Page images

tendency of the same kind as that which had already changed the meaning of Bánow to color or dye; but far more definite, powerful, and all-pervading; for the practice of immersing to color was limited to a few, but the practice of bathing or immersing to purify, was common to a whole nation. Indeed the idea of purification from uncleanliness pervaded their whole ritual, in numberless cases, and must have been perfectly familiar to the mind of every one.

The inference from these facts is so obvious that it hardly needs to be stated. As the laws of the mind made from Bárow, to dye, to color, to paint, and from tingo, the same; so there is a very strong presumption that so general a use of immersion, to produce purity would give to Barsifw the corresponding sense, to purify. This does not, I am aware, prove that it did. But it opens the way for such proof and shows that there is not the least ground for the rigorous efforts that are made to set it aside.

Even a moderate degree of proof is sufficient in a case like this, when the most familiar laws of the mind and all the power of presumptive evidence from analogical cases tend

this way.

§ 6. There is no probability a priori against this position from the general nature of the subject to which the word is applied, in the rite of Baptism. But the probability is deci.. dedly and strongly in its favor.

No law of philology is more firmly established than this, that in the progress of society, new ideas produce new words and new senses of old words, and hence in judging concerning such new senses we are to look at the nature of the new subjects of thought that arise.

Now that in this case the Greek language was applied to a new subject of thought is most plain, and that subject is the peculiar operations of the Holy Spirit, for that the ordinance of Baptism refers to these is admitted by all.

Now if any external act had any peculiar fitness to present these to the mind, a presumption would be in favor of that act ; and if the meaning claimed was unfit to present them to the mind there would be a presumption against it.

Now so far is this from being the fact that directly the reverse is true. What is the peculiar effect of the opera

[ocr errors]

tion of the Holy Ghost on the mind? Is it not moral cleansing or purification ?

Now no word denoting merely a mode of applying a fluid to a thing, or of putting any thing into a fluid, conveys of itself any such idea. To pour, sprinkle, immerse, or dip, convey in themselves no idea at all of cleansing. The effect of the action depends mainly on the fluid, not on the action, and may be either to purify or to pollute. If clear water is used, the effect is to purify. If filthy water is used the effect is to pollute. So Job says, “ If I wash myself with snowwater and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me” [Greek Bársw. Heb. 32p] in the ditch, and my own clothes shall abhor me. Here the effect of plunging is pollution, because it is not into clean water but into filthy. Hence, no external act has in itself any fitness to present to the mind the operations of the Holy Spirit

. On the other hand to wash, to purify, to cleanse-all direct the mind to the very thing done by the Holy Spirit-hence the presumption is entirely against the supposition that the word denotes an external act, and in favor of the meaning claimed.

§ 7. There is decided philological proof in favor of this view. This I shall soon proceed to adduce. But the course which the argument has too often taken, renders it necessary to make a few remarks on the principles of the reasoning involved.

It is commonly the case, that after proving that there are clear instances in which Bartilw means to immerse, it is assumed that it is violently improbable that it ever means any thing else, and that, if it can but be shown that in a given passage it can possibly mean immerse, no more is needed, so that the main force of argument is not to prove that it does so mean from the exigency of the place, but that it may possibly so mean, and therefore in consequence of its meaning so in other places, it does so here.

Prof. Ripley reasons on these principles in his reply to Prof. Stuart, but Mr. Carson has more boldly and fully developed them than any writer on that side of the question with whom I am acquainted. He goes so far as to say p. 108, 109, that when one meaning of a word is proved by



[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

suficient evidence, no objections to retaining this meaning in other places can be admitted as decisive, except they involve an impossibility. This he says is self-evident, and lays it down as a canon ; and affirms, p. 106, that the man who does not perceive the justness of his positions is not worth reasoning with. Now that there is not the least ground for assuming the improbability of the meaning to purify, nay that the probability is decidedly in its favor, I have clearly shown. Of course to show that in a given case it can possibly mean immerse is nothing to the point. The question is what is its fair, natural and obvious sense in the case in question, not what it can possibly by any stretch of ingenuity be made to mean.

of old it was customary in the same way to try to prove that Bártw does not mean to dye, because some other sense is possible or conceivable--and as we have seen, Gale even goes so far as to maintain, that a lake is spoken of as figuratively dipped in the blood of a mouse-lest he should be obliged to admit the obvious sense that the lake was dyed, colored or tinged, with the blood of a mouse.

But this moue of reasoning, as it regards Slatw, is at last candidly and fairly given up -and may we not hope that the same candor will at length, lead to the same results in the case of the cognate word βαπτίζω. .

It may be farther observed that the reasoning of philology is not demonstrative, but moral and cumulative; and that an ultimate result depends upon the combined impression of all the facts of a given case as a wholc-on the principle that the view, which best harmonizes all the facts, and falls in with the known laws of the human mind, is true.

And where many and separate and independent facts all tend with different degrees of probability to a common result, there is an evidence over and above the evidence furnished by each case by itself, in the coincidence of so many separate and independent probabilities in a common result. And to be able to prove that each may be explained otherwise, and is not in itself a demonstration, cannot break the force of the fact, that so many separate and independent probabilities all tend one way. The probability produced by such coincidences is greater than the sum of the separate probabilities : it has the force of the fact that they coincide-and that the assumption of the truth of the mean

[ocr errors]

ing in which they all coincide, is the only mode of explaining the coincidence.

That there are various independent proofs, that Barsięw as a religious term means to purify, and that these all coincide, and that this view harmonizes and explains all the facts of the case, I shall now attempt to show.

$ 8.

In John 3: 25, xalapiouos is used as synonymous with Bartiouds, and thus the usus loquendi, as it regards the religious rite is clearly decided.

The facts of the case are these, vs. 22, 23. John and Jesus were baptizing, one in Judea, the other in Ænon, near to Salem, and in such circumstances that to an unintelligent observer there would seem to be a rivalry between the claims of the two. The disciples of John might naturally feel that Jesus was intruding into the province of their master. They might even believe Johd to be the Messiah, and thus give rise to the sect which held that belief. On this point a dispute arose between the disciples of John and the Jews, (or a Jew as many copies read,) v. 25.

They come to John and state the case, v. 26. “Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.” Plainly implying that in so doing he was improperly interfering with the claims of John.

John in reply, v. 27–31, disclaims all honor except that bestowed on him by God, of being the forerunner of the Messiah, and rejoices to decrease in order that he may increase—thus justifying the course which was so offensive to his disciples, and settling the dispute in favor of the claims of Christ.

The argument from these facts is this : The dispute in question was plainly a specific dispute concerning baptisin, as practised by Jesus and John, and not a general dispute on the subject of purification at large ; so that Shenais megi Bar. 510U OÙ is the true sense ; and if it had been so written, the passage would have been regarded by all as perfectly plain."

But instead of βαπτισμού, John has used καθαρισμου, because the sense is entirely the same. In other words, “ a question concerning baptism,” and “a question concerning purifica

tion," were at that time modes of expression perfectly equivalent ; that is, βαπτισμός is a synonyme of καθαρισμός.

The only mode of escaping this result is to say, that as immersion in water involves purification, and is a kind of puri.; fication, so it may have given rise to a question on the sub-, ject of purification at large; but to this I reply, that the whole scope of the passage forbids such an idea. The question was not general but specific, being caused by the concurrence of two claims to baptize; and so was the reply of John.

Moreover, to assume a general dispute on purification ren. ders the whole scope of the passage obscure; as is evident from the fact that those who have not seen that in this case, καθαρισμός is a synonyme of βαπτισμός, are much perplexed to see what a dispute on purification in general has to do with the facts of the case.

The origin of the dispute from the concurrence of two claims to baptize, is obviously indicated by the particle oûv in, v. 25, showing undeniably that the events just narrated gave rise to the question. This connexion does not appear in our translation, and hence the course of thought is somewhat obscured.

It is plain, then, that independently of all theories or inte, rests, καθαρισμός is used as synonymous with βαπτισμός. Αςsigning this meaning makes the passage natural, lucid, and simple; to assume a general debate on purification at larger renders it forced and obscure, and the reply of John totally irrelevant,

And what reason is there for denying this conclusion ? None but the fear of the result. No law of language requires it-no existing fact--no previous probability. These, as we have shown, are all decidedly the other way. It is then of no avail to talk of possible senses. The question is not what is possible, but what is a rational inference from a fair view, of the facts of the case ; and this I do not hesitate to say is, that βαπτισμός and καθαρισμός are synonymous.

I have spoken the more at large on this case, because it is so rarely referred to in arguments on this question, and be. cause the light which it throws on the usus loquendi is peçuliarly clear.

No word is more entirely independent of all reference to modes and forms than xadapięw, and nothing can more clearly. show that Burtißw had dropped all reference to form, and

« PreviousContinue »