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structures everywhere in ancient Christendom clearly attests the common practice of immersion in the ancient church.
MOSAICS AND FRESCOES. Several of these are supposed to represent the act of baptism; and of these some examples are cited as showing that the ancient form was not immersion. Thus, in the cupola of the baptistery at Ravenna, there is a mosaic representing Christ standing up to the waist in the Jordan, while John is pouring water upon his head from a cup. This mosaic, however, is confessedly, in part, not original, but a restoration by a recent hand, and notably this is true of the head of Christ and of the right arm of the Baptist; the representation, therefore, reflects, probably, the ideas only of the modern restorer. A fresco is found in the catacomb of St. Calixtus, in which the nude figure of a youth stands on the margin of water, while another figure beside him is laying his hand on his head. But Father Garrucci, one of the highest authorities, in describing the original form of this, says: "The youth, entirely naked, is entirely immersed in a cloud of water;" and all archæologists, as De Rossi and Martigny, affirm that it is an allegorical painting representing an immersion. Other of these pictorial representations, however, plainly depict immersion. In the catacomb of St. Pontianus, at Rome, a picture of Christ's baptism is found, which Bottari thus describes : “Upon the wall over the arch the Redeemer is represented as up to his waist in the water, and upon his head rests the right hand of John the Baptist, who is standing upon the shore. It is by mistake that modern artists represent Christ in the Jordan up to the knees only, and John pouring water on his head.” In the church of San Celso, at Milan, an ancient church-book, ascribed to the fifth or sixth century, con
tains a picture of Christ's baptism, of which Bugati says: “The Redeemer is represented immersed in the water, according to the ancient discipline of the church, observed for many centuries in the administration of baptism."*
Ancient mosaics and frescoes, however, are uncertain testimony, because, while even their original date is in dispute, most of them, in their present form, are confessedly restorations, into which the restorer has introduced later ideas, and because, as is now generally agreed, they were intended, not as literal, but as allegorical, representations of the subject. That they did not in their ancient form represent baptism as sprinkling or pouring is evident from the following considerations: 1. The literature and monuments of the early Christian ages testify, with absolute unanimity, to immersion as the common form of the rite, and contemporary art cannot be conceived as contradicting their testimony. 2. These representations are found, for the most part, in baptisteries, the only use of which was for immersion; it would be absurd, therefore, to suppose pictorial representations of the rite in such places at utter variance with the purpose and use of them. 3. There is absolutely no high archæological authority for an interpretation of any of these pictorial representations of baptism otherwise than of an immersion; and all recent investigation, as conducted by those who devote their lives to Christian archæology, tends to show that Christian art, in the ancient period, was in full harmony with Christian literature, invariably testifying to immersion as the primitive baptism.
An interpretation of these pictures, however, has recently been given which may be worthy of consideration. The late Wharton B. Marriott, of Oxford, in his
* See full quotations in Burrage's Act of Baptism.
article on baptism in Smith's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, affirms that, in the later Patristic age, both immersion and pouring were connected with the baptismal service; the former was the proper act of baptism, representing the burial and the resurrection with Christ; the latter, which followed the immersion, was the symbol of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the baptized person as he rose from the water. He adds: “This hypothesis of a double use explains some difficulties in ancient authors, more particularly in the treatise De Sacramentis, attributed to St. Ambrose, and in the Egyptian ritual. And its probability is confirmed by the fact that in the Armenian order of baptism, even to this day, the double usage of immersion and affusion is maintained. There the actual administration is described as follows: The priest asks the child's name, and on hearing it lets the child down into the water, saying, 'This, N., servant of God, who is come from the state of childhood (or from the state of a catechumen) to baptism, is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'... While saying this the priest buries the child (or catechumen) three times in the water, as a figure of Christ's three days' burial. Then, taking the child out of the water, he thrice pours a handful of water on its head, saying, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, hallelujah. As many of you as have been enlightened by the Father, the Holy Spirit is put into you, hallelujah.'” The usage of the Greek Church con
ms to this, except that this second act occurs seven days after the immersion. The Greek ritual reads: “ After seven days the child is again brought to the church for the ablution. After three short prayers the priest loosens the child's girdle and raiment, and, uniting the end of them, wets them with clean water and sprin
kles the child, saying, 'Thou hast been justified, thou hast been enlightened, thou hast been sanctified, thou hast been washed, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, now and ever, world without end, Amen.'" This view of a double use—immersion as the proper act of baptism, and affusion as the subsequent act, symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit on the baptized—is adopted also by Mr. Alexander Nesbitt, in his article on Baptisteries, in the volume above quoted, who, in accounting for the size of baptisteries, says: “As, during the earlier centuries, immersion, either alone or accompanied by aspersion, and not merely sprinkling, was deemed to be the proper mode of administering the rite, a large receptacle for water was required.”
According to this interpretation, the pouring ceremony depicted in some of these mosaics and frescoes is not the act of baptism, but an act which followed baptism as a symbol of the outpouring of the Spirit on him who had emerged from the baptismal waters. The latter act, doubtless, often assumed an importance higher even than baptism, and thus found occasional representation in art; and in the eager quest for evidence in favor of sprinkling as baptism, the true purport of these pictorial representations has been misapprehended.
THE CATACOMBS. These vast receptacles of the Christian dead, which extend under much of ancient Rome, had many representations, in sculpture, mosaic, bas-relief, and fresco, illustrating the ideas and customs of the early church. Many have devoted their lives to the investigation of what remains of these. “Bosio spent thirty years, Boldetti and Marangoni thirty years, Seroux d’Agincourt fifty years, and, in the present century, Garrucci and the brothers De Rossi have spent over thirty years in absorbing study of these enigmatic remains.” The work has many perplexities; for after the close of the fourth century, when burials ceased in the catacombs, a superstitious zeal arose for the discovery of the tombs of the martyrs, and for adorning them by restoring defaced pictures and adding a multitude of others. In the elaborate article on the Catacombs in Smith's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, by Rev. Edward Venables, of Lincoln cathedral, it is said: “The fatal zeal displayed by successive pontiffs in the restoration and decoration of these consecrated shrines is the cause of much perplexity to the investigator who desires to discover their original form and arrangements. Nothing but long experience and an intimate acquaintance with the character of the construction and ornamentation of different periods can enable us to distinguish with any accuracy between the genuine structure of the catacombs and the paintings with which they were originally adorned and the works of later times. Many of the conclusions drawn by Roman Catholic writers from the paintings and ritual arrangements of the catacombs as we now find them, and the evidence supposed to be furnished by them as to the primitive character of their dogmas and traditions, prove little worth when a more searching investigation shows their comparatively recent date." In respect to frescoes, he adds:* "It must always be borne in mind, in examining the frescoes of the catacombs, that we are in all probability looking at the work of the eighth, or even a later, century, which only partially reproduces the original painting, and that any arguments founded on such uncertain data must be precarious.” Rev. James Chrystal, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, who has devoted much time to the study of the catacombs in ex