Presbyterians and Immersion
Baptist and Reflector, Dec. 22, 1910
E. E. Folk, D.D., Editor
The following dispatch from Pittsburg, Pa., under date of December 13, will be read with interest by Baptists:
"A movement to substitute immersional baptism for the sprinkling method now employed by the Presbyterians in the United States was approved in the report of the committee of the Pittsburg Presbytery today, but after heated discussion the idea was turned down.
"The Rev. Dr. D. S. Schaff, of the Western Theological Committee on Bills and Overtures, reported the recommendations that the words 'sprinkling and pouring' be stricken from the Book of Discipline and the word 'baptize' substituted. Dr. Schaff pointed out that the word 'baptism' was from the Greek, meaning 'to put
under,' and said that even in Germany, where the Baptists had no following and the question was not an issue, churches agreed on this point. Debate on the question was heated."
This position by Dr. Schaff is no new one for Presbyterians.
We take the following from the book, "Baptist Principles," by the editor:
"John Calvin, the father of the Presbyterian church, never failed to testify that baptism was an immersion in water. Says he: 'The word baptize signifies to immerse, and it is certain that the rite of immersion was observed by the ancient church' (Institutes, Book 4, ch. 15). Again, Calvin says: 'From these words, John 3:23, it may be inferred that baptism was administered by John and Christ, by plunging the whole body under the water. Here we perceive how baptism was administered among the ancients; for they immersed the whole body in water.'
"The great preacher, Richard Baxter, said: 'It is commonly confessed by us to the Anabaptists, as our commentators declare, that in the apostles' time the baptized were dipped overhead in the water, and this signified their profession, both of believing the burial and resurrection of Christ and of their own renouncing the world and flesh, or dying to sin and living to Christ, or rising again to newness of life, or being buried and risen again with
Christ, as the apostle expounded in the forecited texts of Colossians and Romans.'
"The eloquent Dr. Chalmers said that "the original meaning of the word baptism is immersion.'
"Lightfoot, a distinguished Presbyterian scholar, said: 'That the baptism of John was by plunging the body seems to appear from those things related of him, namely, that he baptized in Jordan; that be baptized in Aenon, because there was much water there; and that Christ being baptized came up out of the water; to which that seems to be parallel, Acts 8:38.'
"Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Seminary, New York, says:" 'The baptism of Christ in the river of Jordan, and the illustrations of baptism used in the New Testament, are all in favor of immersion rather than sprinkling, as is freely admitted by the best exegetes - Catholic and Protestant, English and German. Nothing can be gained by unnatural exegesis. The aggressiveness of the Baptists has driven Pedobaptists to the opposite extreme.' - Teach., pp. 55, 66."Dr. Schaff again says: 'The usual form of baptism was by immersion. This is inferred from the original of the Greek baptizein and baptismos; from the analogy of John's baptism in the Jordan; from the apostle's comparison
of the sacred rite with the miraculous passage of the Red Sea, and the escape of the ark from the flood, with a cleansing and refreshing bath, and with burial and resurrection; finally, from the general custom of the ancient church, which prevails in the East to this day." - Christ Ch., Vol. 1, pp. 468, 469.
Dr. Philip Schaff, we presume, was the father of Dr. D. S. Schaff, so that the son came legitimately by the principles which he holds on the subject. Again, we quote from "Baptist Principles":"So strong was the sentiment for immersion as the only baptism among the Presbyterians that when the Westminster Assembly of Divines met to frame a creed and government for the Presbyterian church, sprinkling was carried over immersion by one vote. The vote stood twenty-five to twenty-four. By a change of only one vote, therefore, the Presbyterians would have practiced immersion for baptism instead of sprinkling or pouring."It seems that the question will not down among the Presbyterians, and despite the position of some, immersion must be recognized by them as the only baptism. The scholarship of the world has come to that conclusion, and sooner or later the balance of the world must come to it.
[From The Baptist Message, SSB/SBC, 1911, pp. 142-146. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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