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are words and circumstances seized by some adult babes or babe adults, and dwelt on with a zeal and perseverance worthy of a martyr; but in this case they only prove how strong in prejudice and how weak in reason, some men of high pretensions may be, when they have unfortunately identified their fortune and their fame with the maintenance of a tenet for which there is neither reason nor faith.
Such, for example, is the frequent appeal to the case of Paul's baptism, as reported by Luke, Acts xxii. 16: “Arise and be baptized;” and again, chap. ix. 18: “He arose and was baptized.”— Now, say they, as Paul was baptized standing, he must have been sprinkled, and not immersed. But does it say he was baptized standing!-! No, indeed; but “Arise and be baptized.” What is this but the usual style—“Arise, let us go hence”? Could he not have been sprinkled sitting, or on his knees, as well as standing up! In the same chapter, 10th verse, the Lord said to Saul, “Arise and go into Damascus.” Why not infer that rising and going into Damascus are one and the same thing, or inseparably connected, as that rising up and being baptized are one and the same act, because connected together' in the same message or precept. When candidates present themselves for baptism, we are all wont to say, “Arise, let us go to the water," &c. This, then, if there be any argument in it, is doubtless in favor of immersion. For Ananias would rather have called for water to be brought, than to have come manded Paul to rise up and be baptized, if he intended sprinkling or pouring. In truth, this is an idiomatic expression, common to the East and the West. On a thousand occasions we all say, “Rise and let us go to work”—“Arise and act like men"—not meaning that we are about to engage in something that must be done in a standing position; but that we must change our position in reference to some object, whether mental or eorporeal.
Next to the passage in Mark, there is one in Ezekiel that has been quoted a thousand times by a few writers and speakers on the subject of "sprinkling water” on infants and adults. It is chapter xxxvi. and verse 25: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” This promise alludes to the separation of the Jews, through faith in Christ, from Pagan idols and from P: gan nations, to be fulfilled in their conversion. So the context indicates. The words preceding are: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you,"
&c. &c. One would think from the frequency and emphasis with which these words are quoted by a certain class of ultra sprinklers, that Ezekiel was foretelling and developing the ordinance of Chris. tian baptism as practised by some modern communities. But a more irrational play upon a word from grave men, or from those who ought to be grave men, is not, in my opinion, to be found in modern literature.
Let no one be startled by the boldness I assume when I challenge the whole world of sprinklers to show that water alone was, by divine authority, ever sprinkled upon person, place, or thing, in any religious, moral, political, or physical sense whatever. I deny that ever water alone was sprinkled on any person or thing by divine authority for any sort of purification, legal or evangelical, under any dispensation of religion, Patriarchal, Jewish, or Christian. It is an assumption superlatively gratuitous and unprecedented.
Blood, and oil, and water mixed with the ashes of a blood-red heifer, have been sprinkled for legal and ceremonial purposes. Blood alone, oil alone; but never water alone, was divinely ordained for any such use. The water of cleansing, or the water of purification, sometimes called “the water of separation,” was, indeed, in certain cases of legal uncleanness divinely appointed. Hence a prescription for the manufacture of it is delivered by Moses, en. grossing the 19th chapter of the book of Numbers. Yet even this “clean water,” or “water of cleansing," to which Ezekiel alludes, when sprinkled upon a person pronounced legally unclean, did not, without baptism, or a "bathing himself in water,” effect any legal purification. So ignorant are they of the Law and the Prophets, who substitute the Roman Catholic notion of "holy water” and a hair sprinkler, for either Jewish or Christian cleansing of person, place, or thing. Bathing the whole person after this sprinkling of water and ashes, was in every case essential to any legal benefit.
This abuse of reason, of authority, and of holy scriptures, needs only to be clearly propounded to any one that reveres Bible authority, to appear, as it is in truth, a superstitious and unwarranted custom. But to quote a Jewish Prophet, of the times of the Captivity, addressing his countrymen on the subject of their restoration to their own land; as though he had been teaching Christian ordinances with respect to admission into the church, has no parallel in sophistry on this side the assumptions of Roman Catholic manu. facturers of "holy water,” to be dashed on every one that comes within the sweep of a hyssop or hair sprinkler in the hand of a Priest, neither of the tribe nor sense of a son of Levi.
I trust the candid reader will excuse me for adverting to customs so unfounded in Christianity, and so revolting to an educated and intelligent community. I find my own justification, and I hope my readers will find my pardon in the fact that some ministers of our own day have been dubbed Doctors of Divinity for no other or better reason, that I can see, than their quoting, with an air of glorious triumph on their brow, Ezekiel xxvi. 25, in proof of their own dear custom of baptizing the tip of their fingers in a bason of water, that they may sprinkle a few drops of it on the brow of a babe, in the name of the Lord, to sanctify and cleanse it for some end or purpose which no one can define, much less defend.
I must conclude this essay on punctilios, consecrated by great names, with an extract from Dr. Wall, the most learned and candid of Pedobaptist Episcopalian Ministers. The advocates of sprinkling will hear their brother Pedobaptist with more pleasure than myself. I will, therefore, courteously dismiss the topic with a few words from Dr. Wall. He says:
“That our climate is no colder than it was for those thirteen or fourteen hundred years from the beginning of Christianity here, to Queen Elizabeth's time: and not near so cold as Muscovy and some other countries, where they do still dip their children in baptism, and find no inconvenience in it.
“That the apparent reason that altered the custom, was not the coldness of the climate, but the imitation of Calvin, and the church of Geneva, and some others thereabouts.
“That our reformers and compilers of the liturgy (even of the last edition of it) were of another mind. As appears both by the express order of the rubric itself, and by the prayer used just before baptism, 'Sanctify this water,' &c. 'and grant that this child to be baptized therein,' &c.; (if they had meant that pouring should have always, or most ordinarily, have been used, they would have said therewith;) and by the definition given in the Catechism of the outward visible sign in baptism; "Water, wherein the person is baptized.' I know that in one edition it was said, 'is dipped or sprinkled with it.' I know not the history of that edition; but as it is a late one, so it was not thought fit to be continued. The old edition had the prayer beforesaid in these words, 'baptized in this water.'
“That if it be the coldness of the air that is feared, a child, brought in loose blankets, that may be presently put off and on, need be no longer naked, or very little longer, than at its ordinary dressing and undressing—not a quarter or sixth part of a minute.
"If the coldness of the water, there is no reason, from the nature
: of the thing—no order or command of God or man, that it should
be used cold; but as the waters in which our Saviour and the primitive Christians in those hot countries which the scripture mentions, were baptized, were naturally warm by reason of the climate: so if ours be made warm, they will be the liker to them. As the inward and main part of baptism is God's washing and sanctifying the soul, so the outward symbol is the washing of the body, which is as naturally done by warm water as cold. It may, I suppose, be used in such a degree of warmth as the parents desire.
“As to those of the clergy who are satisfied themselves, and do in their own minds and opinions approve of the directions of the liturgy, and would willingly bring their people to the use of it, it is too apparent what difficulties lie in the way. So that this quarreller has no guound in his assuming way to demand, 'Why they do continue,' &c.
“The difficulty of breaking any custom which has got possession among the body of the people, (though that custom be but two or three generations,) is known and obvious. And there being a necessity of leaving it to the parents' judgment whether their child may well endure dipping or not, they are very apt to think or say not; and there is no help for it. For none, I think, will pretend that the minister should determine that, and dip the child whether they will or not. He can but give his opinion—the judgment must be theirs; and they are for doing as has been of late usual.
“But there are, beside this general, two particular obstacles, which it may be fit to mention:
“1st. One is from that part of the people in any parish who are presbyterianly inclined. As the Puritan party brought in this alteration, so they are very tenacious of it; and as in other church matters, so in this particularly, they seem to have a settled antipathy against the retrieving of the ancient customs. Calvin was, I think, (as I said in my book,) the first in the world that drew up a form of liturgy that prescribed pouring water on the infa it, absolutely, without saying any thing of dipping. It was (as Mr. Walker has shown) his admirers in England, who in Queen Elizabeth's time brought pouring into ordinary use, which before was used only to weak children. But the succeeding Presbyterians in England, about the year 1644, (when their reign began,) went farther yet from the ancient way, and instead of pouring, brought into use in many places sprinkling, declaring at the same time against all use of fonts, baptisteries, godfathers, or any thing that looked like the ancient way of baptizing. And as they brought the use of the other sacrament to a great and shameful infrequency, (which it is found difficult to this day to reform,) so they brought this of baptism into a great disregard. Now I say, a minister in a parish, where there are any considerable number inclined to this way, will find in them a great aversion to this order of the rubric. They are hardly prevailed on to leave off that scandalous custom of having their children, though never so well, baptized out of a bason or porringer in a bedchamber, hardly persuaded to bring them to church; much farther from having them dipped, though never so able to endure it.
“2d. Another struggle will be with the midwives and nurses, &c. These will use all the interest they have with the mothers, (which is very great,) to dissuade them from agreeing to the dipping of the child. I know no particular reason, unless it be this.
A thing which they value themselves and their skill much upon, is, the neat dressing of the child on the christening day; the setting all the trimming, the pins, and the laces in their right order. And if the child be brought in loose clothes, which may presently be taken off for the baptism, and put on again; this pride is lost. And this makes a reason. So little is the solemnity of the sacrament regarded by many, who mind nothing but the dress, and the eating and drinking. But the minister must endeavor to prevail with some of his people who have the most regard for religion, and possibly their example may bring in the rest.”
We will also hear Dr. Wall reprove his brethren for their quibbles about sprinkling:-"This [immersion] is so plain and clear by an infinite number of passages, that as one cannot but pity the weak endeavors of such Pedobaptists as would maintain the negative of it, so we ought to disown and show a dislike of the profane scoff's which some people give to the English Antipedobaptists [Baptists] merely for the use of dipping; when it was, in all probability, the way by which our blessed Saviour, and, for certain, was the most usual and ordinary way by which the ancient Christians did receive their baptism. 'Tis a great want of prudence, as well as of honesty, to refuse to grant to an adversary what is certainly true, and may be proved so. It creates a jeasousy of all the rest that one says. The custom of the Christians in the near succeeding times [to the Apostles] being more largely and particularly delivered in books, is known to have been generally or ordinarily a total immersion." He might have said always, rather than "ordinarily.”
This Tract will in the volume come in after Tract No. VIII. on Baptism. It will be No. IX. I have one or two more in re. sponse to certain objections, which will be necessary to a full treatise on the subject.