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The Mode of Baptism in England till the Reign of Elizabeth
From the Montreal Register
      John Lingard, [1771-1851] in his work on the Anglo-Saxon Church, thus describes the ordinance of baptism as therein administered, - "He [the candidate] then descended into the font; the priest depressed his head three times below the surface, saying, I baptize thee," &c., volume i. 318. In another place he says: "The regular manner of administering it was by immersion." - The truth of these statements is fully borne out by the writings of Bede, Alcuin, and others. Alcuin, in his epistle to Odwin, (ii. 1-29,) related the whole process of immersion and its attendant rites as then observed. In Spelman an account of the Council Celichyth is given. The Council was held the sixteenth year of Egbert's reign. In it the following canon occurs: "That they pour not water upon the heads of infants, but immerge them in the font." In the Saxon laws of Alured, mention is made of the first of the pagan Angels, "immersed in sacred baptism."

      Lynwood, who lived in the sixteenth century, in his Provincial Constitution, composed by order of the Archbishop of Canterbury, explains a canon of Archbishop Edmund, in the reign of Henry III., as requiring baptisteries that would admit of dipping the candidates, (sic quod baptizandus possit in eo mergi.) A drawing exists in the Cotton MSS, in the British Museum, describing the baptism of the Earl of Warwick in the reign of Richard II. (1381,) of which the mode is evidently by immersion. A statue was erected by Archbishop Peckham lo confirm a former canon of the Cardinal Legate Ottobom, in which baptism is called immersion.

      We refrain from citing from citing any more authorities prior to the reign of the Tudor family, although they are sufficiently numerous.

      In the works of the justly celebrated Tyndale, we find many references to baptism sufficiently explicit to serve our point. In the Prologue to Leviticus, he says: "It is impossible that the water of our river should wash our hertes." The Preface to the "Obedience of a Christian Man," contains this remark, - "Tribulation is our right baptism, and is signified by plunging into the water." He describes the ordinance at length in the work last mentioned. "The plunging into the water," he tells us, "signified that we die, and are buried with Christ, as concerning the olde life of sinne, which is Adam. And the pulling out again, signified that we rise again with Christ in a new life."

      Not even the royal family pleaded exemption from the customary mode of baptism. - Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII., "was put into the font," October, 1486. The Princess Margaret, afterwards Queen of Scotland, was baptized by trine immersion on 30th November, 1489, one day after her birth. The children of Henry VIII. , were all immersed in like manner. The Princess Elizabeth, in September, in the church of the Franciscan Friars; the Prince Edward, in October, in the chapel of Hampton Court. The full particulars of the circumstances are to be found in Leland's Collectanea, vol ii. 663-670; iv. 179; and in Antiq. Rep. vol. iv.

      The official regulations for ecclesiastical ceremonies required immersion, unless in cases of great sickness and evident debility. In the Catechism set forth by Archbishop Cranmer, 1548, is a sermon on baptism with a cut prefixed which fully represents the art of immersion. The sermon itself contains the following passage: "What greater shame can there be, than a man to profess himself to be a Christian man, because he is baptized, and yet he knoweth not what baptism is, nor what strength the same hath, nor what the dypping in the water doth betoken," &c. The first liturgy of Edward VI., (1549,) has the following directions respecting the ordinance in question: "Then the priest shall take the child in his hands, and ask the name. And naming the child, shall dip it in the water thrice. First, dipping the right side: second, the left side: the third time, dipping its face towards the font," &c. The second liturgy, submitted to the revision of Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr, omits all mention of exorcism and trine immersion, and simply requires that "the priest shall take the child in his hands, and ask the name, and naming the child, shall dip it in the water."

      The Catechism in use at the same time contains precisely the same language. King Edward's Catechism, (1553,) has the following passages: "Master. Tell me (my son) how these two sacraments be administered: and that which Paul calleth the Supper of the Lord, Scholar. Him that believeth in Christ: professes the articles of the Christian religion: and mindeth to be baptized. (I speak now of them that be grown to ripe years of discretion, sith for the young babes, their parents or the churches profession sufficeth,) the minister dippeth." &c. "Master. What doth baptism represent and set before our eyes? Scholar. That we are by the Spirit of Christ new born and cleansed from sin. * * * Baptism is also a figure of our burial in Christ, and that we shall be received up again with him in a new life." *

      All this agrees with the description of baptism during Edward the Sixth's reign, given to the celebrated Bullinger by Bishop Horn: - "The godfathers and godmothers then approach, and demand the sacrament in the name of the infants. The minister examines them concerning their faith, and afterwards dips the infant in the water, saying," &c. +

      No alteration, made officially, seems to have taken place in the mode of administering baptism during Elizabeth's reign, although the practice of immersion was in many places falling into disuse. In the second year of her rule, Archbishop Parker drew up some relations for his clergy, in orders to insure "uniformity in matters ecclesiastical." Among them is the following: "Item, That public baptism be ministered in the font commonly used; not in basin, or any other like thing."# Chappell, Bishop of Cork, tells us he was dipped, as was the custom in the parish in which he was born. This was in Elizabeth's reign, Dr. John Jones, writing in 1579, incidentally notices the facts that some of the old priests of that time were accustomed to dip the child very zealously to this bottom of the font.

      To what, then, is the change in the ordinance of baptism to be attributed? The Encyclopedia Britanica supplies us with an answer: - "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 throne, brought back with them a great zeal to the Protestant churches beyond sea, where they had been received and sheltered: and having observed that at Geneva and 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 authority as Calvin."


* Parker's Society's volume on King Edward's Liturgies, pp. 111, 289, 516, 517.
# Zurick Letters, second series, p. 356.
+ Strype's Annals, i. 330.


[From R. B. C. Howell and J. R. Graves, editors, Tennessee Baptist, Nashville, July 24, 1847, CD edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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