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The History of Baptism
By Robert Robinson
Reprinted from the original London edition of 1790
With Introduction and Notes by J. R. Graves, A.M.
Reviewed by James M. Pendleton

      The first thing that suggests itself to us while looking at this superb volume is the rapid tendency of typographic improvement in a South-western direction. Who could have believed twenty years ago that such a book would emanate from the Nashville press? But here it is, in substantial binding, on good paper, and on as beautiful type as any can desire. The original Notes are handsomely printed, chiefly in the Latin language; and thus while readers generally may obtain from the body of the work a vast amount of baptismal information, the clerical[?] scholar may learn from the Notes the sources, or many of the sources, whence the historian derived his knowledge.

      It is quite an important fact that the present edition of the "History of Baptism" is a reprint from the London edition. There has never before appeared a perfect American edition. Benedict published an abridgement in 1817, and the size of the volume indicates that many things must have been omitted. It is very difficult now, and has been for years, to procure this abridgement. Hence the unmutilated publication of the original work at the present time is decidedly opportune. Those who would acquaint themselves thoroughly with the question of Baptism must read Robinson. On some points he has written more satisfactorily than any other man. Most readers will learn from him something new as to the comprehensive import of the term infant in ancient writings. They will see that it is by no means restricted in its use to speechless babes.

      The account given of ancient baptisteries is full of interest and furnishes a strong argument corroborative of the former practice of immersion. Mr. Robinson says,

"By a baptistery, which must not be confounded with a modern font, is to be understood an octagon building, with a cupola roof, resembling the dome of a cathedral, adjacent to a church, but no part of it. All the middle part of this building was one large hall capable of containing a great multitude of people; the sides were parted off, and divided into rooms, and in some rooms were added without aide in the fashion of cloisters. In the middle of the great hall was an octagon bath, which strictly speaking was the baptistery, and from which the whole building was denominated. This was called the pool, the pond, the place to swim in, beside a great number of other names of a figurative nature taken from the religious benefits, which were supposed to be connected with baptisms; such as the laver of regeneration, the luminary, and many more of the same parentage.

Some had been natural rivulets, before the buildings were erected over them, and the pool was contrived to retain water sufficient for dipping, and to discharge the rest. Others were supplied by pipes, and the water was conveyed into one or more of the side rooms," etc. p. 81.

      As Mr. Robinson aimed to write the "History of Baptism" it did not accord with his purpose to dwell on the meaning of baptize as Carson has done. They have written with great ability, each in his own department. Robinson's "History of Baptism," and Carson on "Baptism" together with Wall's History of Infant Baptism (soon to be issued in two octavo volumes by the South-Western Publishing House, Nashville) come very near constituting a perfect store-house of baptismal literature. True, we need a great variety of small books and tracts for general readers who cannot be expected to acquaint themselves with large works. Every minister, and every intelligent layman ought to consider his library imperfect without Robinson, Carson and Wall.

      The introduction to the present volume by the American Editor was published in our last number. Our readers will remember the opinion is there expressed that the time is rapidly coming when Pedo-baptists will generally assume the strange position that immersion is not baptism. The tendencies seems to be in that direction, and when the issue is fairly made on this point the controversy will probably be intensely violent, but, we think, of short duration. A familiar acquaintance with Robinson's History will do much to prepare any one to take part in the controversy whenever the time comes. The present volume is to be followed by the "Ecclesiastical Researches" of the same author. The South-Western Publishing House is, by bringing out these valuable works, laying the public under many obligations. -
Southern Baptist Review. - P.


[From the Tennessee Baptist, July 21, 1860, p. 3, microfilm CD edition. Source location from Thomas White, Cedarville U, OH. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

      There is a Google Books digitized volume of this book here.

      A review of the David Benedict abridged edition of Robinson's History of Baptism is here.

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