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ministered by any others, than those authorized to preach the gospel
The things signified in baptism are the blood and Spirit of Christ. The water implies that we are polluted and guilty by sin ; and represents to us justification by the blood of Christ, and regeneration and sanctification by bis Spirit. It signifies and seals our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of our engagement to be the Lord's.
It signifies these things. It is a sign of ingrafting into Christ. Not that a person by receiving this ordinance, does become really united to Christ, and savingly interested in him; but that this ordinance is a sign of this union and represents it. It is also a sign of partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace. All the blessings of this covenant, which were purchased by the blood of Christ, and which are applied by the Holy Spirit, are signified by the water in this ordinance, and are hereby represented as offered to us. And it is also a sign of our engagements to be the Lord's. It signifies that the subject is devoted to the service of the triune God.
Baptism is also a seal of these things. A seal is a standing evidence of the reality of a covenant, and it binds the parties to the performance of the conditions. Baptism is a standing evidence of the reality of the covenant of grace; and God hereby graciously obligates himself to bestow the things signified in baptism ; or Christ, and all the benefits of the covenant of grace, on those who believe in the Saviour. And the subject baptized, hereby becomes solemnly engaged to be the Lord's.
Hence we may see the propriety of requiring engagements of persons, when they offer themselves, or when, as the representatives of their children, they offer them in baptism. Some object to such engagements. But if baptism be a seal of the covenant of grace—and that it is. is evident, if it has come in the room of circumcision ; for Abraham “ received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had ;" Rom. iv. 11; then every person who comes to this ordinance does virtually engage and does really and firmly bind himself, to perform all that we require him
to promise, whether be does formally promise or not. Baptism is a seal of the covenant of grace; and you do therefore in this ordinance,
either offer yourselves, or as their representatives, present your children, avouch the Lord to be your God, and bind yourselves to be his people, whether you make any explicit engagements or not. And the engagements which we require, are only those which you bind yourselves to fulfil by setting your seal to them in receiving the ordinance. How absurd would it be for a man to set his seal to a covenant, and thereby bind himself to fulfil the articles of it, when at the same time, if it were read to him, he would be unwilling to give his assent to it! Equally absurd would it be to set our seal of baptism to God's covenant, and thereby bind ourselves to perform what is therein required, and yet when what is required is recited to us, be unwilling to give our assent.
II. To consider the proper mode of applying water, in the ordinance of baptism.
This is a subject, which for a few centuries, has been considerably agitated in the christian church. Some hold the immersion or dipping of the whole body to be essential to the ordinance, and the only true mode of baptism ; and consider all persons who have pretended to receive it in any other way, to have received it in vain, and to be unbaptized persons. On the contrary we, with the greater part of the christian church, hold, that sprinkling, or pouring of water, or washing with it, or in any way apply. ing it to the body, or any part of it, is a proper mode of baptism. Embracing, with a spirit of christian charity, those who may differ from us in opinion, or practice, on this circumstantial of our religion (for it certainly cannot be an essential, involving our salvation) I beg a candid, unprejudiced, and impartial hearing, while I endeavour to offer some reasons, in support of our practice.
It is readily and cheerfully granted, that baptism by immersion, or plunging, or dipping, is real baptism, and that the ordinance may be rightly administered in this way; and we do not pretend to baptize again, those who join our churches, after they have received the ordinance in this way. But at the same time we hold, that as water is only a sign, and in itself confers no grace, a handful is as good as an ocean, and equally answers the purpose of a sign. We hold that no mode to the exclusion of all oth
ers, is taught in the Scriptures ; and that the mode whether by immersion, pouring, washing, or sprinkling, is indifferent, as to the right administration of the ordinance, and its acceptableness in the sight of God. Although at the same time we believe, there are reasons which render one mode more expedient than another.
That immersion is not essential to the right administration of the ordinance ; but that it is rightly administered by pouring, washing, or sprinkling, we proceed now to prove.
1. From the meaning of the word. The advocates of immersion as essential to the validity of the ordinance have laid much stress upon this. I am not accustomed, in
my sermons to enter into criticisms on words ; but I feel myself constrained to do it here; because much stress has been laid upon the original word, as always signifying immersion and nothing else ; and hence has been inferred that baptism and immersion signify the same thing: The original word used for baptize in the Scriptures, is baptizo, which is derived from bapto. The word bapto is never used when the ordinance of baptism is meant.However as this is the root from which baptizo is derived, it will be proper to make a few observations upon it. It is acknowledged that this word signifies to dip, but this is not its only meaning. We find the word used in the Septuagint translation of the Bible, in the following passage in Daniel, “ His body was wet (or baptized) with the dew of heaven;" Dan. iv. 33. · Here the word is used to express a wetting with the dew, which certainly was not by immersion. Homer, whose authority for the right use of Greek words no scholar will question, used this word to express a colouring or staining of a lake with blood. Aristophanes another Greek writer uses it to express a besmearing the face with certain washes. And Aristotle uses it to express a staining the hand with a certain substance pressed in it. From these instances we confidently draw the conclusion, that the word bapto does not exclusively signify immersion ; but that it may signify any kind of wetting, whatever the mode may be. And therefore if anything is to be concluded as to mode from the meaning of the word bapto, it is, that water applied in any way in this ordinance, is baptism. We shall come to the same conclusion if we consider the meaning of the word
baptizo, derived from bapto. Baptizo is the word used, whenever the ordinance of baptism is meant. To understand the real meaning of this word, let us examine some of those passages of scripture, in which the ordinance of Baptism is not meant; and if it can be shown that the word is ever used in any other sense than to immerse, the conclusion will necessarily follow, that no argument can be drawn from the meaning of the word, in favour of immersion as the only mode. In Hebrews ix. 10, the Apostle speaking of the Jewish worship says, “Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings,” in the original, baptisms. In the ceremonial washings which are here expressed by the word used for baptisms, water was undoubtedly applied, as must appear if we look through the ceremonial law, by pouring and sprinkling, as well as by dipping. Our Saviour speaking of the traditions of the elders, held by the Pharisees, Mark. vii. 4; said, “ And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.” In this passage the word translated washing, is in the original, baptism ; and here the word is used to express any kind of washing. Some of the vessels, mentioned in this passage, may have been dipped in water when they were washed or baptized, though this is not certain; but it is highly probable, that to some of them, such as tables, the water was applied by pouring or sprinkling, and not by dipping. In the same chapter our Saviour speaking of the Pharisees said, “When they come from the market, except they wash, (in the original, baptize) they eat not;” Mark. vii. 4. I ask, is it at all probable that the word here signifies immersion ? The Pharisees, every time they came from the market, before they ate, washed or baptized themselves. It is not at all probable, that they every time immersed themselves. Again, a Pharisee, seeing our Saviour eat with unwashed hands, marvelled that he had not first washed (original baptized) before dinner;" Luk. xi. 38. Here the word which is used to express baptism, is used for the washing of hands. But in washing the hands, it is not necessary that they be immersed, If a Pharisee washed or baptized his hands in a basin, he would probably immerse them, in whole or in part ; but if he washed or baptized ata spout of water, he would not immerse them at all. The obvious inference
from all these passages is, that the original word for baptism does not signify immersion; but washing, without regard to the mode in which the water is applied. And therefore the conclusion is, that no argument in favour of immersion, as the only mode of baptism, can be drawn from the meaning of the original' word ; but on the other hand, as the word is used to express every kind of washing, in whatever way water may be applied, it argues that the application of water in any way, in this ordinance is baptism.
2. That immersion is not essential to the right administration of the ordinance of baptism ; but that the ordinance is rightly administered, by the application of water in any other way, may be proved from the circumstances attending the baptisms recorded in the Scriptures. John is said to have baptized in Jordan; and also in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there. And our Saviour is said to have been baptized of John in Jordan ; and when he was baptized, to have come up straightway out of the water. On the baptisms of John, I would observe, that even admitting he baptized by immersion, his example ought not to be adduced as a certain evidence of the mode of christian baptism; for John's baptism was not christian baptism. In proof of this assertion, emany arguments might be adduced. But one is sufficient. In the 19th chapter of the Acts of the apostles we find Paul at Ephesus, baptizing in the name of Christ, some who told him that they had before received John's baptism. This he certainly would not have done, if the baptism of John had been christian baptism. But admitting that the baptism of John was a proper precedent for the mode of christian baptism, and that he baptized by immersion, it would only prove that immersion is a right mode, but not at all that every other, mode is wrong: But even this cannot be proved. It may be that he did immerse ; but I will confidently assert that it cannot be certainly proved that he did in a single instance. Neither can it be proved, that there was a single instance of it in all the examples of Scripture. On John's baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there, much stress is laid ; but the original signifies many waters, or many streams of water; and travellers tell us there are many small brooks in that region, but none