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BAPTISM
Rev. M. W. Gilbert, A. M.
Pastor of the First Colored Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn.
The Negro Baptist Pulpit: A Collection of Sermons, 1890
      "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 28:18, 19.

     ALL the precepts of Jesus rest upon his power to command. He is king. We owe him allegiance and obedience because he is God manifested in the flesh. His authority is derived from the Father. His rule is spiritual; and his power to command is beyond question.

     "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Does this absolute authority of Jesus mean anything to the redeemed church? Does it signify anything to humanity at large? The great commission and the foundation of the Christian Church rest upon the authority of Jesus as our Supreme Lawgiver. All missionary enterprises are undertaken because Jesus commands it. We preach his commandments, we follow his precepts, we obey his mandates, because he so bids us. The Lord says in our text: "Inasmuch as all authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth, by reason of this authority, I, your Master, your Lord, and your Redeemer, bid you make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Our


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Lord, by his own words, commands us to make disciples of all nations, and to baptize those thus made disciples.

     "Observing the order of the text, we are

     "I. To make disciples of all nations.
     Our text places the discipling of the nations before their baptism. It first says: "Go and teach, or make disciples, of all nations." First convert the nations of the earth, turn them to God, persuade the people everywhere to accept Christ as a crucified, risen, ascended, and living Saviour; then, after these things are done, after these conditions are fulfilled, baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

     Does any one ask why the Baptist churches condemn infant baptism? It is because their Lord commands them first to make disciples. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Here the believing comes first; then baptism follows, as effect follows cause. John the Baptist preached repentance before baptism. Surely infants cannot experience repentance. John the Baptist further required confession of sin in those baptized. "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matthew 3:5, 6.) Can infants fulfill this condition? Philip told the eunuch he would baptize him, if he believed on the Lord Jesus with all his heart. It is said of the Corinthians, in Acts 18:8, that "many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized." Notice the order: hearing, believing, being baptized. In Acts 2:41, we learn that "they that gladly received his word were baptized." Here we see the necessity of first receiving gladly the word before baptism ensues. When the Samaritans "believed Philip preaching the things concerning


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the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." The jailer at Philippi first believed, then he was baptized. First of all, then, we learn that only persons who can exercise saving faith in Christ ought to be baptized; and, secondly, that where there is no exercise of faith, there is no baptism. "Without faith it is impossible to please God."

     II. Our text teaches the duty of all believers to be baptized.

     "Go ye into all the world, and disciple all nation's, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

     "Yes, but what is baptism?" says one. "I was baptized when I was an infant. I was sprinkled." Do you you remember anything about it, then? "No." Did you believe when you were in infancy? "No." Then you were not baptized. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." "But," says another, "I was baptized or christened i. e., sprinkled, when I was grown up, and was conscious of the fact." Did you believe on Jesus then? "Yes, most emphatically. And was I not baptized?" No, emphatically no! "Then what is baptism? Can it not be sprinkling, pouring, or immersion?" Not all of them. Baptism can no more mean sprinkling, pouring, and immersion all at once than eating means sleeping, drinking, or hearing.

     What, then, is baptism? or, What is it to baptize? In answering this question, we must not consult the ordinary mind, but we must take the words of the best scholars on this subject. But what kind of scholars? Shall they be Baptist scholars, or Pedobaptist scholars? I shall take


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the testimony of Pedobaptist scholars those who practice sprinkling and christen their infants. For the most conclusive proof of the truthfulness of anything is found in the concessions of its opponents. We shall only mention as authorities men who love truth too well to attempt to lessen its teachings, though they do not practice it.

     The word "baptize" is an untranslated word from the Greek. It was simply transferred into our language. Liddell and Scott, in their standard Lexicon, say that baptize means "to dip in or under water." They add that in the case of ships this word means "to sink them." In not one place does this Lexicon speak of baptizo as meaning sprinkling or pouring. Noah Webster, who was not a Baptist, says in his Unabridged Dictionary that the word "baptism" is from the Greek baptisma or baptismos, which is further derived from baptizein, meaning "to dip in water."

     Dr. Cunningham Geikie, of the Church of England, in his "Life of Christ," says of Christ's baptism by John: "Baptism was an ordinance of God, required by his prophet as the introduction of the New Dispensation. It was a part of righteousness that is, it was a part of God's commandments, which Jesus came into the world to show us the example of fulfilling, both in the letter and the spirit. Moreover, he had not received the consecration of the Spirit, abiding in him, and had not yet assumed the awful dignity of the Messiah, but had hitherto been only the unknown villager of Nazareth. No subject is more mysterious than the 'increase in wisdom' which marked the Saviour, as it does all other men, nor can we conjecture when it was that the full realization of his divine mission first rose before him. As yet there had


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been no indication of its having done so; for he had not yet manifested his glory, or appeared at all before men. Is it too much to believe that his baptism was the formal consecration which marked his entrance upon his great office? John resisted no longer; and, leading Jesus into the stream, the rite was performed. Can we question that such an act was a crisis in the life of our Lord? His perfect manhood, like that of other men, in all things except sin, forbids our doubting it. ' Holy and pure,' mark his words before sinking under the waters; he must have risen from them with the light of a higher glory in his countenance. His past life was closed, a new era had opened. Hitherto the humble villager, veiled from the world, he was henceforth the Messiah, openly working among men. It was the true moment of his entrance on a new life. Past years had been buried in the waters of Jordan. He entered them as Jesus, the Son of man ; he rose from them the Christ of God."

     Dean Alford, of the Church of England, says: "The baptism was administered by the immersion of the whole person." Kurtz, who belonged to the Lutheran Church, says in his "Church History": "Baptism took place by complete immersion." Dr. Philip Schaff, of Union Theological Seminary, New York, says: "Respecting the form of baptism, the impartial historian is compelled by exegesis and history, substantially, to yield the point to the Baptists, as is done, in fact, by most German scholars." Krause, another Pedobaptist scholar and church historian, says: "Baptism was performed by immersion in the name of the Trinity." One fact must impress us, and that is, that the scholars of Germany that land of scholars sustain the position maintained by Baptists. Guericke,


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in his "Church History," translated by Shedd, says: "Baptism was originally performed by immersion, in the name of the Trinity." Dr. Bunsen says, in his "Letters to Arndt," on the "Signs of the Times": "As regards their form of government, the Baptists are, as every one knows, Independents, who perform the rite of baptism, like the primitive Christians, by immersion."

     Pope, in his Greek-German Dictionary defines baptize, "to dip in, dip under." Chamber's "Encyclopedia," declares: "It is, however, indisputable that in the primitive church the ordinary mode of baptism was by immersion." Professor Whitney, a professor in Yale University, says that the word "baptize" is translated into German by the verb "taufen." Now, what is Professor Whitney's own definition for "taufen"? He says it means "to dip, immerse, plunge." Dr. Robinson's "Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament," which was considered the most authoritative on New Testament Greek until Thayer's appeared, defines baptizo by the expression "to dip in, to sink, to immerse." He clearly makes the admission that the meaning of baptizo from the time of "Plato onward is everywhere to immerse, to sink, to overwhelm." The Greek language is not a dead language, as some suppose. It is still spoken by the modern Greeks. Surely they ought to know their own language, and the meaning of their own words. The modern Greeks declare that baptizo always means dipping, or immersing, and can mean nothing else. In corroboration of this fact, the Greek Church (in Greece and Russia), although it practices infant baptism, nevertheless always immerses or dips infants three times, for the Greek Church does not hold that its children can be baptized,


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according to the import of the word, without immersion. Stourdza, a native modern Greek, in a work published in 1816, declares that baptizo has but one signification. It signifies literally and invariably to plunge. "Baptism and immersion are therefore identical."

     Professor E. A. Sophocles, of Harvard University, a native Greek, in his "Lexicon of the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Periods," defines baptizo as signifying to "dip, immerse, sink, with figurative uses derived from this"; and he further declares that "there is no evidence that Luke and Paul, and the other writers of the New Testament, put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greek." A common complaint of the Greek Church against the Latin or Roman Catholic Church is that the Catholic Church must be held accountable for substituting sprinkling for immersion.

     The reformers were convinced that a change ought to be made in the form of baptism. Luther said more than once: "Baptism is a Greek word, and may be translated immersion, as when we immerse something in water that it may be wholly covered. And it is almost wholly abolished (for they do not dip the whole children, but only pour a little water on them); they ought nevertheless to be wholly immersed . . . for that the etymology of the word seems to demand." He also declares that baptism "is rather a sign both of death and resurrection. Being moved by this reason, I would have those that are to be baptized to be altogether dipt into the water, as the word means, and the mystery signifies." Calvin also spoke as freely in commenting upon the baptism of the ennuch, as follows: "They descended into the water. Here we perceive what was the rite of baptizing among the ancients,


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for they immersed the whole body into the waters; now the custom has become established that the minister only sprinkles the body or the head." Baptism in the original cannot mean sprinkling or pouring, for the words "sprinkling" and "pouring" occur many times in the New Testament, and they are not once translated thus from baptizo.

     We have thus the testimony of some of the most eminent among scholars and reformers, conceding the Scripturalness of the Baptist position as to the ordinance which gives them their name. No Baptist is among them. Truth compels these men to pronounce against their practice, as in this matter it does all Pedobaptists whose scholarship entitles them to respect. The list could be multiplied many fold did not lack of space forbid. Our common English Bible, our King James' Bible, translated by seventy eminent men, not one of whom was a Baptist, will lead one aright, though he know not one letter of Greek. Thousands of men and women have joined the Baptist churches by their own unaided reading of the word of God. And thousands more will join it thus. Oh, that we could get everybody of every church to read the word of God for himself! Read the word of God for yourself. Read it with a view to discover truth and unearth error. Read it to find out your duty. Read it for instruction. Read it for your sanctification. "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and these are they which testify of me," Jesus said.

     Let us notice for those who read nothing but their English Bibles that the expressions, circumstances, and places connected with the administration of baptism in


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the New Testament prove it to have been immersion. Beginning with Matthew 3: "In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins."

     We notice that John baptized where there was an abundance of water, and that he baptized in Jordan. Lientenant Lynch, of the United States navy, who traversed this river, says that "its width varies at different points from seventy-five to two hundred feet, and its depth from three to twelve feet." At the traditional spot of our Lord's baptism, in the week preceding Easter, about seven or eight thousand pilgrims come, according to Dr. Broadus, "from all parts of the East, and there these thousands, men, women, and children, do actually immerse themselves and one another in the river not as baptism (for they have received that in infancy), but as a sacred bath at that holy spot." This same event occurs at the same spot every spring.

     In Matthew 3:13, and following verses, we read: "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan, unto John, to be baptized of him." The Lord Jesus went, it seems, about seventy miles for the express purpose of being baptized. "But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering, said unto


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him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and lo the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." No one can read this passage carefully and not decide that our Lord was baptized in the river Jordan.

     Notice now Mark 1:4-11: "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; and preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with [or rather, in] the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." John 3:23, reads: "And John also was baptizing in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there; and they came and were baptized." John the Baptist required an abundance of water for baptism. In the Acts, eighth chapter, we have the baptism of the ennuch. Begin with the


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thirty-sixth verse: "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the ennuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."

     Can any one deny the fact of immersion from so plain an account? Read also the account of the conversion and baptism of the jailer and his house at Philippi, when Paul and Silas were so mercifully delivered. Turn to Acts, sixteenth chapter, and read from the thirtieth to the thirty-fourth verse: "And brought [i. e., the jailer] them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."

     What now are the facts in this case? First, the jailer took Paul and Silas to his house, where the apostle preached the word of God; secondly, the jailer took them out the same hour of the night, "and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway"; thirdly, after the baptism, it is stated that the jailer again "brought


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them into his house," and "set meat before them and rejoiced in God with all his house."

     The symbolical meaning of baptism indicates immersion. Ananias said to Paul: "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Sprinkling would imply here the use of too small an amount of water to be adequate for a washing.

     In Romans 6:3-4, we read: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Here baptism is spoken of figuratively, symbolically, as a burial, "buried with him by baptism"; hence, when there is no burial, there can be no baptism.

     Bloomfield, who is not a Baptist, says of these two passages of Scripture: "There is here plainly a reference to the ancient mode of baptism by immersion, and I agree with Koppe and Rosenmiiller, that there is reason to regret that it should have been abandoned in most Christian churches, especially as it has so evidently a reference to the mystic sense of baptism."

     Read now Colossians 2:12: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."

     Lightfoot, a Pedobaptist commentator, says of this verse: "Baptism is the grave of the old man and the birth of the new. As he sinks beneath the baptismal waters, the believer buries there all his corrupt affections and past sins; as he emerges thence, he rises regenerate,


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quickened to new hopes and a new life." Bishop Wilson, another Pedobaptist commentator, says: "The expression 'buried with him in baptism' alludes to the ancient form of administering that sacred ordinance of the immersion or burial, so to speak, of the whole person in the water, after the example of the burial of the entire body of our Lord in the grave." We have then the authority of God's word for what baptism is. The opinions of learned men confirm this authority. It is, moreover, worthy of note, that while these scholars are Pedobaptists, no Baptist can be found who will concede the validity of sprinkling or pouring as New Testament baptism.

     When Jesus was on earth, he said to one and another: "Follow me." Let all who would be truly enrolled among his disciples, follow him in baptism.

"To Jordan's stream the Saviour goes,
To do his Father's will;
His breast with sacred ardor glows,
Each precept to fulfill.

"As from the water he ascends,
What miracles appear!
God, with a voice, his Son commends:
Let all the nations hear.

" Hear it, ye Christians, and rejoice,
Let this your courage raise;
What God approves, be this your choice,
And glory in his ways."

     "If ye love me," Jesus says, "keep my commandments." "But," says some one, "if sprinkling is not and cannot be baptism, how do you account for its beginning?" Luther, the great reformer, says it was not practiced


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in the beginning. Calvin says the church felt authorized in instituting a change. The scholars of the Church of Rome declare that the church had the right or authority to change an ordinance, and has changed the original rite for convenience. The church has the right to change an ordinance of God. Think of it! We hold that no church, or bishop, or pope, or principality, or power under the canopy of heaven, is authorized to change a mandate of Almighty God. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of my word shall fail till all be fulfilled." "And if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18, 19.)

     "Is baptism important after a man is converted?" exclaims some Christian. All of God's commandments are important. The least of them are essentially important. "Believe" and "be baptized" are the two commands which our ascended Lord left behind him for his church. Who shall say the one is essential and the other is not? Obey both. Obedience is better than mutilation. "Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."

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[From Edward Macknight Brawley, editor, The Negro Baptist Pulpit: A Collection of Sermons and Papers on Baptist. . ., 1890, pp. 129-142. Document from Google Books. Jim Duvall]



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