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Chapter XX

The Presbyterian Discussion of Baptism
From The Religious Herald, December 22, 1910
R. H. Pitt, D. D., Editor.

      On its editorial page and immediately following its editorials, the Times-Dispatch of December 14, prints the following:


      Pittsburg, Pa., December 13. - A movement to substitute immersional baptism for the sprinkling method now employed by the Presbyterian church in the United States, was approved in the report of a committee to the Pittsburg Presbytery today, but after a heated discussion the idea was turned down.

      Rev. D. S. Schaff, D.D., of the Western Theological Seminary, chairman of the Committee on Bills and Overtures, reported the recommendation that the words "sprinkling and pouring" be stricken from the Book of Discipline and the word "baptize" be substituted. Dr. Schaff pointed out that the word "baptize" was from the Greek, meaning "to put under,"

[p. 136]
and said that even in Germany, where the Baptists had no following and the question was not at issue, that the churches agreed on this point.

      Rev. W. L. McEwan, D.D., pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church, cautioned against hurried action on so important a matter, and declared that under present arrangement a member had the privilege of immersion. The Rev. John Royal Harris, of the Shady Avenue Church, said:

"I would not and could not immerse in the name of the Trinity, and I would leave the church first."
      The Rev. C. S. George suggested that those who desired the radical change should be given "a clean bill of health and sent over to the Baptist church." Others pointed out the expense of installing baptismal pools in the churches. The change was finally defeated by a large majority.

      The movement, although a futile one, was regarded as important because of the fact that the Presbyterian headquarters are nominally in Pittsburg.

      The heading of this remarkable telegram was, presumably, written in the office of the Times-Dispatch, but it does not seem to us to direct attention to the most striking and impressive features of the communication, as headings are supposed to do and are usually intended to do.

[p. 137]
That the Presbyterians of Pittsburg should decline to eliminate sprinkling and pouring, and to give their full and unqualified approval to New Testament baptism is not in the least startling or sensational.

      It does wake us up, however, to find that their "Committee on Bills and Overtures," with Rev. D. S. Schaff, D.D., a distinguished teacher in one of their great theological seminaries, as chairman, should bring in a recommendation to that effect. The telegram makes very interesting reading for Baptists and other believers in the primitive baptism.

      As a matter of fact, Baptists are not giving themselves any particular concern about the case for immersion. It may be regarded as practically closed on the testimony, not of Baptist, but of Paedo-Baptist scholars, who can be quoted by the score.

      Is it not a little startling, though, to find grave and reverend ministers arguing against the restoration of scriptural baptism on the ground that the installation of baptisteries would be too costly?

      Then, what is one to think of Rev. John Royal Harris, who declares he "would leave the church" before he would immerse a believer, though he is a minister in a church of which another minister, Dr. McEwan, declared that "under present arrangement a member had the

[p. 138]
privilege of immersion?" How does the Rev. Mr. Harris justify himself in utterly refusing to do what his own church approves?

      It looks as if the Pittsburg Presbyterians are mightly mixed up on baptism. Nevertheless, the light is dawning.

Richmond, Va.
[From The Baptist Message, SSB/SBC, 1911, pp. 135-138. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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