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were, buried with Christ. Separated by fire. Separated by
Supposing, then, that we have now presented the vital and essential idea expressed by baptism, and that the disciples of Christ would understand him to say, “Go ye, and separate, by a purifying rite, all nations,” &c., another question here arises ; is not the particular mode, by which that idea is to be expressed, prescribed and essential? It is not prescribed, certainly, by the force of the word itself baptize, as then commonly understood. We have already seen in what great latitude that word had come to be used, in that age, meaning to wet, as VOL. XXXIII. - 3D s. VOL. XV. NO. II.
used of Nebuchadnezzar; to pour, in the reference to the washing of hands; and to separate, or, at most, to sprinkle, as used by St. Paul, in his allusion to the passage by the Israelites of the Red Sea. The derivation and primary signification of the word, I repeat, decides nothing at all. A writer, in the last number of the Edinburgh Review, speaks of one who, in France, had been crowned by martyrdom. What should we say of a reader, who should insist, that the native force of the word crowned compels us to believe, that the martyr came to his death by something resembling a crown put upon his head? We should say, that he overlooked the fact, that the term had an established usage in a borrowed and secondary sense.
There is the highest evidence that can be given, that the word baptize, as a religious term, had an established usage, in the time of Christ, in a secondary and borrowed sense. That evidence is the utter impossibility of translating that word, in numberless passages, by any definition of it according to its primary signification. It is idle, then, to affirm, that we are tied down to one mode of baptism, by the original force of the word.
Again, the prevailing notions, which the Jews entertained on the subject of consecration and purification, would not prescribe one particular mode, as essential to the idea of baptism; and, of course, no such limitation is to be presumed from the words of Christ, who used the popular language of Judea. Certainly, we say only what must be admitted by all, when we affirm, that the Jews were as familiarly acquainted with sprinkling, as emblematical of purification, as they were with immersion. It must be wholly unnecessary to verify this by any quotations from the Old Testament. The Levites were set apart to God's special service by sprinkling; the leper was cleansed by sprinkling ; his house was purified by sprinkling ; one defiled by touching a dead body, the vessels near a dead body, the tent in which a dead body was laid, were all made clean by the sprinkling of water upon them. “ Because the water of separation is not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean." These words are found repeatedly in the law. And they are noteworthy, as they show, both that the idea of ceremonial cleanness was, in some instances, inseparably attached to sprinkling, and also, that the idea of separation was expressed by this act. This is the idea, as I have before shown, which was carried into Christian baptism, the water of which
we may correctly define as “the water of separation.” The expression, too, used in Ezekiel xxxvi. 25, is remarkable; “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." Here the very act of purifying from a heathen state is described by the sprinkling of clean water. In the 10th chapter of Hebrews we are directed to draw nigh to God, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. A passage, moreover, in the 9th chapter of this same epistle, is important in this connexion. In the 10th verse the writer alludes to the old covenant as standing in meats, and drinks, and divers washings, or, as it is in the original, “ divers baptisms,” and then immediately specifies one of these, - the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean and sanctifying to the purifying of the flesh. Here, beyond all controversy, sprinkling is called baptism.
On the other side, it need not be shown, that the same ideas of purification and separation are now attached by the Jews to the acts of washing, bathing, &c. both of persons and sacred vessels. This is well known. The remarks we have offered go to prove, that to no one mode were these ideas exclusively confined, and, of course, that there was nothing in the habits of thought among the Jews, which would limit the force of our Saviour's words to any one mode of baptism.
But we advance now to a more important consideration still. There is nothing in the examples of baptism, in the apostolic times, which prescribes any one mode as that which is indispensably necessary. Even if we should admit that Christ was baptized by immersion, and that the apostles invariably practised that mode, it would only prove that that was the mode adopted then to symbolize the idea of purification and separation. Not one word is said to show, that we are not at liberty to symbolize the same idea by other modes which, as we have seen, fully meet the definition of baptism as it was then understood, though for reasons not assigned these other modes were not then used. But we do not make such an admission as that. It cannot be proved, that immersion was always practised. It has been affirmed, that the Mosaic Law did in no cases of purification require the entire immersion of the body; that as a matter of fact, under that law, no such immersions were practised; that the force of the words, to bathe and to wash, is fully met, without supposing any immersion at all.
But, passing this by as a point which we cannot now investigate, if, indeed, it can be certainly determined, it is enough to observe, that the question is open to grave doubt, whether immersion was practised in apostolic times, in any one instance. It is well known, that nothing whatever is proved by the propositions, going down “into "the water, coming up “out of" the water. The preposition rendered “into” is more commonly translated " to,” “at,” or “by," as in John xx. 4, where, in giving an account of the disciples going to the sepulchre of Christ, we read, the other disciple did outrun Peter and came first " to " the sepulchre; yet, as it is added, went not “in.” It shows the care with which this whole subject has been studied, to observe, that one writer has ascertained, that the preposition rendered “out of” is so translated only one hundred and nineteen times, while it is rendered - from” three hundred and thirty-seven times. The balance of use, then, in the prepositions, is strongly against the supposition, that the baptized went into the water at all. But what if they did go down into the water ? It is a wholly gratuitous supposition, that they were, after all, immersed. The Saviour might have been there consecrated by the pouring or sprinkling of water. This would have been entirely agreeable to the prevailing ideas of setting one apart to a sacred calling, and far more agreeable than immersion to the mode by which the Levitical Priests were consecrated, which, as we have seen, was by sprinkling. But admit, that the peculiarity of John's baptism was plunging. The apostles might have adopted another mode, equally expressive of the idea of setting one apart to God, equally agreeable to their previous customs and habits of thought, and far more convenient of administration. That this was done in the cases of the baptism of the three thousand, of the jailer, and of Paul, seems, to say the least, in the absence of all positive evidence, the most probable and reasonable supposition that can be made.
There is an expression used by St. Paul in two several instances, which, as is thought by some, determines conclusively what the apostolic mode of baptism was, and on this account it deserves to be particularly noticed in this connexion. It occurs in Romans vi. 4, and in Colossians ji. 12; in both of which places the Apostle uses the phrase buried with Christ 6 by baptism into his death," as it reads in the former passage, “ in baptism," as it reads in the latter. It has been said, that these words have done more than any other to lead many to think, that immersion was the apostolic mode. But it is by no means certain, that these words have any allusion whatever to the mode. A simple inspection of the connexion, in which these two texts stand, renders it probable, that the apostle used the word buried in a figurative sense. Thus he speaks in the passage referred to in Romans of the believer, as being crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and raised with Christ. In the passage referred to in Colossians, he speaks of the believer as being circumcised with Christ, buried with Christ, and raised with Christ. This allusion to Christ's crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, was after the favorite and universal style of this apostle, who seems to have delighted in tracing correspondences between certain spiritual states of the believer, and the literal facts of Christ's life. But the greater part, at least, of this language, every one sees, is figurative. If any one asks how we can be buried with Christ in baptism, if we are not immersed; we answer; Christ's death and burial are not the only things we are baptized into. We are baptized into his crucifixion, and into his resurrection, as the apostle says, we are crucified with Christ, we are raised with Christ. We ask, then, in our turn, how are we crucified with Christ? Or, to take the case in Colossians, how are we circumcised with Christ? If, in Paul's use of language, our crucifixion and our resurrection are figurative, is it not reasonable to conclude, that the burial spoken of in the same connexion is figurative also ? To suppose, that an allusion is made to 'an actual burial in water, is wholly gratuitous. It is out of keeping with the rest of the apostle's language. It is attaching an idea to baptism, which is not once hinted at in any other text in the Scriptures, - the idea of its being typical of Christ's burial; and an idea, let us add, totally foreign to the notion universally entertained of it, as a purifying rite.
We find nothing, then, in apostolic usage or language, which necessarily limits the words of Christ to one particular mode. That in the age succeeding the apostles, and for the first two or three centuries, during the prevalence of that tendency to formalism, which corrupted everything connected with religion, baptism was administered altogether by immersion, must certainly be allowed. This was, doubtless, regarded as the most thorough and orthodox mode. It was connected with many superstitious observances, which encumbered, and perverted, and dis