Did Any English General Baptists Practise Immersion Before 1641?
This question, I think, must be answered in the affirmative, but thus far only one passage has been found to demonstrate that fact. This information is found in the second part of William Britten's "Moderate Baptist"1, 1654, and reads in its context as follows2: -"Baptisterium, that vessel for sprinkling or washing, callad [called] a Font, wee read not of in Scripture, it being another of their inventions. And for the further information of the manner, note the word immergo, to plunge, dip, in, or overwhelm; . . . Thus in the command of Christ they forsake him the fountain, and hew to themselves a broken Cistern.--------------------------------------------
"Object. Some object, that now there ought to be no water-baptism, neither of Infants nor Beleevers, alledging that the Ordinance is ceased, for want of a succession of Administrators from the Primitive times; in which they produce the Churches flight into the wildernesse [Revelation 13.6], to be fed there one thousand two hundred and threescore dayes, which are taken Prophetically for so many yeares, and that time Antichrist had the power, when Popes, Popish Bishops, and Priests tyrannized over the Saints, who then solely exercised the Authority of Church-administration in publike, not suffering a Saint to appeare in a right Gospel-manner; and then the holy City (being the Church of Christ) to be troden under foot.
"Before I answer this, note thus much; That these Objecters doe not all of them deny Baptism to beleevers with water, but say the way to Baptism is cut off, by means a succession of Baptizers did not continue in those persecuting times, and so no man hath that Authority to baptize with water, until Christ restores the same by such a messenger as shall be immediately called by himselfe.
"Ans. It is hard to prove a succession of Administrators in a Gospel-way; for the enemy having power a long time, then the poore Saints durst write little to keep it upon records, when themselves were persecuted from City to City, . . . Yet I question not but there was a Church continued under the same ordinances, although obscure and hid from the eyes of the world, as you may see, although the woman (the Church) was in the wildernesse [Rev. 12. 6], yet she dyed not there, but was fed of God; . . . So it appeares God had a Church then.
1 What is believed to be an unique copy of this work is in the author's collection.
2 Pp. 65-67.
"Although the right Gospel frame did not visibly appeare to the world in the time of Popery, Prelacy and Presbytery, so that great Congregations could not be gathered; yet if but two or three, Christ hath promised to be amongst them, (as a Church in his name) . . . yet this woman (the Church) was nourished from the face of the Serpent (those persecutors) during which wildernesse estate of Gods people, they had comfort and light in their dwellings, . . .--------------------------------------------
"In the yeare 1635. when Prelacy had so great power that it overtopt the tender plants, yet then I found one Baptist, who declared so much unto me, that I perceived in those tyrannical times there was a Church of Christ under his Ordinances accorinding to Gospel manner1; and why not formerly under other persecutors also 1 for we never read of a total cutting off the Church of Christ, but a wildernesse estate, and how the witnesses shall prophecy in sackcloth [Rev. 11. 3.J, which sets forth that mournful condition of the Church then; yet all this while as the word was preserved, so I question riot but the Saints were hidden in that measure whereby God had alwayes a Church upon the Earth, from Christ unto this present; . . ."
1 This sentence without doubt means that this anonymous (English) Anabaptist in 1635 baptized his converts by immersion, or "dipping". Evidently he was an Arminian, with whom or whose converts the Particular Anabaptists would have nothing to do, when they later adopted this mode of baptism. More probably, however, they had not heard of him.
[This document was provided by Steve Lacrone, Burton, OH.]
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