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Putting off their clothes, they were dipped three times in water; but when they administered baptism to the clinics, i. e. to those who were confined to their beds from illness, they made use only of simple sprinkling. Mr. Formey.
Whereas the sick, by reason of their illness, could not be immersed or plunged (which, properly speaking, is to be baptized) they had the salutary water poured upon them, or were sprinkled with it. For the same reason, I think, the custom of sprinkling now used, first began to be observed by the Western church; namely, on account of the tenderness of infants, seeing the baptism of adults was now very seldom practised. Pamelius.
It is without controversy that baptism in the primitive church was administered by immersion into water, and not by sprinkling; seeing John is said to have baptized in Jordan, and where there was much water; as Christ also did by his disciples in the neighbourhood of those places; Matt. iii. and John iii. Philip also going down into the water baptized the Eunuch; Acts viii. To which also the Apostle refers, Rom. vi. Nor is there any necessity to have recourse to the idea of sprinkling in our interpretation of Acts ii. 41. where three thousand souls are said to be added to Christ by baptism; seeing it might be performed by immersion, equally as by aspersion, especially as they are not said to have heen baptized at the same time. The essential act of baptizing in the second century, consisted, not in sprinkling, but in immersion into water, in the name of each Person in the Trinity. Concerning immersion, the words and phrases that are used sufficiently testify; and that it was performed in a river, a pool, or a fountain. To the essential rites of baptism, in the third century, pertained immersion, and not aspersion; except in cases of necessity, and it was accounted a halfperfect baptism. Immersion, in the fourth century, was one of those acts that were considered as essential to baptism; nevertheless aspersion was used in the last moments of life, on such as were called clinics, and also where there was not a sufficient quantity of Venema.
Although dipping or plunging into the water was the more ancient practice, and more universal in the primitive times, yet sprinkling or pouring water on the head of the baptized person, was of great antiquity in the church likewise. It had its beginning in the case of clinics or sick persons chiefly, who could not come to the public baptistery, nor would the weakness of their constitution admit of their being dipped all over in the water; and therefore, the sprinkling or pouring a small quantity of water upon their face or head, was judged sufficient for their due undergoing the sacra ment of baptism. Indeed, there were some persons, in former times, who were of opinion, that this way of administering baptism was not valid, in case the infirm person recovered, but that he was to be baptized again by way of immersion. But St. Cyprian, in his 76th Epistle to Magnus, defends the legitimacy of this way of administering baptism in such case of necessity, and that it ought not to be reiterated. In the fourth and fifth centuries, aspersion was more common; for St. Austin speaks of it as an ordinary way of baptizing in his time: "Post confessionem aspergitur aqua vel intingitur." De Eccl. Dogm. cap. 74.: if St. Austin was the author of that book; however, it was ancient. Walafridus Strabo wrote in the ninth century; and he says, "Notandum, non solum mergendo, sed etiam de super fundendo multos baptizatos fuisse, et adhuc posse baptizari:" We must take notice, that many were formerly baptized, and may be so now, not only by dipping, but also by pouring water upon them. De Ost. Eccl. cap. de Bap. So that after the heathen nations were converted to Christianity, and by that means the baptisms of adults were less frequent, the tender. ness of children's bodies, especially in the colder countries, not enduring to be dipped into the water, the use of sprinkling generally succeeded in the church, instead of dipping. And, indeed, during the more early ages of the church, when adults were frequently baptized, there were some particular cases, when aspersion was used in lieu of immersion. Our church, with great moderation, does not totally lay aside immersion, if the strength of the child will bear it, as indeed it seldom will, without danger, in our cold country; otherwise she admits only aspersion, rather than occasion any injury
to the body of a tender babe; wisely considering that, in the eye of God," Mercy is better than sacrifice."* Dr. Nicholls.
What man dare go in a way, which hath neither precept nor example to warrant it, from a way that hath a full current of both? Who knows what will please God, but himself? And bath he not told us what he expecteth from us? Can that be obedience which hath no command for it? Is not this to supererogate, and to be righteous over much? Is it not also to accuse God's ordinances of insufficiency, as well as his word, as if they were not sufficient either. to please him, or help our own graces? O the pride of man's heart, that instead of being a law-obeyer, will be a law-maker; and instead of being true worshippers, they will be worship-makers! For my part, I will not fear that God will be angry with me for doing no more, then, than he hath commanded me, and for sticking close. to the rule of bis word in matters of worship; but I should tremble to add or diminish. Mr. Baxter's Plain Scripture Proofs.
What principally tended to confirm the practice of affusion or sprinkling was, that several of our Protestant divines, flying into Germany and Switzerland during the bloody reign of Queen Mary, and returning home when Queen Elizabeth came to the crown, brought back with them a great zeal for the Protestant churches beyond sea, where they had been sheltered and received; and having observed, that at Geneva and some other places baptism was administered by sprinkling, they thought they could not do the Church of England a greater piece of service than by introducing a practice dictated by so great an oracle as Calvin. Encyc. Britan
Here, then, we have a great number of the most respectable cha
⚫ Bishop Burnett and others, as well as this learned Doctor, have endeavoured to make appear that the coldness of our northern climate was the reason for changing the mode of administering this ordinance from immersion to sprinkling. Had this been the only reason, how easily might this have been obviated! As most gossips know what a tea kettle means, why not order them, in cold weather, to bring one full of boiling water? by which means, the element might be made of the same temperature with the child's blood: no sacrifice of life or feeling need then be made. "The Greeks (says Hasselquist, in his Travels) christen' their children immediately after their birth, or within a few days at least, dipping them in warm water; and in this respect they are much wiser than their brethren the Russians, who dip them into rivers in the coldest winter."
racters for solid learning, and many of them for eminent piety, who appear to testify what they know and what they believe concerning an ancient fact; a fact, in an acquaintance with which, the purity of a divine institution, and obedience to the will of our Lord, are not a little involved. The principal question, in which they are cited to give their opinion, (as before stated) is, Whether John the Baptist and the apostles of Christ administered baptism by iminersion or sprinkling? A question this, which regards both fact and right; because, in whatever manner those venerable men and lights of the world performed that institution, we are bound to believe it was right; for they had too much knowledge, and too much integrity, to administer this branch of holy worship in a wrong way. Besides, they were not ignorant that their practice, in this respect, was to be viewed as a pattern, and to be considered as law, by the succeeding disciples of Christ.
But, that the succeeding disciples of Christ, even down to the present day, should differ upon this point so widely, has been to me a matter of no small surprise. I see learned men ascend, and alternately preach from the same pulpit, and preach the same gospel and the same doctrines, adopt the same church government, and all par. take of one ordinance together in brotherly love; yet upon this point they are at perfect variance. It leads me to exclaim, as those spoken of in Acts ii. 12. “What meaneth this?" There is but one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (Eph. iv. 5.) In order, therefore, to account for this contradiction in men, and to come at the truth, L have read many books, and consulted many authorities; yet my views are unaltered; for they all seem to maintain their respective tenets with an apparent plausibility, which keeps the inquiring mind in confusion. I then endeavoured to trace the various sects to their source; and in doing this, I invariably found they originated in the notions of some individual, however correct or incorrect his, notions may be, and that all their adherents are copyists, and follow the beaten track of their leader.
• Novatian, I believe, was the first who separated from the Church of Rome, who be came the leader of a numerous party; the Waldenses took their rise from Peter Waldo or Valdo; the Lollards from Walter Lollard; the Lutherans from Martin Luther; the Calvinists from John Calvin; the Presbyterians from John Knox; the Independents from Brown; the Wesleyans from John Wesley. And many others in the present day, of less notoriety; all reflecting the borrowed light of ther respective leaders.
And if the reader will bear with me while we turn over a few pages of ecclesiastical history, we shall be able to show that this practice of sprinkling infants arose about the end of the second century, by some individual interpreting that text, John iii. 5. agreeable to his own imagination. In order to show this in its proper light, we will first take a short sketch of the introduction and spread of the gospel in the first century.
The success of the gospel in the days of the apostles, appears to have been unparalleled, and beyond the calculation of human wisdom; converts flocked to the standard of Christ in thousands, and churches were planted in every direction, as is observed by a learned writer. "It appears, from credible records, that the gospel waş preached in Idumea, Syria, and Mesopotamia, by Jude; in Egypt, Mamorica, Mauritania, and other parts of Africa, by Mark, Simeon, and Jude; in Ethiopia, by the Eunuch and Matthias; in Pontus, Galatia, and the neighbouring parts of Asia, by Peter; in the territories of the seven Asiatic churches by John; in Parthia, by Matthew; in Scythia, by Philip and Andrew; in the northern and western parts of Asia, by Bartholomew; in Persia by Simeon and Jude; in Media, Carmania, &c. by Thomas; from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum, by Paul, who also published it in Italy, and probably in Spain, Gaul, and Britain."* And it is generally supposed, that in the space of the first century, the sound of the gospel was heard in almost every kingdom of the earth,
But this state of things was not of long continuance; the god of this world, finding the inhabitants of the earth were flocking to the standard of Christ, while his pagan temples, his gods and priests were deserted, and his kingdom falling before the cross of Christ, endeavoured to hinder the progress of Christianity, and to recover his lost territory, by increasing his efforts, and those of his legions of emissaries, instigating and carrying on the dreadful persecutions which prevailed in this century, with such lamentable success. Every species of torture, which the devil or his agents could invent, was inflicted upon every one who dared to say, "I am a Christian." may throw some light upon the state of things at the commencement of the second century, by introducing, in this place, Pliny's Letter to the Emperor Trajan, and Trajan's Reply.
In Jones's History of the Church,