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If a man walks, or runs, or rides, or sails, he equally fulfils the command. On the other hand, some king or ruler, for particular reasons, might command an act by a word entirely specific, as for example, that certain mourners should walk in a funeral procession. Now it is plain that such a command could not be fulfilled by riding, or by running, for though these are models of going, they are not models of walking, and the command is not to go in general, but specifically to walk. So when a general says, March, it will not answer for the soldiers to run; for, though this is a mode of going, it is not a mode of marching.
šo likewise, when Christ said baptize, he either used a word which had a generic sense, denoting an effect, such as purify, cleanse, or a specific sense denoting an act, such as immerse, sprinkle, dip.
2. Whichever way we decide, as it regards the import of the word, we ought to be uniform in its use as applied to the rite of baptism. For though the same word may have diverse meanings when applied to different things and in various circumstances, yet it certainly cannot, when applied to the same thing and in the same circumstances.
Hence, if we adopt the generic meaning, purify or cleanse, we must adhere to it at all times, when speaking of the rite. On the other hand, if we adopt a specific meaning, as immerse, or sprinkle, we must adhere to it in the same way, and not pass from the generic to the specific, or from the specific to the generic, according to exigencies, on the ground that the word Barrifw, may in the whole circuit of its use, mean sometimes one thing and sometimes, another. Nor must we adopt both, for however numerous the possible meanings of a word may be in its various usages, it has in each particular case but one meaning, and in all similar cases its meaning is the same. Hence the word Bantilw, as applied to a given rite has not two or many meanings, but one, and to that one, we should in all cases adhere..
3. If we adopt a generic meaning, denoting an effect, we are not limited by the command to any specific mode of fulfilling it, and are at liberty to vary the mode according to circumstances. But if we adopt a specific meaning, denoting an external act, we are limited by the very import of the command, to the range of that meaning. .
Hence if the command is purify, or cleanse, we are not limited by the command to any one mode, but may choose that which seems to us most appropriate, whether it be sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.
But if the command is specific, as immerse, then we are limited by the range of that word, and cannot fulfil the command by sprinkling, or pouring, for these are not modes of immersion, any more than riding is a mode of walking, or writing a mode of painting.
It is true that sprinkling and pouring may be modes of purifying, and so is riding a mode of going. But if the command is not purify, but immerse, then all debate as to the mode is at an end, for you can immerse, not by sprinkling, but only by immersion.
§ 2. Causes of the disregard of these principles, and false
positions to which this disregard has given rise. Though the principles stated are simple and obvious, yet the natural operations of the mind on questions of philology have been in this case embarrassed and perplexed by certain influences of a kind peculiar to this word.
At the time of the translation of the Bible, a controversy had arisen as it regards the import of the word, so that, although it was conceded to have an import in the original, yet it was impossible to assign to it in English any meaning without seeming to take sides in the controversy then pending.
Accordingly, in order to take neither side, they did not translate the word at all, but merely transferred it with a slight alteration of termination to our language. The con. sequence was that it ceased to exhibit its original significancy to the mind of the reader, or indeed any significancy except what was derived from its application to designate an exter. nal visible rite.-In short, it became merely the name of a rite, and had a usage strictly technical, and lost to the ear whatever significance it originally had.
The habit of using the word in a technical sense has tended to unfit the mind for the discussion of the question as to the mode of baptism in various ways, of which I shall mention three.
1. It has led to a departure from the principles already stated, that words, when applied to the same subject, and in the same circumstances, cannot have a double sense. This rule, as has been remarked, does not forbid that the same
word in different circumstances should have various senses, accordingly it may be conceded that the word, Barriţw has various senses in the wide range of its usage, in scriptural and classical Greek, but out of this variety of usages, there is one strictly of a religious nature, and having direct reference to one of the great revealed facts of Christianity. Now in a case like this, the laws of philology require that some one of the meanings of the word should be fixed on and assigned to it in all cases. But the habit of using the word baptize in a strictly technical sense, as the name of a rite, has led to a disregard of this simple and obvious rule.
Many writers, fixing their minds merely upon the idea of a rite, and finding that the word Bantilw, means sometimes to wash, sometimes to immerse, and sometimes, as they think, to pour or sprinkle, conclude that the rite of baptism may be performed in either way, entirely forgetting that, although the word should happen, in the wide range of its usage, scriptural and classical, secular and religious, to have all these meanings, it by no means follows that when used as a religious term, it has more than one. Hence, if as a religious term, and in certain circumstances, it means immerse, it does not also in similar circumstances mean to wet or to wash, to sprinkle or to pour, to color or to dye, but simply to immerse. And just as plainly, if in some cases of its religious use, it means to purify, it does not in others of the same kind mean to pour, to sprinkle, or to immerse.
2. The other mode in which the technical use of this word has unfitted the mind for a fair consideration of the question is, it has permitted the introduction of a discussion as to the mode of baptism, after concessions have been made, which ought for ever to exclude it. For example, the question arises what meaning did the word Bantilw, convey to those, who in the age of the New Testament writers read the command, go baptize all nations ? Was it to immerse ? So our brethren the Baptists maintain, and so many who do not im. merse concede. Now after such a concession, with what propriety they can debate any longer as to the mode, I acknowledge that I cannot perceive. Nor do I think, that they would do it were it not for an illusion practised by the technical word Baptize, upon their minds.
· After admitting as a point of philology, that the word Bartifw in its religious use means immerse, the mind seems to revert to the old habit of using the Anglicised word bap
tism, without attaching to it any meaning, and we are at once told that it is of no use to dispute as to the mode of baptism. Suppose, now, instead of the word baptism, we substitute the meaning which it has been conceded to bave, and the illusion is at once exposed. We concede that Bantifw means immerse, but of what use is it to dispute concerning the mode of immersion ? of none surely, so you do but immerse. But can you immerse by sprinkling? Is sprinkling a mode of immersion ? The fact is, that if the word denotes a given definite act, no other dissimilar act, is or can be a mode of it. Pouring is not a mode of sprinkling or of immersion, nor is sprinkling a mode of pouring or of immersion, nor is immersion a mode of sprinkling or pouring.
3. Others again stilt using the word merely as a technic, say that baptism is the application of water, in any way, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ; but base their conclusions rather on reason and the nature of the case, or on the design of the rite, than on a thorough philological investigation of the word. Now the defect of this last mode of reasoning is that it does not interpret the command. It uses the word like a technic, having no meaning of its own, and gives rather a description of a rite than a definition of Battisw.
No one ever pretended to define Barriţw as meaning “to apply water in any way”-of course Baptism cannot be defined to be “the application of water in any way." And whether this view of the rite is correct or not, must depend entirely on the meaning of the word.
§ 3. Statement of the position to be proved. From what has been said it is plain that those who have written on the subject of the mode of Baptism may be arranged in four classes.
1. Those who maintain that the word in the whole extent of its usage has various meanings, and from this fact alone draw the inference that, therefore, the rite may be performed in various ways, making at the same time no attempt to prove which of its possible meanings it actually has in the case in question.
2. Those who fix on a specific meaning-e. g. immerse, and which of course excludes all dispute as to the word, and yet insist that no more is essential.
3. Those who look mainly at the obvious design of the rite, i. e. to indicate purity, and on this ground affirm that to Baptize is to apply water in any way which denotes purity, without attempting to make out a philological proof of the truth of their position from the import of the word Baarifu.
4. Those who insist that the word in all its extent of usage has but one meaning-viz. to immerse—and that this excludes all debate as to the word.
None of these positions is in my judgment adapted to explain all the facts which occur in the use of the word, and to give satisfaction and rest to an inquiring mind. Any view which shall effectually do this will be found to have the following requisites :
(1.) That it shall be strictly philological:
(2.) That out of all the possible meanings of Barriţw, it shall fix on one as the real meaning in the case in question.
(3.) That it shall at all times steadily adhere to this.
(4.) That this shall limit the performance of the rite to no particular mode.
The position which I shall endeavor to prove in accordance with these views is this, that the word Barriţw, as a religious term, means neither dip nor sprinkle, immerse nor pour--nor any other external action in applying a fluid to the body, or the body to a fluid-nor any action which is limited to one mode of performance. But that as a religious term it means at all times, to purify, or cleanse—words of a meaning so general as not to be confined to any mode, or agent, or means, or object, whether material or spiritual, but to leave the widest scope for the question as to the mode-so that in this usage it is in every respect a perfect synonym of the word xabarifw.
Let it then be borne in mind, that the question is not this, Does the word in all its extent of usage denote at any time a definite external act ? nor this, Is this its original, primitive signification ? Even if all this were admitted, it would not touch the question—for, as we all know, nothing is more common than for words to be used in more meanings than one, and to decide in what sense a word is used in a given instance, we are not to follow etymology or fancy, but evidence, derived from the facts of the case.
With regard then to other uses of the word ßantiew, I freely admit that in classic usage it does, as a general fact, clearly denote some external act of a specific kind, yet it is