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    APPENDIX B. BAPTISM IN THE EARLY CHURCH

    The references that have been made to baptism, in the body of this book, show that there was less perversion of that ordinance, in the early centuries, than of any other. Of course, in the general religious declension of the age, the real spirit of this ordinance, as of every other, was largely lost. When faith gave way to form, as it did when the pagans, with whom religion was nothing but form, came into the church in droves, the church in general lost sight of the fact that it is faith that saves, and attached saving virtue to the water of baptism. Of this we have evidence in the writings of Tertullian. Various additions to the rite were made, but the act of baptism itself remained unchanged. Some testimony to this effect has been given; but since the foregoing pages were put in type, a book has been issued, which gives so plain a statement of the case that we insert it here for the benefit of our readers. The book is entitled “Christian Archaeology,” by Chas. W. Bennett, D. D., Professor of Historical Theology in Garrett Biblical Institute, Evanston, Illinois, with an introductory commendation by Dr Ferdinand Piper, of the University of Berlin. It is the fourth volume of the “Biblical and Theological Library,” edited by George R. Crooks, D. D., and Bishop John F. Hurst, D. D., of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and is very highly recommended by the religious press. Both the author and the editors are fully committed to the custom of sprinkling, and of administering the rite to infants, and therefore their testimony is of the more value, since it is directly opposed to their practice, and to their argument in the book itself. On page 392 of “Christian Archaeology” we find the following:—
    “While no positive statement relative to infant baptism is met in the Scriptures, or in the writings of any Fathers earlier than Irenaeus and Tertullian, by the end of the second century mention is made of the baptism of children, and in the third, of infants. But even in the fourth, the practice of infant baptism is not general, since eminent Fathers, whose parents were Christians, did not receive baptism till adult age.... From the fourth century the propriety of the baptism of infants was unquestioned, and the practice was not unusual; nevertheless, adult baptism was the more common practice for the first six centuries.”
    FACC 364.1

    On page 396, under the heading of “The Mode of Baptism,” we find the following statement:—
    “There is not the slightest evidence that, during the apostolic period, the mere mode of administration underwent any change. The customary mode was used by the apostles in the baptism of the first converts. They were familiar with the baptism of John’s disciples, and of the Jewish proselytes. This was ordinarily by dipping or immersion. This is indicated not only by the words used in describing the rite, but the earliest testimony of the documents which have been preserved gives preference to this mode.”
    FACC 365.1

    Finally, on page 407, we find the following:—
    “We are compelled to believe that while immersion was the usual mode of administering baptism from the first to the twelfth century, there was very early a large measure of Christian liberty a lowed in the church, by which the mode of baptism could be readily adjusted to the peculiar circumstances.”
    FACC 365.2

    Our readers will know how much value to place on the “Christian liberty” that existed in the early centuries of the church, and which consisted in the unchristian practice of perverting the plainest precepts of the Bible, to suit the notions of the interpreter. This is not liberty at all, but license, and most unwarranted license. Christian liberty lies in only one direction, and that is, liberty to do right; and right is nothing else than what the Bible enjoins. When men take the liberty to depart from the rules laid down in the Bible, they cease to be Christian, and their acts are not to be followed. Therefore that which in the preceding paragraph is called “Christian liberty” was nothing but pagan license.FACC 365.3

    Another feature of the book is very interesting as corroborating some of the testimony given in the preceding pages. On pages 399-406 there are ten cuts, which are copied from ancient frescoes representing (or rather caricaturing) baptismal scenes, some of them evidently intended to represent the baptism of Christ. The author has inserted these pictures in order to counteract as much as possible the testimony which truth compelled him to give concerning baptism; for in none of them is the candidate represented as being immersed. In some of them, the candidate is represented as just coming out of the water, so that it is impossible to tell whether the rite that had evidently just been performed was immersion or pouring. In others, however, the administrator is represented as laying his hand on the candidate’s head, or e’se pouring water upon it from a vessel. From these cuts the author finds authority enough to warrant the substitution of sprinkling or pouring for immersion. This is what might be termed pictorial theology.FACC 365.4

    But in these very pictures the inconsistency of those who appeal to custom instead of to the Bible is most clearly revealed. We quote the author’s own description of the first caricature:—
    “Christ stands in the Jordan, whose waters reach to about the middle of the body, while John, standing on the land, and holding in his left hand a jeweled cross, is pouring water from a shell held in the Baptist’s right hand. The symbolic dove, descending directly upon the head of Jesus, completes the baptismal representation. The Jordan, IORD, symbolized by a river-god bearing a reed, introduces into the scene a heathen element.”—P. 404.
    FACC 366.1

    The italics are ours. It is passing strange, and a wonderful instance of the blindness which custom induces, that a Christian author can put forth as authority for the practice of Christians, a picture in which he acknowledges that there are heathen elements, and this too in the face of his previous acknowledgement that the scriptural and apostolic baptism is immersion.FACC 366.2

    This, however, is not all. In all of these ancient caricatures, (with two exceptions), the candidate who is being sprinkled or poured is perfectly nude. In the two exceptions he has on a single garment. Therefore, according to the testimony of these pictures, there is the same authority for sprinkling instead of immersing that there is for stripping the candidate of his clothes. As a matter of fact, which is attested by Bingham, in the passages which we have cited from him, people were baptized naked before sprinkling was substituted for baptism.FACC 366.3

    To sum up the case: Immersion is the only baptism known to the Bible writers. Sprinkling, and the administration of the rite to infants, was not known in the church until the third century, and did not become common before the sixth century. It is therefore an institution of the Catholic Church. All the authority that Protestants can claim for it is the custom of that church. Some pictures, however, have been found, which represent the candidate for church-membership as being sprinkled; and in order to get sprinkling as near apostolic times as possible, some archaeologists are quoted as supposing that these pictures were made in the second century, notwithstanding the statement of the author that sprinkling was not known so early in the church. But however this may be, the pictures represent the candidate as naked, and introduce a confessedly heathen element. So that whoever cites them as warrant for the practice of Christians stultifies himself. ‘To such contemptible shifts does custom force its devotees to resort. How much better to acknowledge the Scripture truth that “the customs of the people are vain,” and follow the Bible and that alone.FACC 366.4

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