Professor W. J. McGlothlin, who occupies the chair of Church History in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at Louisville , Kentucky, and this author had a discussion involving the attitude of Baptists toward the question of alien immersion, especially their past history upon the question. The discussion was published in the columns of the Baptist and Reflector of Nashville, Tennessee. Knowing that no work had ever been published, devoted exclusively to the history of this question, I suggested that we put the discussion in permanent form. This, however, Bro. McGlothlin declined to do, stating, among other things, that it would be fragmentary and unsatisfactory as a history. He, however, at the same time stated that a consecutive, impartial history of the question was at this time desirable, and suggested that I undertake the work. Brother McGlothlin and myself are not agreed on all points. We are agreed that the facts, without bias, should be disclosed. It shall be the purpose of these pages to record, without partiality, facts as they exist.
These pages will be devoted exclusively to history, and theory and exegesis will be employed only as they will throw light upon the history of the question.
With the hope that we shall be able to contribute, at least, something in the study of this vexed question, these pages are sent forth on their mission.
J. H. Grime
Ridgely, Tennessee, May 14, 1909.
We have just read in manuscript, “History of Alien Immersion and Valid Baptism,” by Elder J. H. Grime, of Ridgely, Tennessee.
As we finished the last page a hearty amen came fully endorsing the book. It is just what it purports to be, “A History of Alien Immersion.” It is largely a compilation of historical facts on the subject, a clear demonstration of the fact that Alien Immersion is a modern fad of liberalists, who are more anxious to be popular than they are to be right. The book is well arranged, is clear, logical and most timely.
It should be read by all of our Baptist people, and the just acknowledgement made of the timely service rendered to the cause of truth.
Would it not be timely for every real Baptist Association to go on record by publishing their disapproval of this illogical, inconsistent, modern practice of the few lax, would-be leaders and thus put a stop to the inroads of error which lead unmistakably to disintegration and confusion? Let Baptists be Baptists, contending earnestly for the faith.
J. G. Bow, Associate Editor Western Recorder.
Louisville , Ky. , May 25, 1909
Valid Baptism versus Alien Immersion.
In order to a correct understanding of any question, we should have a definite understanding of the meaning of all terms employed, and positions assumed. By the term “Alien Immersion” is meant immersions performed outside of Baptist churches, by persons who are in no way connected with them. It is commonly understood to refer to immersions performed by Pedobaptists and Campbellites. The question of divergence is, whether Baptist churches should recognize such immersions as valid baptisms, and receive members thus immersed into their churches, without immersing them again. There will be found among Baptists certain persons who take either side of this question. It will be the purpose of these pages, if possible, to determine the attitude which the denomination has occupied on this point in the past. The whole question turns upon the authority of the administrator. Those who believe in the reception of alien immersion, hold that the character of the administrator has nothing to do with the validity of baptism. They hold that if we have a proper subject - a true believer in Jesus Christ - a right design - to obey God, and symbolize our death to sin and resurrection to a new life-and a proper action-the total immersion of the body in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we have a gospel or valid baptism, it matters not what may be the character of the administrator. On the other hand, those who oppose the reception of Alien immersion, hold that in addition to the three qualifications stated above, to have valid or gospel baptism, there must be a legal administrator-one authorized by a gospel (Baptist) church. Of the former there are two classes. The one insists on receiving alien immersion at all times and without restraint; while the other class believes it is valid, but “opposes the reception of it on the principles of good order.” Of the latter there are also two classes; the one believes we should have direct church action in each particular case; while the other class believes that it is sufficient when the church confers her authority upon the minister in his ordination. The whole thing turns, however, upon the question of church authority. The question may be stated thus: All Baptists are agreed as to the subject, design and action of baptism. But when they come to the administrator they reach the point of divergence.
The question, we think, is sufficiently clear now that we may proceed to look after its history. Perhaps this would be a good place to state, that the rejection of alien immersion is a Baptist peculiarity. Even the Roman Catholics, with all their proscriptive and persecuting arrogance, have ever received, the baptism of heretics (as they are pleased to call all who differ from them). If for any cause they rebaptize one, they give what they call “conditional baptism,” employing this ceremony: “If thou art not baptized, I baptize thee,” etc. Protestant denominations, as a rule, have always received baptism from the hands of others. It is true that in their general meetings they have at times discussed the propriety of receiving baptisms performed by Catholics. But they have usually given indefinite decisions in the matter, with the understanding that if they invalidated Catholic baptism, they invalidated their own, since they received their baptism from the Catholics. It is true also that John Wesley rebaptized Dissenters in order to get Catholic, or Episcopal authority, for their baptism. These are isolated cases, however, and as a rule the statement holds good, that it is peculiarly a Baptist practice.
The history of this question has its beginning with God himself. When God would begin the ordinance of baptism, he began it by emphasizing the administrator-in sending a man direct from God. John 1:6. The administrator was further emphasized by Christ. When the time came for him to be baptized, he did not say the administrator is non-essential, and therefore seek baptism at the hands of some Rabbi, or Priest, in his own town (Nazareth ), but walked sixty miles to get baptism at the hands of a Baptist preacher-the heaven-sent legal administrator. (See Mark 1:9; John 1:33.) Christ further emphasized the administrator when he raised the question as to whether “John’s baptism was from Heaven, or of men.” Matthew 21:25. And he still further emphasized the administrator when he told the “Pharisees and lawyers that they rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of John.” Luke 7:30.
The administrator is still again emphasized in that those baptized by Christ’s disciples are said to be baptized by Christ himself. John 3:22 and 4:1-2. Just as the State hangs a criminal through the sheriff - their legal agent - so Christ baptized through the disciples, his legal administrators. Such could never be said of one hanged by a mob; it matters not how guilty the one lynched might be. Just so no one could be said to be baptized by Christ unless baptized by one commissioned by Him.
We come now to consider the history of the early churches upon this question.
Ignatius, one of the “Apostolic Fathers,” and probably a contemporary with John and Paul, and who suffered martyrdom early in the second century, in a letter to the church at Smyrna, has this to say: “It is not lawful without the bishop (pastor) either to baptize or to celebrate a love feast (Lord’s Supper), but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.” - Ante Nicean Fathers, Volume 1, p. 90.
We move up now to the year 200 A. D., when we find Tertullian strongly opposing the reception of the baptism (immersion) of heretics (other sects). He uses this language:
“There is to us one, and but one baptism. . . . One God, and one baptism, and one church in the heavens. But it must be admitted that the question, ‘What rules are to be observed with regard to heretics?’ is worthy of being treated. For it is to us that that assertion refers.
Heretics, however, have no fellowship in our discipline whom the mere fact of their excommunication testifies to be outsiders (other denominations). I am not bound to recognize in them a thing which is enjoined on me, . . . And, therefore, their baptism is not one with ours either; because it is not the same; a baptism which, since they have it not duly doubtless they have not at all; nor is that capable of being counted which is not had.” - Ante Nicean Fathers, Volume 3, p. 676.
It will be seen here that Tertullian reads their baptism clean out, as being nothing, and clearly makes it a test of fellowship.
In the next place the churches planted by Paul, and his fellow helpers in Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Cilicia, Syria, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Pontus Galatia. Bithynia, with adjoining countries, including Africa and Numidia, stood as a unit in the rejection of alien immersion up to 259 A. D. - Eusebius, Book 7, chapter 5, pp. 257-258.
Speaking of the above, Neander (Volume 1, p. 318), perhaps the most learned historian of his day, tells us that the only discordant note, the only ones to raise their voice in favor of the reception of alien immersion (for nothing but immersion was practiced then) was the church at Rome, and such as they dominated by their influence. It must be remembered that this was after the split in the church at Rome, and the corrupt party had started on their way to the papacy under the leadership of Cornelius. It was this factional church, at Rome, which afterward became the headquarters of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, that set the pace for the reception of alien immersion. And they carried it so far as to institute the farce of passing the act of exclusion of all churches who refused to receive it. Hear Neander describe it:
“But here again, it was a Roman bishop, Stephanus, who, instigated by the spirit of ecclesiastical arrogance, domination and zeal, without knowledge, attached to this point of dispute a paramount importance. Hence toward the close of the year 253, he issued a sentence of excommunication against the bishops (pastors) of Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Galatia, and Cilicia, stigmatizing them as Ana-baptists (Aiatsitpaban) a name, however, which they could justly affirm they did not deserve by their principles; for it was not their wish to administer a second baptism, to those who had been already baptized, but they contended that the previous baptism, given by heretics (other sects) could not be recognized as a true one. . . . “These induced Cyprian, the bishop (pastor) to propose the point for discussion at two Synods (councils) held at Carthage in the year 255 A. D., the one composed of eighteen, and the other of seventy-one bishops (pastors); and both assemblies declared in favor of Cyprian’s views, that the baptism of heretics ought not to be regarded as valid.” - Neander, volume 1, pp. 318, 319. See also Ante Nicean Fathers, volume 6, p. 102.
In the “Apostolic Constitution” we find this language: “Be ye likewise contented with one baptism alone, that which is into the death of the Lord; not that which is conferred by wicked heretics, but that which is conferred by unblameable priests.” - Ante Nicean Fathers, volume 7, p. 456. This statement dates in the early part of the fourth century.
From this time until the reformation the question must be studied in the light of the Ana-baptists. It has been repeatedly stated by alien immersionists that Ana-baptists only opposed infant baptism, and that they never re-baptized on account of the character of the administrator. This statement seems strange, in view of the fact that the title was born about the time infant baptism was first introduced, and many centuries before sprinkling was in use for baptism. The only question involved was the administrator. This fact can be verified by reference to the Ante Nicean Fathers, Eusebius, and in fact any reputable church history of any denomination. We quote from McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia:“The term Ana-baptists, or Rebaptizers, is connected with the controversies of the third century. In Asia Minor and in Africa, where the spirit of controversy had raged long and bitterly, baptism was considered to be only valid when administered in the orthodox church. . . . So high were the disputes on this question, that two synods (councils) were convened to investigate it, one at Iconium and the other at Synnada, in Phrygia, which confirmed the opinion of the invalidity of heretical Baptism. From Asia the question passed to Northern Africa; Tertullian accorded with the decision of the Asiatic councils in opposition to the practice of the Roman church. Agrippinus convened a council at Carthage, which came to a similar decision with those of Asia. Thus the matter rested, till Stephen, bishop of Rome, prompted by ambition, proceeded to excommunicate the bishops (pastors) of Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Galatia and Cilicia, and applied to them the epithets of Rebaptizers and Ana-baptists, A. D. 253.” - McClintock & Strong, volume 1. p. 210.Robert Robinson, the English historian, has this to say, speaking of the Ana-baptists: “The third division comprehends all such as placed the essence of baptism in the virtue or competency of the administrator. . . . It was on this account, that many of the ancient Bohemian Brethren rebaptized, and were denominated by the priests, whose services they disowned, Ana-baptists. . . . Bishop Bossuet properly enough observes this rebaptizing was an open declaration, that in the opinion of the Brethren the Catholick church had lost baptism. This is precisely their meaning. They did not pretend to rebaptize; but supposing what was done in the church (of Rome) to be no baptism, they baptized, as they thought, properly.” - History of Baptism, p. 414.
Mosheim speaking of the Ana-baptists, says:They “acquired the denomination of Ana-baptists by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion.” “They rebaptized all those who leave other Christian churches to embrace their communion.” - Mosheim’s Church History volume 2, pp. 127, 296.  Gieseler says:“In accordance with this view they declared all other churches to have forfeited the rights of a Christian church; and baptized anew those who came over to them.” - Gieseler’s Church History, volume 1. p. 255.  We might multiply these authors, but these are sufficient.
Chapters 3 & 4
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