the laws in the best manner, as a dye,* that their opinion may be durable. And those streams cannot wash out the dye,* although they are very efficient to wash out.[72] 59. Some dyed with hyacinth, and some with purple.[73] 60. Thou hast well dyed thy sword against [in close conflict with] the Grecian army.[74] 61. For the wife has deprived each husband of life, dyeing the sword by slaughter.[75]

2. Without regard to mode.–62. When it drops upon the garments, they are colored.[76] 63. Nearchus relates that the Indians color their beards.[77] 64. He endeavored to conceal the hoariness of his hair by coloring * it. 65. The old man-with the colored hair.[78] 66. Does a patron affect to be younger than he is? Or does he even color his hair?[79] 67. This garment, colored by the sword of Aegisthus, is a witness to me.[80] 68. He fell, without even looking upward, and the lake was colored with blood.[81] 69. Garments of variegated appearance, colored* at great expense. 70. A colored* bird.[82] 71. Lest I color you with a Sardinian hue.[83] 72. Then perceiving that his beard was colored, and his head.[84] 73. The physiologists, reasoning from these things, show that native warmth has colored the above variety of the growth of the things before mentioned.[85] 74. Using the Lydian music or measure, and making plays, and coloring himself with frog-colored [paints.][86]



1. Allusion to dipping.–75. Let him dip his foot in oil.[87] 76. Thy foot may be dipped in the blood of shine enemies.[88] 77. Thou hast dipped me deeply in filth.[89] 78. They are all dipped in fire.[90] 79. Dipping up pleasure with foreign buckets.[91]

2. Allusion to coloring.–80. Dyer, who dyest all things, and dost change them by thy colors; thou hast dyed poverty also, and now appearest to be rich.[92] 81. For the soul is colored by the thought: color it then by accustoming yourself to such thoughts.[93]





I. Sinking ships.–1. Shall I not laugh at the man who immerses his ship by overlading it?[94] 2. Such a storm suddenly pervaded all the country, that the ships that were in the Tiber were immersed.[95] 3. When the ship was about to be immersed.[96] 4. For our ship having been immersed in the midst of the Adriatic Sea.[97] 5. The wave high-raised immersed them.[98] 6. They were immersed with the ships themselves. 7. How would not his ship be immersed by the multitude of our rowers.[99] 8. They were either immersed, their ships being bored through.[100] 9. Those from above immersing them [ships] with stones and engines.[101] 10. They immersed many of the vessels of the Romans.[102] 11. The ships being in danger of being immersed.[103] 12. Many of the Jews of distinction left the city, as people swim away from an immersing [sinking] ship.[104] 13. Whose ship being immersed.[105] 14. As you would not wish, sailing in a large ship adorned and abounding with gold, to be immersed.[106]

2. Drowning.–15. He would drive him from the bank, and immerse him headlong, so that he would not be able again to lift up his head above water.[107] 16. He may save one in the voyage that had better be immersed in the sea.[108] 17. The boy was sent to Jericho by night, and there by command, having been immersed in a pond by the Galatians, he perished.[109] 18. Pressing him down always as he was swimming, and immersing him as in sport, they did not give over till they entirely drowned him.[110] 19. The river being borne on with a more violent stream, immersed many.[111] 20. Killing some on the land, and immersing others into the lake with their boats and their little huts.[112] 21. The dolphin, vexed at such a falsehood, immersing him killed him.[113] 22. Many of the land animals immersed in the river perished.[114]

3. For purification.–23. Naaman immersed himself seven times in Jordan.[115] 24. He that immerseth himself because of a dead body.[116] 25. He marveled that he had not first immersed before dinner.[117] 26. Except they immerse, they eat not.[118] 27. Divers immersions.[119]* 28. She went out by night into the valley of Bethulia, and immersed herself in the camp at the fountain of water.[120] 29. He who is immersed from a dead [carcass] and toucheth it again, what does he profit by his washing?[121] 30. The immersion* of cups and pots, &c.[122]

4. Other cases.–31. The person that has been a sinner, having gone a little way in it [the river Styx], is immersed up to the head.[123] 32. He breathed as persons breathe after being immersed.[124] 33. Then immersing himself into the Lake Copais.[125] 34. Immerse yourself into the sea.[126] 35. They marched a whole day through the water, immersed up to the waist.[127] 36. The bitumen floats on the top, because of the nature of the water, which admits of no diving; nor can any one who enters it immerse himself, but is borne up.[128] 37. But the lakes near Agrigentum have indeed the taste of sea water, but a very different nature, for it does not befall the things which cannot swim to be immersed, but they swim on the surface like wood.[129] 38. If an arrow be thrown in, it would scarcely be immersed.[130] 39. As when a net is cast into the sea, the cork swims above, so am I unimmersed.[131]* 40. When a piece of iron is taken red hot out of the fire and immersed in water, the heat is repelled.[132] 41. Thou mayest be immersed, O bladder! but thou art not fated to sink.[133] 42. Having immersed some of the ashes into spring water, they sprinkled.[134] 43. I found Cupid among the roses; taking hold of him by the wings I immersed him into wine.[135] 44. The sword was so immersed in blood that it was even heated by it.[136] 45. He set up a trophy, on which, immersing his hand into blood, he wrote this inscription.[137] 46. They are of themselves immersed and sunk in the marshes.[138] 47. He immersed his sword up to the hilt into his own bowels.[139]



1. In appearance.–48. But when the sun immerses himself in the water of the ocean.[140]

2. In effect.–49. Certain uninhabited lands which at the ebb are used not to be immersed [covered over as if they had been immersed], but when the tide is at the full, the coast is quite inundated.[141] 50. And were all immersed [surrounded on all sides as if they had been immersed] unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.[142]



1. For drunkenness.–51. I am one of those who immersed yesterday [who drank wine freely].[143] 52. Having immersed Alexander with much wine.[144] 53. Seeing him in this condition, and immersed by excessive drinking into shamelessness and sleep.[145] 54.. They easily become intoxicated before they are entirely immersed.[146] 55. Immersed with wine.[147] 56. Immersed by drunkenness.[148] 57. He is like one dizzy and immersed.[149]

2. For afflictions.–58. Perceiving that he was altogether abandoned to grief and immersed in calamity.[150] 59. Since the things you have met with have immersed you.[151] 60. Iniquity immerses me.[152] 61. I have an immersion* to be immersed with.[153] 62. immersed by misfortune.[154] 63. Else what shall they do who are immersed for the dead?[155] 64. Are you able to be immersed with the immersion* that I am immersed with?[156]

3. Other uses.–65. The mind is immersed [drowned like plants by excessive watering] by excessive labor.[157] 66. Immersed with business.[158] 67. Immersed with innumerable cares–having the mind immersed on all sides by the many waves of business, immersed in malignity.[159] 68. Immersed into sleep.[160] 69. He [Bacchus] immerses with a sleep near to death.[161] 70. When midnight has immersed the city with sleep.[162] 71. Immersed with sins.[163] 72. But the common people they do not immerse with taxes.[164] 73. They immersed [sunk as a ship] the city.[165] 74. This as the last storm immersed [sunk as a ship] the tempest-tossed young men.[166] 75. Being immersed in debts of fifty millions of drachmae.[167] 76. He shall immerse you in the Holy Spirit.[168] 77. In one spirit have we been immersed into one body.[169]


The chief difficulty in classifying Table I., respects Class III. Under it I have placed all the examples in which the sense to color is given to the word, either by Professor Stuart, or Dr. Carson. Many of these examples might have been placed in Class I., 1; and others in Class II., 2.

To color.–Some learned men have maintained that the verb never signifies to color, without regard to mode. It is possible to explain the examples in which it appears to have this signification, like Ex. 56. Here the translators of the English Bible supposed the word, though denoting color, to be used with a reference to its primary meaning. :But when we consider how many words from the root BAP were used for things pertaining to the dyer’s art; and how frequently the verb bapto was used to denote to color; it seems most probable, that when employed for this purpose, it suggested to the minds of the Greeks in their familiar use of it, the idea of color directly, without that process of thought which was necessary to deduce this meaning from its primary sense to dip.

To smear.–Professor Stuart has assigned smear, as a secondary sense of the verb, and cites in proof from the Greek classic writers, Ex. 60, 61, 74. To the first two of these the rendering to smear is quite inappropriate. The warrior in battle does not redden his sword by smearing over it the blood of his enemies, but by plunging it into their bodies. In the other example, the rendering is less objectionable; but even here caution is necessary lest it mislead us. The verbs dip, plunge, immerse, wash, wet, pour, sprinkle, and smear, are construed with reference to two substances: one a solid, and the other a liquid. The first five have the solid for their direct object: to pour has the liquid for its direct object. We say to dip the hand in water, and to pour water on the hand; but not to dip water on the hand, or to pour the hand with water. The last two verbs, to sprinkle and to smear, admit both constructions. We say, to sprinkle the floor with water, and to sprinkle water on the floor; to smear the body with paint, and to smear paint over the body. In both these constructions, they always denote an application of the liquid to the solid, agreeing in this particular with the verb to pour. The verb bapto is always construed with the solid as its direct object. Throughout the table of examples, there can be found but one exception, which will be noticed hereafter. Even when it signifies to color, the verb takes for its object the solid, and does not signify that the color is produced by applying the coloring matter, as is done in the process of smearing. Hence, the rendering to smear is liable to mislead us into the belief that bapto like to smear, may signify an application of the liquid to the solid. The verb never signifies this process. It may signify the effect of it, but never the process itself.

To dip out.–The exception above referred to, is Ex. 35. In this, which is Nicander’s comment on the preceding example, the verb takes the liquid for its direct object, and assumes the sense to dip out. In the metaphoric use of the word, Ex. 79 conforms to this construction. It is worthy of remark that the English verb to dip is used in the same way, taking the liquid for its direct object, contrary to its usual construction; thus: He dips water from the pool. We never say, He plunges, or immerses water from the pool. In this sense of abstracting a part of the liquid from the rest, the verb bapto when it takes the solid for its direct object, may be construed with the genitive of the liquid, either with, or without the preposition apo This remark will explain Ex. 13,15, 21; to which Professor Stuart has given the sense to smear, because the verb is construed with APO They do not signify to smear with blood or oil by applying it; but to dip into it so as to bring away a part of it from the rest.


Our search is for the meaning of baptizo. This is a derivative from bapto; and because some aid in ascertaining its meaning, has been expected from the primitive word, examples in which this occurs, have been introduced in the preceding collection.

Some lexicographers have regarded baptizo as a frequentative, and have rendered it to immerse repeatedly. Robinson says it “is frequentative in form, but not in fact.” Professor Stuart has examined this question at length, and decides “that the opposite opinion, which makes baptizo a frequentative (if by this it is designed to imply that it is necessarily so by the laws of formation, or even by actual usage), is destitute of a solid foundation, I feel constrained, on the whole, to believe. The lexicographers who have assigned this meaning to it, appear to have done it on the ground of theoretical principles as to the mode of formation. They have produced no examples in point. And until these are produced, I must abide by the position that a frequentative sense is not necessarily attached to baptizo; and that, if it ever have this sense, it is by a specialty of usage of which I have been able to find no example.” The termination izo, is, with greater probability, supposed by others to add to the primitive word the signification of to cause, or to make, like the termination ize in legalize, to make legal; fertilize, to make fertile. According to this hypothesis, if bapto signifies to immerse, baptizo signifies to cause to be immersed. This makes the two words nearly or quite synonymous. But, however nearly two words may agree with each other in their original import, it seldom happens that they continue to be used in practice as equally fitted for every place which either of them may occupy. We must, therefore, examine the usus loquendi, to ascertain the peculiar shades of meaning which they acquire. In studying the preceding table of examples, the following things may be observed:–

1. bapto more frequently denotes slight or temporary immersion, than baptizo. Hence, the English word dip, which properly denotes slight or temporary immersion, is more frequently its appropriate rendering. In nearly one-half of the examples in which baptizo occurs in the literal sense, it signifies the immersion which attends drowning, or the sinking of ships.

2. bapto appears, in some cases, to be used in the secondary sense to color, without including its primary signification to immerse. No example occurs in which baptizo has lost the primary meaning. A similar fact may be observed in the use of the English words older and elder. The words have the same primary meaning; or, rather, they are different forms of the same word: yet, while older has inflexibly retained its primary meaning, elder has adopted a secondary signification, in which it denotes an officer without regard to age.

3. Bapto sometimes signifies to dip up: baptizo never takes this sense.


Though lexicographers frequently assign numerous significations to a word, they regard one as the primary or radical meaning from which all the rest are derived. If meanings have no relation to each other, they do not belong to the same word: hence to lie, signifying to be recumbent; and to lie, signifying to speak falsehood, though agreeing in orthography and pronunciation, are accounted different words, because their significations are independent of each other. No one imagines that there are two Greek verbs, baptizo. We must, therefore, seek for one primary or radical meaning, and endeavor to account by it for all the uses to which the word is applied.

An important distinction needs to be made between the proper meaning of a word, and the accidental signification which it may obtain from the connection in which it is used. This distinction may be illustrated by the following passage:–“If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet thou shalt plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.”[170] In this sentence the word plunge, besides its proper meaning, obtains the signification to defile, from the connection in which it is used. This accidental signification is the most prominent and important idea conveyed by the word; yet it is not, strictly speaking, any part of its meaning. We may substitute defile for it, and the general sense of the passage will be conveyed; yet to plunge and to defile are different things. We must not conclude that we have ascertained the meaning of a word, when we have found another word which may be substituted for it in a particular sentence.

Since the lexicons give immerse for the primary meaning of baptizo, let us try the meaning in the examples in which the word occurs, that we may ascertain whether this signification will suffice to account for all the uses to which the word is applied.

In the several examples, in which the word is applied to sinking ships, it obtains the accidental signification to cause to sink to the bottom. On this account it has been explained, in such connections, by the word buthizo, to throw into the deep. But the fact that immersed ships sink to the bottom is not affirmed by the word baptizo. It is a natural consequence of their immersion. There is no necessity for supposing it to be included in the meaning of the word. The same distinction must be made in the examples which relate to drowning. The drowning is a consequence of the immersion, and is not included in the meaning of the word baptizo. In several of the examples the immersion denoted by the word is clearly distinguished from the effect produced by it. So in 3, we must distinguish between the immersion and the purification resulting from it. The immersion only is properly denoted by the word. All the other examples in Class I. perfectly agree with the sense to immerse; and some of them clearly require it. From Ex. 36, 37, 38, 39, it appears that substances which float on water are not baptized. This proves conclusively that the mere application of water to a part of the surface does not satisfy the meaning of the word. Ex. 41 proves that sinking to the bottom is not necessary to its meaning; but the other examples just referred to, prove that descent below the surface is indispensable.

The examples in Class II. require the meaning to immerse. The same is true of the examples in Class III. The propriety and force of the metaphorical allusions cannot be understood, if the word does not signify to immerse.

After thoroughly examining the collection of examples, we find that they fully establish the meaning to immerse. Christ, in giving the commission, must have employed the word in its usual sense. The commission is given in the language of plain command, and every other word in it is used in its ordinary signification. We are not at liberty to seek for extraordinary meanings, but are bound to take the words according to their ordinary import, where no reason to the contrary exists. What they mean, according to the ordinary rules of interpretation, is the meaning of Christ’s command; and, if we do not receive and observe it in this sense, we are disobedient to his authority.

Let us now re-examine the collection of examples, trying any of the other significations which have been proposed, as, to wash, to purify, to wet, to sprinkle, to pour. The experiment will soon convince us that none of these is the proper meaning of the word. Immersion, and nothing but immersion, will always satisfy its demands.


The correctness of our deduction is confirmed by the circumstances which attended some of the baptisms recorded in the Bible. The forerunner of Christ is called “the Baptist,” because he administered this rite. He was sent to baptize, and it must be supposed that he understood the meaning of the word. Now, if a small quantity of water will suffice, why did John resort to the Jordan for the administration? The reason must have been that which the inspired historian has expressly assigned for his baptizing in Enon, near to Salim; namely, “because there was much water there.” The people were baptized by John in the Jordan. In this river our Lord was baptized, and his own example explains the meaning of his command.

The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch is very circumstantially described. The style in which he travelled forbids the supposition that he had no drinking vessel, in which a sufficient quantity of water might have been brought into the chariot to wet the hand of the administrator. But, if they chose not to perform the rite in the chariot, there was certainly no need for both of them to go into the water, if the mere wetting of Philip’s hand was sufficient. Why did they both go into the water? and why did the sacred historian so particularly state this fact? “They both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and they both came up out of the water.” These circumstantial facts are described in language which no one ought to misunderstand, and which no one ought to overlook, who desires to know his duty.

The Greek language continued to be spoken for many years after the times of the apostles. During all this period they, to whom the word baptizo was vernacular, understood it to signify immerse; and immersion has always been the practice of the Greek church to the present day. The Greeks must have understood the meaning of their own word. The Latin fathers also understood the word in the same way; and immersion prevailed in the western as well as in the eastern churches, until near the time of the reformation. Affusion was allowed instead of immersion, in case of sickness; but it was accounted an imperfect baptism. The testimony to these several facts I prefer to give in the words of Professor Stuart:

“In the writings of the apostolic fathers, so called, i. e., the writers of the first century, or, at least, those who lived in part during this century, scarcely anything of a definite nature occurs respecting baptism, either in a doctrinal or ritual respect. It is, indeed, frequently alluded to; but this is usually in a general way only. We can easily gather from these allusions that the rite was practiced in the church; but we are not able to determine, with precision, either the manner of the rite or the stress that was laid upon it.

“In the Pastor of Hermas, however, occurs one passage (Coteler. Patr. Apostol. I., p. 119, sq.), which runs as follows: “But this seal [of the sons of God] is water, in quam descendunt homines morti obligati, into which men descend who are bound to death, but those ascend who are destined to life. To them that seal is disclosed, and they make use of it that they may enter the kingdom of God.

“I do not see how any doubt can well remain, that in Tertullian’s time the practice of the African church, to say the least, as to the mode of baptism, must have been that of trine immersion.

“Subsequent ages make the general practice of the church still plainer, if, indeed, this can be done. The Greek words kataduo and katadusis were employed as expressive of baptizing and baptism, and these words mean going down into the water, or immerging.

“The passages which refer to immersion are so numerous in the fathers, that it would take a little volume merely to recite them.

“But enough. ‘It is,’ says Augusti (Denkw. VII., p. 216), ‘a thing made out,’ viz., the ancient practice of immersion. So, indeed, all the writers who have thoroughly investigated this subject conclude. I know of no one usage of ancient times which seems to be more clearly made out. I cannot see how it is possible for any candid man who examines the subject to deny this.

That there were cases of exception allowed, now and then, is, no doubt, true. Persons in extreme sickness or danger were allowed baptism by effusion, &c. But all such cases were manifestly regarded as exceptions to the common usage of the church.”


The significancy of baptism requires immersion. Paul explains it: “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”[171] And again: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”[172] Peter alludes to the same import of the rite, when he says: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[173]

The faith which we profess in baptism is faith in Christ; and the ceremony significantly represents the great work of Christ, on which our faith relies for salvation. We confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in the heart that God has raised him from the dead.[174] His burial and resurrection are exhibited in baptism, as his broken body and shed blood are exhibited in the supper. In both ordinances our faith is directed to the sacrifice of Christ. Under the name of sacraments they have been considered outward signs of inward grace; and, in this view of them, they signify the work of the Holy Spirit within us. But faith relies, for acceptance with God, on the work of Christ. It is a perverted gospel which substitutes the work of the Spirit for the work of Christ as the object of our faith; and it is a perverted baptism which represents the faith that we profess, as directed, not to the work of Christ, the proper object of faith, but to the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Objection 1.–There is an antithesis between the burial and resurrection which are here mentioned. The resurrection is moral, being to newness of life; and the same appears in the parallel passage in Colossians, where it is said to be “by the faith of the operation of God.” If the resurrection is moral, the antithetic burial cannot be physical.

If consistency of interpretation requires the burial to be moral the baptism must also be moral. The Quakers suppose that the baptism first mentioned in the passage is moral: “So many of us as were baptized into Christ.” But Pedobaptists admit that physical baptism is intended in this clause. Now, in passing from physical baptism at the beginning of the passage, to moral resurrection at its close, there must be a point in the progress where we pass from what is physical to what is moral. Where is that point? Some have imagined that it stands between the clause last quoted, and that which immediately follows, “were baptized into his death;” they suppose that “to be baptized into Christ,” is physical; but that to be baptized into his death is moral. The passage in Galatians has been quoted as parallel: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” The first clause in this verse, they say refers to physical baptism; and the last to moral. But this is an erroneous interpretation. To put on Christ, is to put on his religion by outward profession, the profession which is made in baptism. The baptism and the profession are alike, in implying a moral change in the subject, only so far as he is sincere. Some are physically baptized, who do not morally put on Christ; but this, though unquestionably true, is directly contradicted by the passage, if the proposed interpretation of it is correct. So in the passage under consideration, it is affirmed that the same persons, and the same number of persons that are baptized into Christ, are baptized into his death. This could not be true, if the first baptism is physical, and the second moral. Between these two clauses, therefore, there is no place for a division between what is physical and what is moral.

We extend our examination further to find a place for the division, and we find it plainly marked by the word “should;” even so we also should walk in newness of life. Here the obligation to suitable morals is deduced from what goes before. This obligation is deduced from the physical baptism with which the passage begins, and everything in the passage, until we arrive at the word “should,” is closely connected with this physical baptism, and explanatory of it. These intermediate links of explanation are necessary to connect the moral obligation at the close, with the physical baptism at the outset of the passage. If these intermediate links were moral, the proper position for the word “should,” would be in the first sentence–thus, so many of us as are baptized into Christ, should be baptized into his death

In the parallel passage referred to in Colossians, the expression is “Buried with him in baptism.” The word baptism stands without adjuncts. It is not baptism into death; but simply baptism. If the word baptism, thus standing alone, can signify something wholly moral, it will be difficult to reject the Quaker interpretation of these passages, and of “baptizing” in the commission. In the preceding verse, circumcision is mentioned; but that we may know physical circumcision not to be intended, it is expressly called “the circumcision made without hands;” and “the circumcision of Christ.” No such guard against misinterpretation attends the mention of baptism; and when it is recollected that Christians are not bound to receive physical circumcision, but are bound to receive physical baptism, we must conclude that physical baptism is here intended. The completeness of Christians requires the moral change denoted by circumcision, and also the obedience rendered in physical baptism. In all who are thus complete, this physical act is performed “in faith of the operation of God.” This passage does not, like that in Romans, deduce moral obligation from baptism; and, therefore, the word should is not introduced: but it affirms the completeness of true believers in their internal moral change, and in their very significant outward profession of it.

0bjection 2.–Everywhere else in Scripture, water is an emblem of purification; and it violates all analogy to suppose that in baptism it is an emblem of the grave, which is the place of putridity and loathsomeness.

That water in baptism is an emblem of purification, is clear from the words “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.” But that water is an emblem of nothing but purification, cannot be affirmed. In numerous passages it is an emblem of afflictions, of deep afflictions, without any reference to purification. When the Saviour said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with;” an immersion is intended, not into a means of purification, but into sufferings and death.

The grave is a place of putridity and loathsomeness, but not until the corruptible body is deposited in it; and when it leaves the grave the corruptible will put on incorruption. Even the- grave, therefore, is a place of regeneration and purification; and, instead of bearing no analogy to the purifying water of baptism, the analogy is striking.

Some of the Scripture allusions to baptism, are made to it as a purifying rite, but this is not true of all. An exception is found in 1 Cor. x. 2. On this Professor Stuart remarks: “Here, then, was the cloud which first stood before them, and then behind them; and here were the waters of the Red Sea, like a wall on their right hand and on their left. Yet neither the cloud nor the waters touched them. ‘They went through the midst of the sea upon dry ground.’ Yet they were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. The reason and ground of such an expression must be, so far as I can discern, a surrounding of the Israelites on different sides by the cloud and by the sea, although neither the cloud nor the sea touched them. It is, therefore, a kind of figurative mode of expression, derived from the idea that baptizing is surrounding with a fluid. But whether this be by immersion, effusion, suffusion, or washing, would not seem to be decided. The suggestion has sometimes been made, that the Israelites were sprinkled by the cloud and by the sea, and this was the baptism which Paul meant to designate. But the cloud on this occasion was not a cloud of rain; nor do we find any intimation that the waters of the Red Sea sprinkled the children of Israel at this time. So much is true, viz., that they were not immersed. Yet, as the language must evidently be figurative in some good degree, and not literal, I do not see how, on the whole, we can make less of it, than to suppose that it has a tacit reference to the idea of surrounding in some way or other.” This author urges the objection which we are considering, as his “principal difficulty in respect to the usual exegesis;” yet we have here, according to his own exposition, an allusion to baptism, without any reference to purification. Another such reference is found in 1 Peter iii. 21, and again in the words of Christ before quoted, “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”

Objection 3.–Very little resemblance can be found, between a man’s being dipped in water, and Christ’s being laid in a sepulchre hewn out of a rock. The supposed allusion requires resemblance.

Positive proof of allusion must be attended with difficulty; because, if it be mere allusion, it is always made without express affirmation,. The proof of allusion must therefore be circumstantial; yet there may be circumstances which exclude all rational doubt of its existence.

If there is no resemblance between immersion and Christ’s burial, the passage before us contains no allusion. If the resemblance is so slight, that but few persons are able to perceive it, the probability is, that the supposed allusion exists only in the fancy of those who imagine they see it. But if men have generally believed that allusion exists in the passage, the fact goes far to prove, that there is resemblance.

Have men generally believed in the existence of the supposed allusion? It is not necessary to examine the writings of authors attached to every different creed, and differing from each other in their views of baptism. Professor Stuart tells us their opinion in few words: “Most commentators have maintained, that sunetaphemen has here a necessary reference to the mode of literal baptism, which they say, was by immersion; and this, they think, affords ground for the employment of the image used by the apostle, because immersion (under water) may be compared to burial (under the earth). It is difficult, perhaps, to procure a patient rehearing for this subject, so long regarded by some as being out of fair dispute.” Now this general agreement of commentators, answers the objection which we are considering, far more successfully than any efforts of ours to point out the resemblance, which these commentators have perceived. The fact that it is seen is the best proof that it exists. The Scripture nowhere affirms that Paul, in this passage, alluded to a resemblance between immersion and Christ’s burial; and, therefore, “the common exegesis” cannot be sustained by positive proof from Scripture; but it finds proof, the best proof that the nature of the case admits, in the fact that men generally have seen and felt the allusion.

Although positive proof of the common exegesis cannot be found in Scripture, a circumstantial proof may be drawn from the passage itself, amounting to little less than full demonstration. After making mention of baptism into Christ’s death, Paul, before he refers to Christ’s resurrection, goes out of the usual course to speak of Christ’s burial. This was not necessary for the moral instruction which he designed to convey, if nothing but moral conformity to Christ’s death was intended. It was not necessary for the purpose of finding an antithesis to the resurrection of Christ. The Scriptures usually speak of Christ’s rising from the dead, not from the grave: and his death is the common antithesis to his resurrection. An example occurs in the present chapter, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” In Colossians, after the passage “Buried with him in baptism,” the antithesis is again made, between the death (not the burial) of Christ, and his resurrection: “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ, from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, &c.”[175] “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,” &c. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”[176] Why did the apostle step out of the usual course, in two different passages to mention the burial of Christ? and to mention it in connection with baptism? It cannot be accounted for if the common exegesis be rejected.

The objection states that little resemblance can be found between immersion and Christ’s burial: and the same might be said with respect to the resemblance between a loaf of bread, and the body of Christ. A well executed picture of the crucifixion, such as may be seen in Catholic chapels, has much more resemblance to the body of Christ, than is furnished by a piece of bread; yet, considering all the ends to be answered by the Eucharist, the divine wisdom has determined that we should keep Christ’s death in memory, not by looking at a crucifix, but by the eating of bread. In like manner, some means might have been devised for representing the burial and resurrection of Christ, supplying a nearer resemblance than is furnished by immersion in water. But when we consider that baptism not only represents the burial and resurrection of Christ, but also our fellowship with him in both, and the consequent removal or washing away of our guilt, nothing could more conveniently, aptly, and instructively accomplish all these ends at once.

[13] The Lexicons of Donnegan, and of Liddell and Scott, are in common use and high repute. They give the meaning of the word as follows:–

Donnegan.–“To immerse repeatedly into a liquid; to submerge, to soak thoroughly, to saturate; hence to drench with wine Met., to confound totally; to dip in a vessel and draw.–Pass. Perf.. bebaptismai, to be immersed, &c.”

Liddell and Scott.–“To dip repeatedly, to dip under. Mid. to bathe; hence to steep, wet; metaph. oi bebaptismenoi, soaked in wine; to pour upon, drench, eisphorais ophlemasi beb. over head and ears in debt. Plut. meirakion Baptizomenon, a boy overwhelmed with questions, Heind. Plat. Euthyd.–to dip a vessel, draw water–to baptize. N. T.”

[14] Dissertation on the question, “Is the mode of Christian Baptism prescribed in the New Testament?”

[15] 2 Kings viii. 15.

[16] Hippocrates.

[17] Num. xix. 18.

[18] Luke xvi. 24.

[19] Hippocrates.

[20] Ruth ii. 14.

[21] Mark xiv. 20.

[22] Matt. xxvi. 23.

[23] John xiii. 26.

[24] Aristotle.

[25] Anacreon.

[26] 1 Sam. xiv. 27.

[27] Ex. xii. 22.

[28] Lev. iv. 6.

[29] Lev. iv. 17.

[30] Lev. ix. 9.

[31] Lev. xiv. 6.

[32] Lev. xiv. 51.

[33] Xenophon.

[34] Aelian.

[35] Lev. xiv. 16.

[36] Hippocrates.

[37] Hippocrates.

[38] Hippocrates.

[39] Aristotle.

[40] Plato.

[41] Theocritus.

[42] Euripides.

[43] Aristotle.

[44] Theocritus.

[45] Hermolaus.

[46] Theocritus.

[47] Euripides.

[48] Callimachus.

[49] Nicander.

[50] Herodotus.

[51] Lev. xi. 32.

[52] Aristophanes.

[53] Homer.

[54] Plutarch.

[55] Aristophanes.

[56] Aristotle.

[57] Aratus.

[58] Josh. iii. 15.

[59] Aristotle.

[60] Aristotle.

[61] Aristophanes.

[62] Lycophron.

[63] Philippus.

[64] Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

[65] Euripides.

[66] Aratus.

[67] Aratus.

[68] Dan. iv. 33, v. 21.

[69] Suidas.

[70] Rev. xix. 13.

[71] Aristotle.

[72] Plato.

[73] Josephus.

[74] Sophocles.

[75] Aeschylus.

[76] Hippocrates.

[77] Arrian.

[78] Aelian.

[79] Nicolas of Damascus.

[80] Aeschylus.

[81] Homer.

[82] Aristophanes.

[83] Aristophanes.

[84] Plutarch.

[85] Diodorus Siculus.

[86] Aristophanes.

[87] Deut. xxxiii. 24.

[88] Psalms lxviii. 23.

[89] Job ix. 31.

[90] Moschus.

[91] Lycophron.

[92] Helladius.

[93] Marcus Antoninus.

[94] Hippocrates.

[95] Dion Cassuis.

[96] Josephus.

[97] Josephus.

[98] Josephus.

[99] Dion Cassius.

[100] Dion Cassius.

[101] Dion Cassius.

[102] Polybius.

[103] Aesop.

[104] Josephus.

[105] Diod. Siculus.

[106] Epictetus.

[107] Lucian.

[108] Themistius.

[109] Josephus.

[110] Josephus.

[111] Diodorus Siculus.

[112] Heliodorus.

[113] Aesop.

[114] Diodorus Siculus.

[115] 2 Kings v. 14.

[116] Ecclus. xxxiv. 30.

[117] Luke xi. 38.

[118] Mark vii. 4.

[119] Heb. ix. 10.

[120] Judith xii. 7.

[121] Ecclus. xxxiv. 25.

[122] Mark vii. 8.

[123] Porphyry.

[124] Hippocrates.

[125] Plutarch.

[126] Plutarch.

[127] Strabo.

[128] Strabo.

[129] Strabo.

[130] Strabo.

[131] Pindar.

[132] Heraclides Ponticus.

[133] Plutarch.

[134] Josephus.

[135] Anacreon.

[136] Dionysius.

[137] Plutarch.

[138] Polybius.

[139] Josephus.

[140] Orpheus.

[141] Aristotle.

[142] 1 Cor. x. 2.

[143] Aristophanes.

[144] Plato.

[145] Josephus.

[146] Philo Judaeus.

[147] Chrysostom.

[148] Justin Martyr.

[149] Lucian.

[150] Heliodorus.

[151] Heliodorus.

[152] Isa. xxi. 4.

[153] Luke xii. 50.

[154] Heliodorus.

[155] 1 Cor. xv. 29.

[156] Mark x. 38.

[157] Plutarch.

[158] Plutarch.

[159] Chrysostom.

[160] Clemens Alexandrinus.

[161] Plutarch.

[162] Heliodorus.

[163] Justin Martyr.

[164] Diod. Siculus.

[165] Josephus.

[166] Josephus.

[167] Plutarch.

[168] Matt. iii. 11; Acts i. 5.

[169] 1 Cor. xii. 13.

[170] Job ix. 30,31.

[171] Rom. vi. 3,4.

[172] Col. ii. 12.

[173] 1 Peter iii. 21.

[174] Rom. x. 9.

[175] Col. ii. 20.

[176] Col. iii. 1-3.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology- Volume 2

A Treatise on Church Order: Baptism- Chapter 1- Section I- Perpetuity of Baptism





The commission of Christ to his apostles reads thus: “Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”[1] It is not expressly stated in these words that water must be used in the baptizing which is enjoined; but so common is the use of water, that a command to immerse, wash, or sprinkle, naturally implies the use of it, unless something in the circumstances of the case, or connection of the word, suggests the use of some other liquid. The word baptize is often used in Scripture where water is implied without being expressly mentioned. The apostles had been accustomed to the administration of water baptism. They had been chosen to be Christ’s attendants and witnesses, from the baptism of John;[2] and, in all probability, many of them saw their Master baptized in the Jordan. They had witnessed John’s baptism in other cases; and some, if not all of them, had been baptized by him. After Jesus entered on his ministry, it was said that he “made and baptized more disciples than John.”[3] Water baptism must be intended here; and we are expressly informed that the disciples, and not Jesus himself, administered it. This they did while they were under the immediate direction of their Master, and were his personal attendants. His ministry, and their baptisms, were confined to the nation of Israel. The commission quoted above enlarged the field of their operation. The presence of their Master was promised, though his body was about to be removed from them; and the command to teach or make disciples, and to baptize, would naturally be interpreted by them according to the use of terms to which they had been accustomed. In their subsequent ministry, they preached and baptized; and the record, called the Acts of the Apostles, contains frequent mention of baptisms. In these, no reasonable doubt can exist that water was used: and sometimes it is expressly mentioned.

The commission was given, just before Christ ascended to heaven, and was designed for the dispensation which was to follow. The apostles, before proceeding to execute it, were commanded to tarry in Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high. This promised power was given when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them on the day of Pentecost. It is clear, therefore, that, in the view of the Lord Jesus, water baptism was not inconsistent with the spiritual dispensation which the day of Pentecost introduced.

Besides its literal use, the word baptize is sometimes employed figuratively, when spiritual influence, or overwhelming sufferings, are intended. In such instances there is always something in the context, or circumstances of the case, directing to the proper interpretation. When there is nothing that directs to a figurative interpretation, we are required, by a well known law of criticism, to take the word in its literal sense. According to this law, we are bound to interpret literally the language of plain command used in the commission; and, if “baptizing” must be taken literally, no doubt can exist that the use of water was intended in the command.

Since the ascension of Christ, no change of dispensation has occurred by which the commission could be revoked. The promise which it contains, of Christ’s presence until the end of the world, implies its perpetuity. Under this commission the ministers of Christ now act, and by it they are bound, according to the manifest intention of his words, to administer water baptism.

In different ages of Christianity some persons have denied the obligation of water baptism. The modern sect, called Quakers, are of this number. The objections which they urge deserve our attention.

Objection 1.–The proper rendering of the commission, is, “baptizing into the name of,” &c. The name of God signifies his power, or some influence proceeding from him. The baptism into spiritual influence cannot be water baptism.

We admit the correction of the translation, but not the inference drawn from it. The same Greek preposition is used in other passages which forbid the inference now drawn. John said, “I baptize you unto [into] repentance.” Repentance is a spiritual duty: but baptism into repentance is not, therefore, a spiritual baptism; for the words of John fully quoted, are: “I baptize you with water into repentance.” In another passage it is said, “John preached the baptism of repentance for [into] the remission of sins:” and Peter, on the day of Pentecost, commanded, “Repent and be baptized for [into] the remission of sins.” The remission of sins is a spiritual blessing, but it does not follow that baptism into the remission of sins must be a spiritual baptism. John’s we know was water baptism; and when those who received Peter’s command are said to have been baptized, the sacred historian employs the simple language of plain history: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.[4] These examples prove that the use of the preposition into, is not inconsistent with the literal interpretation of the commission.

Objection 2.–The baptism of John is, in the Scriptures, carefully distinguished from the baptism of Christ; the former being with water, the latter with the Spirit. The apostles were to act for Christ, and the commission authorized them to administer his baptism. Parallel texts may be found, in which the apostles are said to impart spiritual gifts.

Although John had predicted, that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit; yet the disciples made by Christ during his personal ministry, were baptized with water. This was administered by his disciples, and doubtless with his sanction. The careful mention by the evangelist that Jesus did not himself baptize, shows that baptism with the Holy Spirit is not in this case intended. John’s words, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost,” describe spiritual baptism as Christ’s peculiar personal work, and we do not find any passage of Scripture which speaks of the apostles, or any other ministers of Christ, baptizing with the Holy Spirit. Such baptism as they had been accustomed to administer, in the presence and by the authority of Christ, the commission required them to administer.

It is true that Paul was sent to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; but these things are mentioned as the effects of his mission, and not as things directly commanded. The duty commanded, was to preach the gospel. The blessing of God on his ministry rendered his mission effectual to open the eyes of the Gentiles, and to confer the spiritual benefits mentioned in the special commission which he received. But the baptizing mentioned in the commission given to the other apostles, is a commanded duty, and the command must be understood according to the literal import of the words.

Objection 3.–Paul teaches that there is one baptism. Now, there is a baptism of the Spirit; and if water baptism is a perpetual ordinance of Christianity, there are two baptisms, instead of one.

Paul says, “One Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” As he uses the words Lord and faith in their literal senses, so he uses the word baptism in its literal sense. In this sense there is but one baptism. John the Baptist foretold that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit: and Jesus said to his disciples,” Ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” Both these baptisms were known to Paul. These figurative baptisms were two in number; while the literal baptism was but one. He must, therefore, have intended the latter.

Objection 4.–Peter has defined the true Christian baptism, both negatively and positively. It is (“not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.[5] The first clause denies that it is water baptism; and the second affirms that it is spiritual baptism. This is confirmed by the fact that it is said to save, which water baptism cannot do. Moreover, the words “the like figure,” should be rendered the antitype. When spiritual things are compared to literal, the literal are the type, and the spiritual the antitype. Hence, as baptism is called the antitype, spiritual baptism must be intended.

Water baptism, as a Christian rite, is not administered to cleanse the flesh, either literally or ceremonially. It figuratively represents the burial and resurrection of Christ, on which the believer relies for salvation. The answer of a good conscience is obtained by faith in the finished work of Christ, represented in the rite. In the language of Scripture, a thing is said to be that which it represents: thus, “The field is the world.” “This is my body.” “This cup is the new testament.” So Paul was said to wash away his sins in baptism, because it represented their being washed away: and so in this passage, baptism is said to save, because it represents our salvation, which is effected by the burial and resurrection of Christ; not by the removing of any corporeal defilement.

The criticism on the word antitype is inaccurate. The antitype is that which corresponds to the type; but it is not necessarily spiritual. The earthly sanctuary is, in one place, called the antitype of the heavenly, “which are the figures [antitypes] of the true. [6] In this passage “the holy places made with hands” are the antitype; and heaven is the type to which the antitype corresponds. This relation between the type and antitype, reverses the order which the objection assumes to be universal.

Objection 5.–The Jews had divers baptisms, which Paul calls “carnal ordinances imposed on them till the time of reformation.[7] An ordinance is not rendered carnal by the time when it is observed; but by its own nature. The Jewish baptisms were commanded by God, and were significant of spiritual things. Water baptism cannot have higher authority, or be more significant; and is, therefore, a carnal ordinance in its own nature, and not suited to Christ’s spiritual dispensation. It belonged properly to John’s dispensation, and was designed to be superseded by Christ’s spiritual baptism, according to the words of John, “He must increase, but I must decrease.[8]

In speaking of the Jewish ceremonies, Paul says, “Which stood in meats and drinks, and divers baptisms, and carnal ordinances.” This passage does not confound baptisms, with carnal ordinances, but seems rather to distinguish between them. Nevertheless, as the Jewish baptisms sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, there may be a propriety in denominating them carnal. Christian baptism is not administered for this purpose; and, therefore, is not carnal in the same sense. But, whatever it may be called, if Christ instituted it for the observance of his followers, we dare not account it unsuitable to his dispensation. The Jewish dispensation abounded with ceremonies; but amidst them all, a spiritual service was required; for even then the sacrifices of God were a broken spirit. The ceremonies were wisely adapted to promote spirituality, rather than to hinder it. Our more spiritual dispensation needs fewer helps of this kind: but we are yet in the body, and God has judged it fit to assist our faith by visible representations. To reject their use, is to be wiser than God.

Water baptism was not superseded by the baptism of the Spirit. While Peter was preaching to Cornelius, and those who were in his house, the Holy Ghost fell on them. The apostle did not consider this a reason for omitting water baptism; but, on the contrary, argued the propriety of administering it, from this very fact: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we?[9] Contrary to all his previous views, the Holy Spirit had guided the apostle to preach the gospel to these uncircumcised gentiles, and to admit them to Christian baptism. If this rite had been designed for Jews only, or to be superseded by the baptism of the Spirit, Peter committed a mistake in commanding these first Gentile converts to be baptized with water. It is true that he had been mistaken before, in confining his ministry to the circumcised; and it may be argued, that he may have been again mistaken in commanding water baptism to the uncircumcised. But the Holy Ghost was now correcting the first error, and it is wholly improbable that in doing this, he should have led him into a second. The propriety of admitting gentile converts had not been determined, as it afterwards was, by a council of the apostles; but Peter followed the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and the subsequent council justified his act. Now, if he had again mistaken the mind of the Spirit in commanding the use of water baptism, it is unaccountable, and inconsistent with the perfection of the Scriptures that neither he nor the council, in reviewing the transaction under the influence of the Holy Spirit, discovered the mistake; and that no correction, such as was made of the former error, is anywhere to be found in the inspired writings.

When John spoke the words, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” the Jews had said to him, “Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.” The baptism which they reported must have been water baptism, and so far as John’s words applied to it, they must denote that water baptism, instead of ceasing under Christ’s dispensation, would be greatly extended.

Objection 6.–Paul states in 1st. epistle to the Corinthians, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel;” and he thanked God that he had baptized so few of them. Now, as he was not a whit behind the chief of the apostles, water baptism would not have been omitted in his commission, if it had been designed to be a perpetual ordinance; and if it was as much his duty to baptize as to preach, he would not have thanked God that he had baptized so few. He would as soon have thanked God that he had preached so little. He baptized some, as he circumcised Timothy, accommodating himself to the weakness of men; but he was thankful that such acts of accommodation had been seldom needed. As he was the chief opponent of the prevailing judaizing tendency, he was thankful that, in the matter of baptizing, he had yielded to it in so few instances.

In this quotation from Paul, the word baptize stands alone, without the mention of water. The objection very properly assumes that water baptism is meant; but, in so doing, it confirms our rule, that the word baptize, when alone, implies the use of water. If the word, when standing alone in such a sentence, could mean the baptism of the Spirit, and if Paul and the other apostles had been commissioned to administer this baptism, he could not have declared with truth, “Christ sent me not to baptize.”

Paul claimed to be an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ. An apostle is one sent, and Paul was sent by Jesus, who said “to whom I now send thee.” He claimed to be an apostle in the highest sense, because he had received his commission directly from Christ: “Am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus Christ?[10] Now, in the commission which he received directly from Christ, he was not commanded, either to be baptized himself or to baptize others. He received the gospel which he preached without human instrumentality; but he did not so receive baptism. He submitted to it, at the command of Ananias, who was not himself one of those originally commissioned to administer it. In this act, Paul acknowledged the obligation to perpetuate the ordinance, and the right of Ananias to administer it by authority derived from the other apostles. At Antioch he was set apart with fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands, for ministerial labor; and, whether this was done with reference to the missionary service on which he immediately entered, or whether it was his first ceremonial investiture with the ministerial office, we learn, from what was done, that his direct commission from Christ, was not designed to set aside the Church order which had been previously established by the other apostles. Both in receiving his own baptism, and in being set apart to the work to which the Holy Ghost had called him, Paul acted as an ordinary Christian. His apostleship for preaching the gospel was directly from Christ, and not by man; but his baptism, and his authority to baptize, were received by man, and in a way which respected and honored the established order of things among the disciples of Christ. While he said with truth, “Christ sent me not to baptize,” it was nevertheless true, that the baptisms which he did administer were not unauthorized. He considered the administration of the ordinance not his proper apostolic work; and since the Corinthians had divided themselves into parties, claiming Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, for their leaders, he was thankful that so few of them could claim him as their leader on the ground of having received baptism from him.

Paul did not baptize out of mere accommodation to the weakness of others. Because of the Jews who were in that quarter, he circumcised Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess; but when the judaizers desired to have Titus also circumcised, who was a Greek, he steadfastly and successfully opposed them. As a minister of the uncircumcision, he watchfully and zealously defended the gentile converts in the enjoyment of liberty from the Jewish yoke of bondage. But not a word can be found in all that he said or wrote, claiming for them freedom from the obligation of Christian baptism. On the contrary, he uses considerations derived from their baptism, to urge them to walk in newness of life. The rule of interpretation, confirmed by the very objection which we are considering, requires us to understand literal baptism to be meant, when it is said, “So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death;”[11] and again, when it is said, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.[12] A public profession of Christ was, in the view of Paul, the design of this ceremony, involving an acknowledged obligation to be his, and to walk in newness of life. All that Paul taught, like his own example, tends to establish the perpetuity of Christian baptism.

[1] Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.

[2] 2 Acts i. 22. 3.

[3] John iv. 1.

[4] Acts ii. 41.

[5] 1 Peter iii. 21.

[6] Heb. ix. 24.

[7] Heb. ix. 10.

[8] John iii. 30.

[9] Ps. li. 17.

[10] 1 Cor. ix. 1.

[11] Rom. vi. 3.

[12] Gal. iii. 27.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology- Volume 2

An Appendix To A Confession Of Faith- Appendix Point 18

18. As the preaching of the Gospel, both for the conversion of sinners, and the edifying of those that are converted; so also the right use of baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, ought to be till the end of the world, Matt. 28:19,20; I Cor. 11:26.

Benjamin Cox- An Appendix To A Confession Of Faith

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An Appendix To A Confession Of Faith- Appendix Point 16

16. Although a true believer, whether baptized, or unbaptized, be in the state of salvation, and shall certainly be saved: yet in obedience to the Command of Christ every believer ought to desire Baptism, and to yield himself to be baptized according to the rule of Christ in His Word: And where this obedience is in faith performed, there Christ makes this His Ordinance a means of unspeakable benefit to the believing soul, Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; I Pet. 3:21. And a true believer that here sees the command of Christ lying upon him, cannot allow himself in disobedience thereunto, Acts 24:16.

Benjamin Cox- An Appendix To A Confession Of Faith