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Question 78-Puritan Catechism

Spurgeon 1Q. How is baptism rightly administered?

A. Baptism is rightly administered by immersion, or dipping the whole body of the person in water, (Matthew 3:16; John 3:23) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, according to Christ’s institution, and the practice of the apostles, (Matthew 28:19,20) and not by sprinkling or pouring of water, or dipping some part of the body, after the tradition of men. (John 4:1,2; Acts 8:38,39)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

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A well known Paedo-baptist minister spoke concerning true baptism

September 27, 2013 5 comments

Robert_Lewis_Dabney[1]All parties are agreed, that baptism is the initiatory rite which gives membership in the visible Church of Christ. The great commission was: Go, and disciple all nations, baptizing them into the Trinity. Baptism recognizes and constitutes the outward discipleship. Least of all, can any Immersionist dispute this ground. Now, if all other forms of baptism than immersion are not only irregular, but null and void, all unimmersed persons are out of the visible Church. But if each and every member of a pedobaptist visible Church is thus unchurched: of course the whole body is unchurched. All pedobaptist societies, then, are guilty of an intrusive errors when they pretend to the character of a visible Church of Christ. Consequently, they can have no ministry; and this for several reasons. Surely no valid office can exist in an association whose claim to be an ecclesiastical commonwealth is utterly invalid. When the temple is non existent, there can be no actual pillars to that temple. How can an unauthorized herd of unbaptized persons, to whom Christ concedes no church authority, confer any valid office? Again: it is preposterous that a man should receive and hold office in a commonwealth where he himself has no citizenship; but this unimmersed pedobaptist minister so called, is no member of any visible Church. There are no real ministers in the world, except the Immersionist preachers.

The pretensions of all others, therefore, to act as ministers, and to administer the sacraments, are sinful intrusions. It is hard to see how any intelligent and conscientious Immersionist can do any act, which countenances or sanctions this profane intrusion. They should not allow any weak inclinations of fraternity and peace to sway their consciences in this point of high principle. They are bound, then, not only to practice close communion, but to refuse all ministerial recognition and communion to these intruders. The sacraments cannot go beyond the pale of the visible Church. Hence, the same stern denunciations ought to be hurled at the Lord’s Supper in pedobaptist societies, and at all their prayers and preachings in public, as at the iniquity of “baby sprinkling.” The enlightened Immersionist should treat all these societies, just as he does that ’Synagogue of Satan,’ the PapalChurch: there may be many good, misguided believers in them; but no church character, ministry, nor sacraments whatever.” Robert L. Dabney, A Systematic Theology, Chapter 41, “The Dogma unchurches all”

Robert L. Dabney was a famous and well known Pedobaptist Presbyterian minister in the 19th century.

There are many who are saved, despite the fact that they are in error concerning scriptural practices

September 20, 2013 1 comment

broadusChapter 9. Christian Union.

I have thus endeavored to show that the plain teaching of our English Bible, supported by the highest authorities as to Greek scholarship and by the testimony and practice of the living Greeks, cannot be set aside either by the authority of “the church,” the opinions of eminent individuals, or our own notions of convenience, nor yet by the attempts to establish a sacred, as quite different from the classical, sense of the term involved, nor by the strange and wild notions of a recent writer.

And now this protracted discussion shall close with a single remark, I have spoken long and earnestly of a controverted question – one of those which divide Christians. But I am a rejoicing believer in Christian Union. It is too common to speak of this as having no actual existence; to speak dolefully of our Lord’s prayer, “That they all may be one,” as not at all fulfilled. Certainly it is not completely fulfilled in the present state of things; but it is fulfilled as really, and in as high a degree, as the prayer which precedes it, “Sanctify them through thy truth.” Christ’s people are by no means completely sanctified; yet they are sanctified; and though not completely one, yet they are one. All who are truly his are one in him. Not only those belonging to what we call evangelical denominations, but many Romanists, for there are doubtless lovers of Christ among them, as there have been in past ages; and many of the Greek Church; and perhaps some Universalists and Unitarians; and Quakers, who reject all water baptism; and some who, from mistaken views, neglect to make any profession of faith, or as the phrase is, do not join any church; whoever and wherever they may be, though many of their opinions be erroneous and their practices wrong, yet if they are truly Christ’s people they are truly one in him.

Let nothing prevent us from clinging to this great fact and rejoicing in the thought of Christian unity. But assuredly it is desirable – eminently, unspeakably desirable – to have more of union, both in spirit and in organization. We who believe in the Bible ought to be standing together against the bold and arrogant infidelity which is coming in like a flood; we ought to be laboring together. Now such completer union, of spirit and of organization, is possible only on Scriptural grounds; only by taking the Bible as our sole authority, and the Bible as being a book for the people, in its plain meaning. All Christians, except the Quakers, make baptism a condition of church membership. And for the sake of a more complete and efficient Christian union, we urge upon our fellow Christians as the plain teaching of God’s word, that there is no baptism where there is not an immersion.

I close with the Apostle’s benediction, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Eph. 6:24).

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism

Some appeal to 1 Corinthians 10:1

August 30, 2013 1 comment

broadusChapter 7-4: Baptizo – Classical and Biblical.

But another class of persons endeavor to go deeper, not relying upon the opinions of others. They say, grant that the classical use of baptizo is as the lexicons mentioned teach, that it always means immerse, and kindred ideas; yet the Biblical use is very different, for in the Bible it certainly sometimes means sprinkle or pour. The attempt is made to show this from various passages; really, it seems that so many are tried because it is felt that none of them are exactly conclusive. I should be glad to go over all that have been thus appealed to, but time does not allow that, and I can only mention those which are most frequently relied on, or which seem most plausible.

(4) Another passage relied on by some is I Cor. 10:1: “That our fathers were all under the cloud, and all went through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” This, we are told, cannot be understood as an immersion. Certainly, not a literal immersion. What happened to them was only something like baptism; and it was certainly quite as much like immersion as it was like sprinkling or pouring, and most people would think a good deal more so. They left the shore, and going down into the bed of the sea, with the sea on either side and the cloud above, they were in a position somewhat resembling baptism. And as Christians publicly began to follow Christ by being baptized unto him, so it may be said that the Israelites began following Moses by being baptized unto him in the cloud and in the sea. Some persons actually tell us there was a sprinkling or pouring, because of the poetical expression in Psalms 77:17: “The clouds poured out water.” Do they really believe the Israelites were made to cross the Red Sea during a pouring rain and a terrific storm of thunder and lightning? The Psalmist alludes in verse sixteenth to the division of the Red Sea, but then pauses to speak of the general phenomena of storms. At least, so it is explained in the commentary of Addison Alexander, the learned Presbyterian Professor.

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism

The purification theory about baptism

August 16, 2013 2 comments

broadusChapter 7-2: Baptizo – Classical and Biblical.

But another class of persons endeavor to go deeper, not relying upon the opinions of others. They say, grant that the classical use of baptizo is as the lexicons mentioned teach, that it always means immerse, and kindred ideas; yet the Biblical use is very different, for in the Bible it certainly sometimes means sprinkle or pour. The attempt is made to show this from various passages; really, it seems that so many are tried because it is felt that none of them are exactly conclusive. I should be glad to go over all that have been thus appealed to, but time does not allow that, and I can only mention those which are most frequently relied on, or which seem most plausible.

2. There is the purification theory, put forward by Dr. Edward Beecher and others. In John 3:22-25, we are told that Jesus was baptizing (through his disciples); next, that John also was baptizing, for he was not yet cast into prison; and then it is added: “Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.” From this it is argued that the word baptize is synonymous with purify. Now baptizing was certainly a very striking form of purification. The fact that baptism was going on might very naturally lead to a discussion between some of John’s disciples and “a Jew” (the correct text) about the general subject of purification and the relation of this to other purifications. Being a peculiar, remarkable, and novel purification, it was perfectly natural that baptism should lead to discussion of the general subject. But why in the world are we to say that the terms baptism and purification are synonymous, that baptism means nothing more definite than purification, and that any form of purification might be called a baptism? Suppose a murder has occurred, and leads some persons into discussion concerning death, are we to conclude that the terms murder and death are synonymous and that any form of death may be called a murder? Yet because the occurrence of baptism led to a discussion concerning purification, we are told that these terms are synonymous and that any form of purification is a baptism. Now upon this assumption rests Dr. Beecher’s theory – a huge inverted pyramid resting upon a single point, and that point a mere assumption and one in itself unwarrantable and unreasonable.

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism

Reasons given against immersion

August 2, 2013 1 comment

broadusChapter 6. General Reasons Against Immersion.

Others, without going into an argument as to the teaching of Scripture, while neither admitting nor denying that it teaches what we claim, urge general reasons why they cannot believe that immersion is obligatory.

1. They will say, as before, that immersion is sometimes impracticable, and so it cannot be necessary to baptism. We answer, when baptism is impracticable it is not our duty; when it is practicable, let us practice it and not substitute something else.

2. But immersion is often really dangerous. What! a cold bath dangerous, taken promptly, when a person is sustained, too, by strong excitement, and its effects quickly removed? In a few cases of illness or extreme feebleness it might be dangerous, but then it is not our duty. There is, perhaps, nothing in this world which may not sometimes be dangerous.

3. Immersion is indecent. Will you allow a bit of personal experience? My boyhood was spent in one of the counties of Virginia, where Baptists were numerous. The country church to which the family belonged commonly repaired, for baptizing, to my father’s mill-pond, which was a very convenient and a very pretty place. I always went to witness it with eager interest. I was, of course, like other boys, not too good to have noticed and laughed at anything indelicate. But when I grew up and went to the university, and a Presbyterian student one day said that he thought immersion was indecent, the idea was to me utterly novel; it had never, in all my life, entered my head. Such a notion is a mere prejudice of education. If you think baptism indecent, I should beg pardon for saying you have not been “well raised” in this respect. In many circumstances of life there may be personal exposure through bad arrangements, or awkwardness, or accident; as in alighting from a horse or a carriage, in passing a muddy street-crossing, in descending the steps of a church. What does that prove except that, wherever there is danger of exposure, we must take care to avoid it? If, in any of these cases, or in baptizing, there is great awkwardness or bad management, we condemn the managers. If there is merely accidental exposure when a lady alights from her carriage or when a lady is baptized, well-bred people will only feel regret and sympathy. Besides, what about sea-bathing? The very persons who oftenest complain of immersion as indecent are among those who most delight in sea-bathing.

4. So many good people have believed in sprinkling, and felt that they were blessed in receiving, administering, or witnessing it. This is with some a favorite argument. But consider: Transubstantiation has, from early centuries, been believed in by multitudes of deeply devout people, including such men as Thomas Kempis and Pascal. They have felt that they were blessed in worshiping the host as the very body of Christ. So, also, as to the worship of the Virgin Mary; many who were deeply devout have found in it great delight. Good people are not infallible. And God may, and doubtless does, bless people in holding opinions and observing practices that are not in themselves according to his will. This must be so to some extent – else who would be blessed? David was greatly blessed of God, and David was a polygamist.

Now, if it is true, to some extent, that he blesses those who have principles and practices which he does not approve, we cannot tell how far it may be carried, and must leave that to God. But one thing follows inevitably : that we must not take the fact of God’s blessing a man, or an association of men, as proving that he approves all their doctrines and all their practices.

5. But sprinkling has not only been widely believed in and practiced by good people – it has been defended by many able and devout men, and after careful investigation. Very well, we may answer. You are a Methodist, or an Episcopalian; what do you think of the doctrine of Election, Reprobation, Limited Atonement? Yet you know that for ages these doctrines have been held and rejoiced in by many good Christians, and defended, after careful investigation, by some of the greatest intellects of the human race. Or you are a Calvinist; what do you think of the doctrine popularly called “falling from grace”? Yet you know that it is held and defended by not a few of the most zealous, fervent, and useful Christians on earth.

But, it may be said, this is not a parallel case; these are doctrines. That makes no difference as to our argument. If grave errors as to doctrine exist, and have long existed, among persons very devout and often richly blessed of God, the same must certainly be true as to the less important matter of ceremonies – something may be quite erroneous, though held and earnestly defended by some good and wise men.

But take the case of Church Government. You are a Presbyterian, and do not believe that Episcopacy is Scriptural or expedient; yet how many pious people believe in it and live under it with joy and with religious growth and usefulness; and how many great men defend it after careful investigation, for example, in the Church of England? Or you are an Episcopalian; how many Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Lutherans there are in America, Scotland, England, France, Switzerland, Germany who are neglecters and opposers of Episcopacy, yet are devout, learned, honest?

What is the conclusion from all this? Why, that we are compelled to think for ourselves. We may err, as so many have done; but we must not be content, without the most earnest efforts, to escape errors that our circumstances will allow. I repeat, there is not only a right of private judgment, there is a duty of private judgment. Every man shall give account of himself unto God. And how can we square it with our consciences if we do not personally strive, in all possible ways, to find the truth in all things? There is here but one alternative. Either we have no right to be sure that anything is true, or we are bound to assure ourselves by personal inquiry. Either universal skepticism, or private judgment. One or the other position is inevitable. To believe all that all have said is to believe nothing that any have said. We must then choose between them, and decide for ourselves according to the evidence and our best judgment.

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism

Sprinkling Examined

broadusChapter 4. The Defense of Sprinkling.

In the face of such facts as have been stated, on what ground do any Christian people defend the practice of sprinkling for baptism? Well, some of them have really never known the facts, or never stopped to think about them. But others, with the facts before them, still defend sprinkling. Respect for my fellow Christians requires that this matter be as carefully considered as the time will allow. Yet I can but briefly mention and rapidly discuss.

There are several distinct grounds which are relied on by different classes of persons.

I grant that New Testament baptism was immersion, some hold that “the church has authorized a change.”

Yes; clinic baptism – baptism of a sick person in bed – began, as early as the third century, to be allowed by some ecclesiastics, e.g., Novatian. They poured water copiously around the dying or very sick man as he lay in bed. This practice arose from exaggerated notions of the importance of baptism. We should say, if the man was too ill to be baptized, it was not his duty; but they were afraid to let a man die without baptism, and as real baptism was impracticable they proposed a substitute which, by copious pouring, would come as near it as possible. There were many disputes as to the lawfulness of this, but it came by degrees to be generally recognized as lawful.

As the centuries went on there was gradual progress. The more convenient substitute was preferred in other cases than illness, was further reduced to mere sprinkling, and became increasingly common. It was long with-stood by Popes and Councils, but grew in popularity through the Dark Ages, until, in the thirteenth century, one thousand years after clinic pouring began, the Pope finally yielded, and authorized sprinkling in all cases.

So the Reformers found it. And, unfortunately for our modern Christianity, they did not insist on a change. Luther repeatedly said a change ought to be made, e.g., “Baptism is a Greek word, and may be translated immersion, as when we immerse something in water that it may be wholly covered. And, although it is almost wholly abolished (for they do not dip the whole children, but only pour a little water on them), they ought, nevertheless, to be wholly immersed, …. for that the etymology of the word seems to demand.” Again, he says that baptism does not simply represent washing for sins, but “is rather a sign both of death and resurrection. Being moved by this reason, I would have those that are to be baptized to be altogether dipt into the water, as the word means, and the mystery signifies.” So elsewhere (see Ingham’s “Handbook of Baptism”, p.89).

In like manner Calvin. In commenting on the baptism of the eunuch by Philip (Acts 8:38), he says: “‘They descended into the water.’ Here we perceive what was the rite of baptizing among the ancients, for they immersed the whole body into the water; now the custom has become established that the minister only sprinkles the body or the head. But so slight a difference of ceremony ought not to be esteemed by us so important that on account of it we should split the church or disturb it with quarrels. For the ceremony of baptism itself, indeed, inasmuch as it was handed down to us by Christ, we should a hundred times rather fight even to death than suffer it to be taken away from us. But when in the symbol of the water we have a testimony as well of our ablution as of our new life; when in water, as in a mirror, Christ represents to us his blood, that from it we may seek our purification; when he teaches that we are fashioned anew by his Spirit, that, being dead to sin, we may live to righteousness – it is certain that we lack nothing which pertains to the substance of baptism. Wherefore, from the beginning, the church has freely permitted herself, outside of this substance, to have rites a little dissimilar.” (“Calvin on Acts”, viii, 38). The ancients, in the time of Philip and the eunuch, practiced immersion; a different custom has now become established, the church allowing herself liberty.

The leaders of the Reformation in England attempted a return – not, indeed, to the full New Testament plan, but that of the Fathers in the third century. The rubric of the Church of England has always been, from the Reformation till now, “shall dip the child in the water, …. but if they certify that the child is weak, it shall suffice to pour water upon it.” This is essentially the principle of the old clinic baptism. And this the Greek Church also tolerates as an exceptional practice.

But among the Reformers, on the Continent and in England, the custom of several centuries, with convenience, etc., triumphed over those attempts, and pouring – nay, even sprinkling – became the common practice.

In this sense, then, the church ” has changed the act of baptism. On this ground the Roman Catholics stand – the church has changed it – so they always meet the complaints and censures of the Greek Church. And intelligent Romanists see exactly how the matter stands among us who are called Protestants. Thus the famous Dr. Döllinger says: “The fact that the Baptists are so numerous, or even the most numerous of all religious parties in North America, deserves all attention. They would, indeed, be yet more numerous were not Baptism, as well as the Lord’s Supper, as to their sacramental significance, regarded in the Calvinistic world as something so subordinate that the inquiry after the original form appears to many as something indifferent, about which one need not much trouble himself. The Baptists are, however, in fact, from the Protestant standpoint, unassailable, since, for their demand for baptism by submersion, they have the clear Bible text, and the authority of the church and of her testimony is regarded by neither party.” (“Kirche und Kirchen,” s. 337.)

I may remark here, that on this subject the Baptists belong to the majority. It is often objected to us that we are an insignificant minority of the Christian world, and it is a point about which we are not greatly solicitous. But if anybody cares greatly for majorities in such a matter, let him observe that, in contending for immersion as necessary to the baptism taught in the New Testament, we have on our side the whole Greek Church, and the whole Roman Catholic Church, and a very large proportion of the Protestant world, particularly of the Protestant scholars.

To return. This is an intelligible position. New Testament baptism was immersion, but the church has changed it. Accordingly, in the Church of England, few scholars ever, for a moment, question that baptizo means immerse or that the New Testament baptism was immersion.

The church has changed it. Very satisfactory for a Romanist, but how can a Protestant rest on this? Chillingworth, the Church of England scholar, left a dictum which has grown famous: “The Bible, I say – the Bible only – is the religion of Protestants.” Was this all a mistake?

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism