BAPTISM Original Covenanter 1881 C. Clyde
- BAPTISM.The Christian religion is of divine origin. It is revealed from Heaven in a supernatural revelation, and is the medium through which a merciful God brings is revolted people back to their allegiance. Depending for its efficacy wholly upon the agency of the Holy Spirit, it nevertheless appeals to the rational nature of man, and demands a willing obedience to its precepts. Is various ordinances are such as to enlist all his faculties in their reception and observance. His body, as well as his soul, is the willing instrument of receiving divine instruction. "The eye see, and the ear hears, and the hands handle of the Word of Life."Even in Paradise, instruction was conveyed to man through the medium of his bodily senses. The tree of life was an emblem of immortality, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a visible token that in the day he transgressed the Covenant, that day he should surely die. The same feature in the divine mode of teaching appears in the covenant made with Noah. The bow set in the cloud is a faithful witness to the beholder that God will no more destroy the world by a flood. The Abrahamic Covenant also has its visible tokens, and these are brought nearer the individual than were those of the covenants that preceded it. Circumcision, and subsequently the Passover also, were full of spiritual instruction to the people for whose benefit they were instituted; and even under the eminently spiritual dispensation of the New Testament, external symbols are divinely prescribed. These are exhibited in the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; the former of which is the subject of the present essay.We have the authority of the Westminster divines for calling Baptism a sacrament of the New Testament; and also for maintaining that, with the exception of the Lord's Supper, there are no other sacraments divinely instituted in the Christian Church. On the other hand, the Council of Trent pronounces its anathema against all who say that "The sacraments of the New Law are more or less than seven." In view of these conflicting opinions it may be well, before deciding as to the correctness of either view, to inquire closely into the force and use of terms.Our English word sacrament is only a modified form of the Latin sacramentum, a word used by the Romans to signify, 1. That by which a person binds himself or another to perform anything. 2. An oath; particularly the oath taken by soldiers. These were the principal signification's of the word; and if they were retained by it when transferred to our language, we could not well deny that the binding ordinances of marriage and ordination are properly termed sacraments. The word, however, has obtained a meaning entirely different from that attached to it by classical authors. The Latin ecclesiastical writers used it as the equivalent of musterion, which the Greeks applied to the Christian ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Through this medium it has come down to us; and its import as an established theological usage. A comprehensive definition is found in S. Cat., Ques. 93. In the sense there defined, we constantly use it; and affirm that the sacraments of the New Testament are neither more or less than two.Christ has instituted no unmeaning ordinances in his church. Baptism is full of significance. The outward sensible sign of washing with water is symbolical of an inward spiritual grace. In virtue of Christ's own appointment, the application of water in baptism is an emblem of the "washing of regeneration." The fitness of the sign employed to represent to the senses the moral purification of the soul is at once natural and obvious. Sin is uniformly set forth in the Scriptures as filth and pollution; and the sinner, as vile and unclean. The convinced subject of grace spontaneously uses language corresponding to these aspects of sin when he cries for deliverance: "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."Baptism is to be viewed also as a confirming seal of covenant blessings. Circumcision was "a seal of the righteousness of faith," Rom. 4:11; and baptism, called expressly "the circumcision made without hands," "the circumcision of Christ," serves a similar end under the Christian dispensation. Every adult recipient of this New Testament rite is supposed to have embraced the covenant of grace, previous to his presenting himself as a candidate for the ordinance. This is implied in what the Scriptures uniformly require as prerequisites to the baptism of adults---faith and repentance. A person believing with all his heart in the Lord Jesus Christ as offered in the gospel, rejecting all abounding errors in faith and practice, thus taking hold of the covenant of grace as all his salvation and all his desire, presents himself to the officiating minister and in the rite of baptism receives the broad seal of the Trinity, as a pledge that the covenant is ordered in all things and sure. Just as he who receives the title-deeds of an estate, signed and sealed by the original owner is legally confirmed in possession, and the property is said thereby to be conveyed to him; so also the person, who, in the exercise of faith, receives the sacrament of baptism, has thereby signified, sealed, and legally conveyed to him all the benefits of the covenant of grace. " As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."This outward seal, however, is not inseparably connected with a participation of the benefits of the covenant. Abraham had the righteousness of faith, "being yet uncircumcised;" and likewise every one that has the faith of Abraham is born of God, whether he have received the sacrament or not. And on the other hand, many are subjects of the rite who have no part in the grace symbolized thereby. This is evident from the nature of baptism as a seal, which always supposes that to which it is to be affixed as made and prepared for sealing. The unworthy recipient, not having the righteousness of faith, is not interested in the covenant; and, consequently, has no covenant blessing to be sealed. Baptism to one in such a condition is like a signature affixed to a blank. It conveys nothing to him. It is an unmeaning symbol. Such was the case with Simon, the sorcerer, who, after baptism, was still "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." So also is it with those children of the kingdom who are finally "cast out"It is essential to the validity of baptism that it be administered by a gospel minister, one of those who are the "stewards of the mysteries of God." Lay baptism, as it is called, has no warrant in the Word of God !. And it is essential also that also that the ceremony be performed in the name of Trinity; not only because it is by such authority that it is performed, but because the formula is divinely prescribed, and constitutes an essential part of the meaning of the rite. To be baptized into or unto the name of the Farther, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is to be consecrated to the service of each person named. It is emphatically to be called by the name of the Lord, and to become his property. And on the part of the Trinity, the person thus devoted is taken under their care and made the recipient of all the benefits of the covenant of grace.As to the mode of applying the element to the subject of baptism, we have no explicit directions in the Scriptures. The evangelists introduce the Lord's forerunner as baptizing multitudes, but say nothing definite concerning the manner in which the rite was administered. The other sacred writers maintain the same simplicity, and record a number of baptisms without saying anything about the mode of using the water. That nothing definite, as the mode of baptism, can be inferred from the meaning of the original word baptismos, may be shown by citing passages in which the word occurs in the New Testament.In Heb.9:10, mention is made of "divers washings," baptismois. If baptism were only of one kind, always dispensed in the same form, it is obvious that the epithet divers would be entirely out of place in this passage. But admit that it refers to certain ceremonial observances under the Law, consisting of washings by pouring, sprinkling and even by immersion, and the use of "divers" as a qualifying word is exceedingly appropriate. That such a reference was intended by the apostle in the text cited is obvious from his specifying these usage's in the subsequent verses. The use of the original word again in Mark 7:4 is further evidence that more than one mode or action is expressed by baptismos.The same word occurs also in 1Peter 3:21, in such a connection as to exclude the idea of immersion,---the idea which those who insist upon the single meaning of the term always attach to it. Speaking of the salvation of the eight persons in the ark, the apostle affirms, that "the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." But the salvation of those in the ark consisted in their not being immersed, and if baptism were equivalent to immersion, it would not be "the like figure thereunto." but the very reverse.The word used in the apostolic commission, translated, or rather Anglicized, baptize, does not always nor necessarily signify to dip or immerse. In proof of this we refer to 1Cor.10:2. There the Israelites are said to have been "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." Compare this language with that in Num.14:19-31, and also with that in Heb.10:29, in both of which passages it is said that they passed over "on, or by, dry land." Can any one reconcile these assertions of the Holy Spirit on the assumption that baptizo "always signifies to dip, never expressing anything but mode?" To say, as Dr. Carson has said, that Moses "got a dry dip" is worse than trifling.The true view seems to be that the original word is used in the general sense of washing with water, without direct reference to the mode of application. All other conditions being complied with, baptism by immersion is acknowledged to be lawful: but "dipping of the person into the water is not necessary."Our warrant for pouring or sprinkling is not based solely upon the meaning of bapizo; although according to all disinterested lexicographers and commentators, as Dr. Carson confesses, that word signifies to drench or wet by the application of water in any form whatever. We take into consideration all the circumstances connected with the administration of the ordinance as related in the New Testament, and from these we are forced to infer that immersion in the several instances recorded was highly impracticable, if not altogether impossible: and inasmuch as the blessings signified by baptism, summed up in the gift of the Holy Spirit, are never said to come under the figure of immersion, but are to be "poured out." "shed forth," "fallen upon them," "sprinkled," we conclude that we are warranted, in the absence of any explicit directions as to mode, to symbolize these spiritual blessings in baptism by pouring or sprinkling.The proper subjects of baptism will be considered in a future article.C.Clyde.