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most distinguished of the Presbyterian clergy, and published in what may be styled the official organ of the "New School" section of the Presbyterian church, it may, I presume, be regarded as the voice of the party-their creed on this point; containing in the main, their sentiments upon baptism.
Now let us examine Mr. Beecher's views, and see if they come up to that standard which all true Christians acknowledge-the New Testament;-let us see if his doctrine is the doctrine of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
After a few preliminary remarks touching truth, error, and the importance of Christian union, in which we heartily concur, the author commences by a "statement of the case and of principles of investigation."
"The case is this," says he, "Christ has enjoined the performance of a duty in the command to baptize. What is the duty enjoined? or, in other words, what does the word baptize, in which the command is given, mean? One of two things must be true; 1. Either it is in its meaning generic, denoting merely the production of an effect, (as purity,) so that the command may be fulfilled in many ways; or it is so specific, denoting an external act, that it can be fulfilled in but one." *** "If the command is purify, or cleanse, we are not limited by the command to any one mode;' but if the command is specific, as immerse, then we are limited by the range of that word, and cannot fulfil the command by sprinkling or pouring."-In_the same section of the article from which the above quotations are taken, the author very correctly declares that "the word baptizo may in the whole circuit of its use mean sometimes one thing and sometimes another;" and further, that "however numerous the possible meanings of a word may be in its various usages, it has in each particular case but one meaning, and in all similar cases its meaning is the same. Hence the word baptizo, as applied to a given rite, has not two or many meanings, but one; and to that one we should adhere."
Again, "Whichever way we decide as it regards the import of the word, we ought to be uniform in its use as applied to the rite of baptism.'
Now we humbly conceive that the learned author has here fallen into a metaphysical quandary.
What is to be understood by a generic word? The answer can be readily given;-A word which stands as a genus, under which there may be embraced a multitude of species and varieties. The term generie has reference to classification; and applying it to the natural world, we say, for example, that man is a species of animal belonging to a certain genus, and that this species has many varieties. Now we ask the question, How can language be uniform and definite when the words making up that language are generic? Or again, How can a generic word be made definite and uniform in its meaning?
The author has evidently committed a most glaring fallacy. We cannot attach a uniform definition to any other words than those having a specific meaning. We may agree upon a uniform definition of a generic word; but this will be arbitrary, and our agreement or decision can easily be reversed by the conventional edict of a different set of arbitrators.
But the writer shows his own inconsistency. On the same page (p. 42) he remarks, "If we adopt a generic meaning, denoting an effect, we are not limited by the command to any specific mode of fulfilling it, and we are at liberty to vary the mode according to circumstances."
But there is another glaring error here in the writer's "statement and principles of investigation.' He has conceded in the course of his paper that baptizo means to immerse that it has a specific meaningand the observation just quoted resolves itself into this:-"The Saviour said go and immerse; but if we choose to transfer this specific word immerse into one that is generic, and give it a generic sense, we may do so without either violating the laws of language, the rules of interpretation, or the Saviour's command."
In the third section of this article (p. 46) four views are presented with regard to baptism-the views of the several authors on the subject, from the period of the translation of the Bible, in the days of king James, down to President Beecher. Not one of these views does he adopt, but chooses to stand as the projector of something new.
"None of these positions is in my judgment adapted to explain all the facts which occur in the use of the word, to give satisfaction and rest to an inquiring mind.
"Any view which shall effectually do this will be found to have the following requisites.
"(1.) That it shall be strictly philological.
(2) That out of all the possible meanings of baptizo, it shall fix on one as the real meaning in the case in question. "(3.) That it shall at all times adhere to this.
That this shall limit the performance of the rite to no particu
Is it not strange that the President of a College, a gentleman who professes to be acquainted with the laws of the human mind, should make such wild assertions? Surely, sir, you are the searcher of all hearts; you are omniscient, else why could you declare that a satisfactory view of this subject, one which shall afford "rest to an inquiring mind," will be found to have certain requisites, among which is one which "limits the performance of the rite of baptism to no particular mode."
It is sufficient to say that thousands of talented classical men cannot find "satisfaction" or "rest" in this your fourth requisite.
Let us take up the several "requisites" here laid down, and examine them separately and conjointly.
And, 1st. It is stated with probable truth, that this satisfactory view shall be "strictly philological."
Any philology which will come in contact with the established etymology of any language, must be inadmissible. This will hold good particularly in the Greek and Latin languages, inasmuch as they may be regarded more perfect than any single modern language.
Again, any philology which shall be consistent with the facts recorded in the New Testament on the subject of this ordinance, must fall to the ground. Philology is human authority; the New Testament is Heaven's authority. Philology is ever wavering and uncer tain; New Testament facts are settled and indisputable. A Locke 14*
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has flourished and declined. A Stewart has arisen and shone resplendent in the bright galaxy of Scottish philosophers; but his glory has faded away, and now all homage is rendered to the gigantic mind of a Brown.
Was it thus with Christ and his disciples? Was it thus with the inspired Apostles? Was the brightness of the Saviour a mere meteor in the firmament? Did his disciples or did his Apostles establish any new theory, or did they conform to the religion of their Master? Ă child may answer the queries.
The second requisite of the writer is one to which we yield our hearty assent "that out of all the possible meanings of baptizo, it shall fix on one as the real meaning in the case in question."
We understand by this that a definite and intelligible definition is to be attached to this Greek word-one which shall be free from all ambiguity, otherwise it could not afford "satisfaction and rest to an inquiring mind.”
With the third requisite we are equally well pleased, viz.—“that it shall at all times steadily adhere to this."
Upon the fourth "requisite" we have already made a remark or two; but shall make an additional observation.
This requisite limits the performance of the rite to no particular mode." We ask any man of common capacity if this is not incompatible with the requisite, which insists upon attaching a real and satisfactory meaning to the Greek word baptizo? It is certainly any thing but real, satisfactory, or definite, to talk of no particular mode of baptism.
We have now arrived at the writer's position in full, which he attempts to prove, viz.-"that the word baptizo means neither to dip, sprinkle, immerse, or pour-or any other external action in applying a fluid to the body or the body to a fluid-or any action which is limited to one mode of performance. But that as a religious term, it means at all times to purify or cleanse," without any reference to mode, agent, means, or object, and is a perfect synonyme of the word katharizo.
We think it requires but little strength of mind to refute this very distorted view of the subject.
Let us submit it to examination; first, in the writer's own crucible; and secondly by the tests of holy writ.
And, first, we would ask, Is it "philological"? What kind of phi- lology-what system of philosophy or logic-what common sense would contend for the "performance of a rite' without specifying (if not a mode and means) the agent and the object? What is a rite?* Again, how would it answer to adhere steadily to this view? How could it be adhered to? It has no substance. This will be further illustrated in submitting the view to a higher tribunal than human philology.
A rite is the performance of a certain action or actions, (implying, of course, agent, means, mode, and object,) intended to typify something spiritual or divine It is a physi cal form, designed to express-to portray, in the Christian church, something which has been enacted by the Saviour. Thus as the Saviour when he took bread, blessed and brake and gave to his disciples, and said, "This is my body;" and so of the cup, "This is my blood," portrayed his death &c.-so we think when it was, by strong implication, (according to our view.) commanded the diiciples, 'Bury disciples in water, and raise them again out of water,' the Saviour meant to portray his burial and resurrection.
The Saviour said to his disciples, "Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Here the agents to baptize were the disciples; and the objects to be baptized, all nations; or (if we may express an opinion) men of all nations.
"After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea, and there he tarried with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Enon, near to Salem, because there was much water there; and they came and were baptized."
Here the agent was John, the means water, and the objects baptized the people who came to him.
In the baptism of the Saviour himself, it is plain to see that John was the agent, the water of Jordan the means, and our blessed Saviour the object baptized.
Dismissing for a moment the question as to the mode of baptism, let us examine President Beecher's view in reference to the agent, means, and object, a little further, and see if he has not cast contempt upon this holy ordinance.
He would have us believe, then, that the agent, means, and object of baptism are not very essential matters. For the sake of argument we will accede to the theory, that, "as a religious term, baptizo means at all times to purify or cleanse;" but we cannot say with the writer, although these words (purify and cleanse) are generic, that they, in a religious sense, are "so general as not to be confined to any mode, or agent, or means, or object." What! is it possible that the holy ordinance of purification, the institution of the Saviour, shall be so prostituted as to be performed by any agent, by any means, upon any object? The very rite itself, purification, forbids any such idea. It is impossible that it should be invariably performed by any object whatHow supremely ridiculous—yes, how blasphemous it is to talk of spiritual purification by impure hands! No, the Saviour commanded his disciples; he made them his agents to perform this ceremony; and he was particular in telling them to "purify" all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Read the account of Paul's conversion and baptism, and you will find that the repentant Saul- not the vile persecutor of the Christianwas the object baptized by the agent Ananias, "a devout man according to the law."
The case of Philip and the Eunuch is one in point. The Eunuch believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God; and upon this belief Philip became an agent to perform the rite of baptism, the Eunuch was the object baptized, and the water of a stream was the means by which he was baptized.
But all this, in the estimation of President Beecher, is useless. The agent performing the rite may or may not be a minister of God-the object baptized may be a believer or an unbeliever-and the means used may be what? We are at a loss to conjecture what means the learned Divine would have used. Perhaps blood or oil, as in the Mosaic ritual. Having thus, as we humbly conceive, shown the fallacy of the writer's position as respects the agent, the means, and the object
f For argument's sake I will here drop the word baptism and substitute purification. This is certainly as liberal as an advocate for water immersion can be.
in the performance of this holy rite, we next proceed to an examination of his arguments touching the mode in which the ceremony should be performed.
In the first place he admits the use of water in the four following ways:
I. Positive immersion, where "an agent submerges partially or totally some person or thing."
2. Flooding, "where a fluid is poured copiously over any thing, so as to flood it, though not completely or permanently to submerge it." 3. Overwhelming without an agent.
4. Passive sinking into a flood.
In all these cases he has shown that baptizo, or some word derived from it, is used to convey the several meanings-immersion, flooding, overwhelming, and passive sinking. He does not state his authority for translating the Greek word into immersion; but when he renders it flooding, overwhelming, and passive sinking, he gives as his authors Origen, Diodorus, Siculus, and Josephus. We would say to him that the authority for the use of immersion is the New Testament, superior to all other authorities.
Brother Campbell-THERE is a passage in the first Epistle of Peter, which has often appeared to me inaccurate. It is in the 7th verse of the 1st chapter, and in the common version reads thus, "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire."
The Apostle here, in seeking to comfort those to whom he addresses himself amidst their sufferings for their profession of faith in Christ, institutes a comparison between the trial of their faith, and that of gold, and is made to say of the latter that it "perishes."
This seems to me, in the first place, to be clearly contrary to fact; for it is well known, that, above all the metals, gold is conspicuous for this, that it may be exposed to the highest heat of the furnace, and continued in it for any length of time, not only without "perishing," but without suffering the least diminution in its quantity, or change in its beauty or value.
In the second place, it is obvious that if it were true of gold that it perishes in the trial, it would by no means serve the purpose of the comparison manifestly intended by the Apostle. It is a comparison between two things. The trial of faith is placed accordingly in the higher rank by the comparative "more precious," and it follows necessarily that the trial of gold should be in the positive degree, as preciBut its trial cannot be regarded as "precious" in any sense if it