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The Anabaptists of the 16th Century and the Baptists of the 19th Century
By the Late W. T. Beeby, Esq. of London

      The Baptists. - In the preceding pages, the reader is furnished with a short account of the Anabaptists, and a brief history of the origin of that denomination of Christians known at the present day by the name of “Baptists.” It will have been observed that the latter disclaim upon good ground any connection with that sect which (on account of the alleged immoralities and excesses of its members), as a body, is universally regarded as belonging to the number of the reprobate. The Baptists, therefore, consider the application of the term Anabaptist to any of their denomination, as a proof of the ignorance or willful misrepresentation of the person or party using it.

      The Baptists, as shown, date their origin from the same period as the establishment of Christianity; and for further satisfaction as to the propriety of their so doing, the reader is referred to various authors, whose names will be found at the close.

      As an additional proof of the true origin of the Baptists, or rather of the propriety of the mode by which they observe and the correct sense in which they regard, the ordinance of the Savior, and on account of which they have for ages met with opprobrium and persecution, we will now refer to some of the evidences which exist as to these points, viz: as to,

      1st. The meaning of the term Baptism.

      2nd. The manner of administering the ordinance.

      3rd. The proper subjects to be baptized.

      4th. The doctrinal import of Baptism.

      Before proceeding to the examination of these several points, we would direct the attention of the 1eader to the fact, that, though there is a distinction between moral precepts and positive precepts, yet both, as emanating from the same divine Lawgiver, render the due observance of the positive precepts a moral duty. The worship of God is a moral duty, the propriety and reason of which we readily see, and feel our obligation to observe. But it is the weakness, blindness, , and ignorance of human nature, which induces us, upon a comparison of two things, to suppose that, because we cannot understand the reason of it, a positive precept is of no importance at all; though it is highly necessary we remind ourselves how great presumption it is to make light of any institution of divine appointment, and that our obligations to obey all God's commands whatever, are absolute and indispensable.

      The command to Abraham to sacrifice his son was a positive order, and apparently a very strange one too, seemingly opposite to some moral orders given out before: yet his disposition to obey, when he was sure of a divine warrant in the case, has set him as the head of all the believing world.

      God's command is always reason enough for us; and he that commands the outward positive rite, commands the inward and moral temper at the same time. He does not say, do this, without concerning himself how it is done, whether in a manner suitable to an end appointed or not.

      There is no such command of His, as enjoins the outward act without the inward temper and disposition.

      External rites are nothing without the inward temper and virtue of mind. The inward temper is but pretended to in many cases, without the external rites, and is promoted and evidenced by the use of them.

      As a competent evidence is supposed needful for any external rite, being of divine appointment, so again, a willful ignorance of that evidence, or not discerning it through criminal causes, will not excuse guilt.

      The criminal causes of not seeing the evidence for such appointments are, in this case, as in many others, non-inquiry, laziness, false shame, fear of man, worldly motives, prejudice, lust, pride, and passion. That our ignorance, owing to these causes, cannot be pleaded for a neglect of any of God's appointments, it is only necessary to add here, that it is at every man's peril, how he comes not to Know the will of God, as well as not to do it.

      We must look to it how we came not to see the appointment, and must answer that to God and our own consciences.

     ” It is not enough to say, “Lord, I did not know that it was appointed, where the answer may justly be, You never inquired into the matter: you never allowed yourself to think of it: or, if you did, you resolved in your own mind that you would not be convinced: you made the most of every cavil, but never minded the solution to any of your objections.

      Recommending the reader seriously to consider,

      1st. Whether he knows the will of God;

      2ndly. Whether his knowledge is only imaginary, or taken from God's own word;

      3rdly. If he does not know, why he is thus ignorant;

      4thly. If he has inquired with a desire to be convinced, whether he has followed the convictions which such enquiry into God's revealed will have produced: and if he has not, what excuse he will make at the last great day, when it shall be said, “Thou knewest my will, and didst it not” -- we will proceed to the evidence of the will and intention of the Savior by the institution of the ordinance of baptism, as afforded us in the words of many learned men.

      1st. The meaning of the term Baptism.

      WITSIUS. “It cannot be denied, that the native signification of the word ____, and _____ is to plunge, to dip.”

      Mr. Samuel Davis. “He (Christ) had a baptism to be baptized with: a baptism and immersion, in tears and blood.”

      BISHOP REYNOLDS. The Spirit, under the gospel, is compared to water; and that not a little measure, to sprinkle or bedew, but to baptize the faithful in. Matthew iii. 2; Acts i. 5; and that not in a font or vessel, which grows less and less, but in a spring or living river."

      CALVIN. “The word baptize signifies to immerse; and the rite of immersion was observed by the ancient church.”*

      * See this author and those that follow cited at great length, and their works referred to, in Booth’s Paedobaptism Examined, volume 1. Eighty-two such authorities are there adduced.

      LUTHER. “The term baptism is a Greek word. It may be rendered a dipping, when we dip something in water, that it may be entirely covered with water; and truly, if you consider what baptism signifies, you shall see the same thing required: for it signifies, that the old man and our nativity, that is full of sins, which is entirely of flesh and blood, may be overwhelmed by divine grace. The manner of baptism, therefore, should correspond to the signification of baptism, that it may show a certain and plain sign.”

      BEZA. “Christ commanded us to be baptized; by which word it is certain immersion is signified.”

      MR. JOHN TRAPP. “Are ye able to be baptized with the baptism, or plunged over head and ears in the deep waters of affliction?”

      DR. TOWERSON. “What the command of Christ was in this particular, cannot well be doubted of by those who shall consider the words of Christ, Matthew xxviii. 19. For the words of Christ are, that they should baptize or dip those whom they made disciples to him. If there could be any doubt concerning the signification of the words in themselves, yet would that doubt be removed by considering the practice of those times, whether in the baptism of John or of our Savior. For such as was the practice of those times in baptizing, such in reason are we to think our Savior's command to have been concerning it, especially when the words themselves incline that way; there being not otherwise any means, either for those or future times, to discover his intention concerning it.”

      MR. DANIEL ROGERS. “None of old were wont to be sprinkled; and I confess myself unconvinced by demonstration of Scripture for infant sprinkling. It ought to be the church's part to cleave to the institution, which is dipping; and he betrays the church, whose officer he is, to a disorderly error, if he cleave not to the institution, which is to dip.”

      DR. DODDRIDGE. “I have, indeed, a most dreadful baptism to be baptized with, and know that I shall shortly be bathed, as it were, in blood, and plunged in the most overwhelming distress.”

      LIMBORCH. “Baptism is that rite or ceremony of the new covenant, whereby the faithful, by immersion into water, as by a sacred pledge, are assured of the favor of God, remission of sins, and eternal life, and by which they engage themselves to an amendment of life, and an obedience to the divine command.”

      SALMASIUS. “Baptism is immersion, and was administered in ancient times, according to the force and meaning of the word.”

      VITRINGA. “The act of baptizing is the immersion of believers in water; this expresses the force of the word: thus also it was performed by Christ and his apostles.”

      BOSSUET. “To baptize signifies to plunge, as is granted by all the world.”

      ARCHBISHOP TILLOTSON. “Anciently, those who were baptized were immersed and buried in the water, to represent their death to sin, and then did rise up again out of the water, to signify their entrance upon a new life -- and to these customs the apostle alludes, Romans vi. 2-6.”

      DR. CAMPBELL. “The word baptize, both in sacred writers and classical, signifies to dip, to plunge, to immerse.”

      DR. DODDRIDGE. “It seems the part of candor to confess, that here (Romans vi. 4) is an allusion to the manner of baptizing by immersion.” VENEMA. “It is without controversy, that baptism in the primitive church was administered by immersion into water, and not by sprinkling.”

      MEDE. “There was no such thing as sprinkling used in baptism in the apostles' days, nor many ages after them.”

      DEYLINGUIS. “It is manifest that while the apostles lived, the ordinance of baptism was administered, not by sprinkling, but by immersion.”

      ZANCHIUSh. “The proper signification of baptize is to immerse, plunge under, to overwhelm in water.”

      ALSTEDIUS. “To baptize signifies only to immerse; not to wash, except by consequence.”

      H. ALTINGUS. “The word baptism properly signifies immersion; improperly, by a metonymy of the end, washing.”

      SCAPULA. “To baptize - to dip or immerse, as we immerse any thing for the purpose of dyeing or cleansing in water.”

      MR. LEIGH. “The native and proper signification of it [baptize] is to dip into water, or to plunge under water.”

      DR. MILL (Principal of Bishop's College, Calcutta). “Baptize. In translating this word, it is proper to omit all specification, either of immersion, the primitive mode, as appears to me WITHOUT DOUBT; or affusion, - or least of all, aspersion, our usual mode.” -- Proposed Version of Theological Terms.

      MR. EWING (of Glasgow). “______, in its primary and radical sense, I cover with water. It is used to denote, 1st. I plunge or sink completely under water.” -- Greek Lexicon, second edition, sub voce.

      MR. R. Robinson. “The native Greeks must understand their own language better than foreigners, and they have ALWAYS understood the word baptism to signify dipping; and, therefore, from their first embracing Christianity to this day, they have always baptized, and do yet baptize, by immersion. This is an authority for the meaning of the word infinitely preferable to that of European lexicographers. In this case, the Greeks are unexceptionable guides.” -- History of Baptism, pp. 5, 6.

      PROFESSOR STUART, a learned Paedobaptist, admits that, “The original etymological root of the verbs, as also of the nouns, and others, and in like manner, the adjectives or verbals appears plainly to be the monosyllable BAII.” And that, “The leading and original meaning of BAII, seems to have been dipping, plunging, immersing, soaking, or drenching in some liquid substance.” And, “as kindred to this meaning, and closely united with it, i.e., as an effect resulting from such a cause (from being immersed or dipped), the idea of dyeing, coloring, tinging, seems also to have been often associated with the original root, and to have passed into many of its derivations.”

      Further, he says, “_____ and _____ mean to dip, plunge, or immerge into anything liquid. All lexicographers and critics of any note are agreed in this. My proof of this position, then, need not necessarily be protracted; but for the sake of ample confirmation, I must beg the reader's patience, while I lay before him, as briefly as may be, the results of an investigation which seems to leave no room for doubt.” He then proceeds to quote and explain various passages from the classics, as Homer, Pindar, Aristotle, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, Lucian, Plato, Epictetus, Hippocrates, Strabo, Josephus, and others. He says, “It is impossible to doubt, that the words ____ and ______, have, in the Greek classical writers, the sense of dip, plunge, immerse, sink,” &c.

      [Editor’s note: This website server does not read Greek. - jd.]

      Referring to Justin Martyr's apology, he says, “I am persuaded that this passage, as a whole, most naturally refers to immersion ; for why, on any other ground, should the convert who is to be initiated, go out to the place where there is water? There could be no need of this, if sprinkling, or partial affusion only, was customary in the time of Justin.” And upon Tertullian's defence of Christian baptism, he remarks, “Here, then, we have, in a very clear passage, the usual elements named, in which baptism was performed. It was done at or in some stream, pool, or lake. What other good reason for this can be given, excepting that immersion was practised?” Subsequent ages make the general practice of the church still plainer, if indeed this can be done. The passages which refer to immersion are so numerous in the Fathers, that it would take a little volume merely to recite them.”

      But enough -- “It is,” says Augustin (Denkw. vii. p. 216), “a thing made out,” viz: the ancient practice of immersion. So, indeed, all the writers who have thoroughly investigated this subject conclude. I know of no usage of ancient times, which seems to be more clearly and certainly made out. I cannot see how it is possible for any candid man who examines the subject to deny this. It may also be mentioned, that aspersion and affusion, which had in particular cases been now and then practised in primitive times, were gradually introduced. These became at length quite common, and in the western church almost universal, some time before the reformation.”

      Numerous other learned authorities might be quoted, as explaining the meaning of the word baptism to be immersion; but our limits will not admit of it.

[Continued here.]


[From The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Chronicle, March, 1843, pp. 71-75; via Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.].

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