I posted this article for several reasons. The first reason is because of its rarity. The work is long out of print and I wished to make it available to the public once again. Secondly, while his views are not necessarily unique, the style and information are priceless. The article starts slow, and then quickly becomes challenging and colorful. I find the method of arguing his case for infant baptism to be of interest to this current generation who believe they have figured out everything there is to know about baptism, and have heard little or nothing but the one-sided argument of immersionism.

I commend this work to those students of God’s word who wish to try their doctrine to see if it be true. The author may not convince everybody, but I believe he will show that all is not airtight concerning the doctrine as many moderns have supposed.  

Editors Note: The Early Church and the Early Fathers placed a similar emphasis upon baptism as does our author. The language concerning baptism and the Christian that follows should be read in the light of that emphasis. This places baptism as the inevitable response of saving faith. It places the idea that the New Testament and the Early Church knows nothing of an unbaptized Christian! Reverend Sandford takes this view that baptism is not an optional act of the truly Born-Again Christian. No Christian would snub the simple command of their Savior to submit oneself to the means of grace of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and that no one would do so, except through deception and ignorance; no Christian could do so out of willful disobedience to the clear command of God, for that would be the very antithesis of saving faith, and they would still be in their sins and rebellion. The language however, should not be confused with the idea that water baptism saves you, but that that obedience to baptism is so closely connected with the event of one’s regeneration that it is commonly spoken of as a synonym. The author is a Methodist, and Methodism has been consistently against the idea of Baptismal Regeneration, and therefore should be understood in the Apostolic use of baptism as the reference point and synonym of salvation, not the idea that water baptism is essential to salvation. Free Grace, not salvation by merit is the center of the Wesleyan message.




“Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,” Acts 2:38, 39.

Our text is among the numerous passages in the New Testament which may be adduced to prove the divine authority, the importance, and the perpetuity of Christian baptism. That by baptism water baptism was intended by the apostle must be sufficiently obvious to every one who will be at the pains to examine the text: as persons addressed were required to be baptized, that they might receive the remission of their sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost; that is, spiritual baptism. (Editor’s Note: This is an example of using the language of responding to the Gospel as a synonym for baptism, and should not be confused with the idea that water baptism in any way saves you). This baptism was enjoined upon these persons on the day of Pentecost, after the Holy Ghost was given to the church, by one who was under the influence of the plenary inspiration of God; which is indubitable proof that water baptism is not done away, or superseded, by the baptism of the Spirit. It is therefore, the duty of all who will be disciples of Christ to be baptized with water in his name, or into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

That baptism is a sacrament of the gospel, that it is an ordinance of great importance, and that it was designed by Christ to be perpetuated in the church, are propositions which may be proved by such evidence as ought to satisfy every inquirer after truth, and which nothing but an unreasonable prejudice can induce any man to reject. The proper subjects of this ordinance, and the mode or modes in which it may be validly administered, are also of some importance; and being matters concerning which there is a disagreement among Christians, and have heated controversies, need to be carefully examined and well understood. To these topics we shall direct our attention in the present discourse, viz., the nature and perpetuity of Christian baptism,-the proper subjects of this ordinance,-and the mode or modes in which it may be validly administered.

Point One: The nature and perpetuity of Christian baptism.


  1. Baptism is a sacrament of the gospel. A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself as a means of grace, and a pledge to assure us thereof.” Or, in the language of the sixteenth article of the Methodist Episcopal Church, “Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession; but rather they are certain signs of grace and God’s good will towards us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him. There are two sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the gospel; that is to say, baptism and the supper of the Lord.”

   That baptism is a sacrament of the gospel will appear from the following considerations:--

  1. It is ordained or instituted by Christ as the initiating rite into his church. After our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, He declared to them the sovereign power with which, as the Mediator between God and man, he was invested; and proceeded to commission them, and through them, his ministers of every succeeding age, to act as his ambassadors, and disciple all nations to him. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach (disciple) a’’ nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. 28:18-19. Here we have our Lord’s institution of this sacrament, and the very words prescribed in which it is to be administered. Here, also, we are taught for what purpose this ordinance was instituted; namely, to initiate persons as disciples into Christ’s church. That is, introduce them as scholars into my school by baptism that you may teach them all that is contained in the science of salvation. Baptize them into the name, that is, bring them by baptism into a visible covenant-relation to God.

 2.   Baptism is a visible sign, or symbol, of divine grace.

This, it is presumed, will not be denied, and therefore need not be proved. The sign is water applied by the authority of Christ, in the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The thing signified is the renovating influence of the Holy Spirit. Ministers of the gospel only are authorized to administer Christian baptism, as is evident from the commission given by Christ.

3.   Baptism is a means of communicating grace to such as are the proper recipients of it. (Editor’s Note: A “means of grace” is effectual for several reasons. First, the recipient is submissive and obedient. Their heart is prepared to receive grace, and God is able to convey grace because of their willingness to receive it. What God conveys to the believer may vary as individually as their needs. Just as in our participation in the Lord’s Supper, we approach God humbly in repentance, reflecting upon the work of Christ which is the whole of our salvation; nothing we do, for it is all of Him. It is not that performing these acts we move God, but that we in these means of grace approach God in a way that He can use us. Our hearts are prepared to receive and obey).

 4.   Baptism is a pledge of divine grace which Christ has given unto us, to assure us that all the benefits of his salvation shall be secured to us on the conditions of the gospel. Baptism is the same under the gospel that circumcision was under the Abrahamic dispensation; viz., a seal of the righteousness of faith. Baptism is therefore, a seal which Christ puts upon us as his own pledge of our salvation.

Thus we see that baptism is a sacrament of the gospel, inasmuch as it was instituted by Christ Himself as the initiating rite into his church, and is a visible sign or symbol of divine grace, a means of communicating grace to such as are the proper recipients of it, and a pledge of this grace which Christ has given us to assure us that all the benefits of his salvation shall be secured to us on the conditions of the gospel.

5.   Baptism was instituted by Christ, with design that it should be perpetuated in his church to the end of the world.

This is provable from Matthew 28:19, 20, where our Lord commands his apostles to go and disciple all nations, baptizing them… The commission includes all nations, or every creature, to the end of the world; and therefore, the obligation to baptize and to be baptized is binding upon every minister of Christ, and upon every person who is to become a disciple of Christ to the end of the world. 

This sacrament was instituted by our Lord following his resurrection from the dead; and there is no shadow of proof, or of probability, that the apostles baptized a single individual between the time of its institution and the day of Pentecost, when the dispensation of the gospel was fully opened up. The apostles and other Christian ministers of that age were in the constant practice of baptizing their converts; and it does not appear that any were admitted to the communion of the church in an unbaptized state. True, the Apostle Paul thanks God that he had not baptized many among the Corinthians; and says that Christ sent him, not to baptize, that is, not only of chiefly, but to preach the gospel. But that was not on account of his believing baptism to be unnecessary; but less the schizmatical Corinthians should charge him with proselyting persons to himself, instead of converting them to Christ. (Editor’s Note: Notice that if Baptismal Regeneration saved people, it would be “the Gospel,” and Paul could not preach Gospel without baptism. The author clarifies himself in the following statement). If we take into account these observations of the Apostle Paul, when properly understood, so far from proving that baptism was done away during the apostolic age, will prove the contrary.  

That the primitive church continued the practice of baptizing after the apostles’ days is attested by the early Christian writers, without contradiction of any of their contemporaries. And this continued to be the practice of the church; and it is not certain that it was opposed by any, except from the most absurd fanatics prior to the seventeenth century. With the exception of the Quakers, and a few others, baptism has been acknowledged by all who have borne the Christian name from the first age of Christianity to the present time.

 Point Two:  The Proper Subjects Of Christian Baptism 

This is a subject of great importance to the Christian church; for, if the sentiments of the Antipaedobaptists be correct, the visible church of Christ is reduced to a mere handful of professing Christians. The question now under consideration, therefore, amounts to this; Is the Baptist Church , so called, the only visible church of Christ on the earth; or do other professing Christian churches belong to Christ’s visible body? If none are proper subjects of Christian Baptism except believing adults, then the Baptist Church is the only church of Christ on earth, and all the rest are churches of antichrist. (Editor’s Note: Again I interject another group and argument that seems to have been avoided in the focus of this sermon, perhaps because it was still in its infancy at the time, namely, so-called “Restorationists,” Cambelites, a.k.a., Baptismal Regenerationists; those who trust their salvation to the works of man and water, who hold to the same subject and mode as the Baptists do, but also hold that baptism by immersion is required for salvation; this is a heretical salvation by works no matter how one packages it). This is a dreadful conclusion; and yet, dreadful as it is, it is necessarily true provided the premise from which it is drawn be correct.  

Let us put this argument in syllogistic form. None are to be baptized but such as are believers; therefore, none are members of the church of Christ but such as have been baptized after they become believers. If this conclusion be correct, it will follow that none are churches of Christ whose members have not been baptized on a profession of their faith. But the great majority of the members belonging to all churches, except the Baptist Church , were baptized before they were capable of making any profession of their faith; therefore none except the Baptist Church are churches of Christ. Under this view of the subject, to contend for the validity of infant baptism is to contend for our existence as a church of Christ , and not for ours only, but also for that of all other Christian churches except the Baptist. A principle which involves such important conclusions should be supported by the most indubitable evidence. But,  

  1. That believers in Christ, not previously baptized, are proper subjects of Christian baptism is as firmly believed by Paedobaptists as by Antipaedobaptists. On this point, therefore, there is no controversy between us. When the Baptists have proved believers’ baptism, they have proved nothing more than we believe as firmly as them. It is, however, worthy of remark, that we believe rebaptizing to be a profanation of this sacrament; and, therefore, we think that he who rebaptizes is guilty of profaning this ordinance of God.
  1. There is also another area of disagreement concerning the degree of faith which is necessary to constitute a person a proper subject of baptism. If I understand the Baptists and some others on this subject, they mean by a believer one who is a believer in the full sense of the word; that is, a person who is already justified and renewed by the grace of God. That such believers are proper subjects of baptism is not doubted. We have however the example of Simon Magus as proof that a person who has not the faith of a justified child of God, may nevertheless be a proper subject of Christian baptism. “Then” says the inspired historian, “Simon himself believed also; and when was baptized he continued with Philip, and wondered,” Acts 8:13. Here it is expressly asserted that Simon believed and was baptized. And yet Peter said to him after this, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity.” Therefore, that Simon was neither a justified believer nor a true penitent is certain. What then was his state? Either he never had justifying faith, or he had fallen from grace. I leave the objector to determine this for him or herself. But to say that he never had that degree of faith which would render him a proper subject of Christian baptism would not only censure the administrator Philip, but also a flat contradiction to the testimony of the inspired historian; who says, not that Simon professed to believe, but that he did believe, and was baptized. Therefore Simon was a proper subject of Christian baptism, because he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, and had some undefined desired to be saved through his grace, while he was destitute of a proper Christian faith. From the preceding example we conclude that a person may be a proper subject of Christian baptism who is not in a justified and regenerate state.

Infant children of baptized parents are as proper subjects of Christian baptism as adult believers, is maintained by us and denied by the Baptists. Here, therefore, we are plainly at issue. Let us hear the grounds on which the Baptists rest their objections to the baptism of infants.

 1. They object that there is no explicit warrant for baptizing infants in the New Testament; and hence they conclude that infants should not be baptized. By an explicit warrant, they mean some express declaration, either that infants should be or that they were baptized; such as the following, “He that believeth and is baptized.” “Be baptized every one of you.” And, “They were baptized, both men and women.” That there is no such explicit warrant for the baptism of infants is freely acknowledged. But if the right of infants to Christian baptism can be proved by other legitimate Scriptural evidence, an explicit warrant is altogether unnecessary. Surely it does not become us to dictate to the infinitely wise God in what manner he shall reveal his will to us; but humbly, reverently, and thankfully to receive his revelation as he has been pleased to communicate it to us. The objectors, therefore, should not say there is no explicit warrant for infant baptism, and therefore they should not be baptized. But is they object at all, they should say there is no Scriptural authority for infant baptism, and therefore they should not be baptized.   Should they say this, the contrary could easily be made to appear. As it is, we have to consider the rant to be necessary to spend much time in refuting this objection, inasmuch as the objectors themselves do not believe an explicit warrant to be necessary in a perfectly parallel case, viz., that of female communion. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and that of baptism rest on the same authority, and are of equal dignity, importance, and obligation. If, therefore, an explicit warrant be necessary to determine the proper subjects of baptism, an explicit warrant is equally necessary to determine the proper subjects of the Lord’s Supper. Why, then, do Baptists admit women to the Lord’s Table? That they do this is not denied by themselves; and that there is no explicit warrant for it is certain, because their ablest writers have labored hard to find one, but have entirely failed; neither is it possible that any man should produce one solitary passage from the word of God that says either that women should, or that they did, communicate.  That women have a good right to the Lord’s Table as men is undoubted. Baptists must therefore, believe that there is other evidence in support of the right of female communion sufficient to justify themselves in admitting them. Now, as these are perfectly parallel cases, if women should be admitted to the Lord’s Table on other Scriptural evidence, without an explicit warrant for this practice, infants should be admitted to baptism without an explicit warrant; provided their right to this ordinance can be established by legitimate Scriptural evidence, whatever that evidence may be. An explicit warrant may therefore be unnecessary, and consequently the objection has no force. But it is objected,

 2. That none are to be baptized until they believe; and that infants are incapable of believing; and, therefore, must not be baptized. This objection is found principally on Mark 16:16. But it proves entirely too much for the objectors purpose; for, if it be good for anything, it will equally prove that none who die in infancy can be saved. Hear the text: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned.” The Baptists say that infants must not be baptized, because the text says, He that believeth and is baptized. That is, because, as they suppose, faith is required of all prerequisite to baptism. But faith is made in the text as necessary to salvation as baptism. If, therefore, infants are excluded from baptism by this text, they are equally excluded by it from salvation. But farther, the latter member of the text declares that he that believeth not, even though he has been baptized, shall be damned. Infants are incapable of believing; and, therefore, if infants are at all included in this text, all who die in infancy must be damned!!! This is a horrible conclusion indeed. And yet it is as legitimately drawn from the text as saying infants are not to be baptized because they cannot believe. For my own part, I firmly believe that all who die in infancy will be saved. And yet I am certain that no fallen descendant of Adam and Eve can be saved without the renovating influence of the Holy Ghost. If my opinion concerning the salvation of infants be correct, they are as capable of receiving salvation, that is, holiness and heaven, as are adults. But, provided they are made holy and taken to heaven, their salvation, though of grace, must be without faith. If Baptists believe that all or some infants are saved and will go to heaven, then they bust therefore believe that infants are born holy. If this is not so, they therefore must believe infants are capable of being made holy and taken to heaven without faith. But if infants be saved without faith, they may be baptized without faith. The fact is, that the passages on which this objection is founded have nothing to do either with the baptism or salvation of infants, inasmuch as they relate only to adults. Of whom do the Scriptures require faith in order either to baptism or salvation? Of adults, and of adults only! Then it is no issue that infants have nothing to do with believing. But do they not have a direct connection to baptism and salvation? They have salvation the same as believing adults, so why would they not have something to do with the covenant of baptism? The fact that the Baptist objection is a perfect sophism will appear once it is fully stated, viz., --The Scriptures require faith of infants in order to baptism, but infants are incapable of believing; therefore infants must not be baptized. Now the fact is, the Scriptures require no such thing. Infants are not required to believe in order to either baptism or salvation; and hence, the premise being false, the argument is good for nothing. The Scriptures require faith of adults in order to baptism, but infants have not faith; therefore infants must not be baptized.  This is a sophistical argument, and, therefore, good for nothing; because adults are properly placed in the premises, and infants improperly in the conclusion. In the preceding objection we have the sum of the arguments of the Antipaedobaptists against infant baptism; and as we have seen that they do not disprove it, let us attend to the arguments on the other side of the question.  

3.  The evidence on which the right of infant baptism is founded.

 Although we do not pretend to found the right of infant baptism on any supposed precept or example of the Scriptures which expressly declares either that infants were, or that they should be baptized: we do, nevertheless, contend that there is express Scripture authority for infant baptism as the Baptists, with any show of propriety, can pretend to have for female communion. And we therefore insist that, as women are to be admitted to the sacrament of the Eucharist on other Scripture evidence, in the entire absence of any express precept or example on which to found their right to this ordinance,--infants should be admitted to Christian baptism on the evidence hereafter to be adduced from the Scriptures, notwithstanding there is no passage of Scripture which expressly declares that infants either were or should be baptized.  

 In Matt. 28:19,20, where the law of Christian baptism is more clearly expressed than any other part of the New Testament, the ministers of Christ are commissioned to disciple the nations; and they are expressly instructed into the manner of executing their commission. “Go ye, and teach, disciple, all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The words here rendered teach and teaching have no relation to each other, being derived from entirely different themes. This rendering, therefore, when stripped of the veil that is thrown over it, evidently declares that the ministers of Christ are to go and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing and teaching.  Thus the thing to be done by virtue of doing it is by baptizing and teaching. This being the true interpretation of the passage, the law of the institution includes infants as well, and as explicitly, as adults. The Greek word for “disciple” has a  latitude of meaning equal to our English word scholar; and signifies a person who is placed under a master or teacher, to be disciplined and instructed: and will apply to any person thus circumstanced, whether he be already instructed, or only placed in a situation to receive instruction. A disciple of Christ is therefore in the highest sense, one who is properly initiated into his church by Christian baptism. In its lowest sense, it describes a person who is “trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” According to the text, his commissioned ministers are to disciple all NATIONS to himself. Now the Greek word for “nation” necessarily includes both infants and adults. No commission could be more exhaustive. I am persuaded that Matt. 28:19,20, approaches nearer to an explicit warrant for infant baptism, than any passage between the lids of the bible does for female communion. Finally, I conclude that is an Antipaedobaptist can find an express precept in 1 Cor. 11:28, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup:” he might find a still more express precept in, “Go, and disciple all nations, baptizing them:” and, therefore, that he ought not to reject infant baptism, on the allegation of the want of express precept or example, while he allows a woman to the communion table, of which there is no example in the Scriptures, and for which there is no precept equally express with the one before us for infant baptism.

Finally I conclude that, if the Antipaedobaptists can find an express precept I 1 Cor. 11:28, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup:” he might find still more express precept in, “Go, and disciple all nations, baptizing them:” and, therefore, that he ought not to reject infant baptism, on the allegation of the want of express precept or example in the Scriptures, and for which there is no precept equally express with the one before us for infant baptism.

4. That God instituted a visible church in the family of Abraham, and that this church was composed of adults and infants, though denied by a certain Antipaedobaptist writer, will be made evident by the testimonies hereafter to be adduced. This church was founded on the evangelical covenant, and was the same as the church which now exists under the gospel dispensation. In proof of these propositions, your attention is directed to the following scriptures: Gen. 17: 4,5,7,10-14. God, in addressing himself to Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee; every man-child among you shall be circumcised. And it shall be for a token (or sign) of the covenant between me and you. And he that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every man-child in your generations. He that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. And my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the un-circumcised man-child shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. Again, in verses 19-21, “And God said, Sarah shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”

From these passages we learn that God took Abraham and his family, including both adults and infants, into a visible covenant-relation to himself, by circumcision; and that this covenant was confirmed unto Isaac and his descendants. This covenant is so repeatedly declared to be an everlasting covenant that we have reason to think, from the very face of the texts themselves, without looking for farther evidence, that is was to be designed to be of endless duration. The terms of this covenant do also indicate that it was designed to extend to other nations besides those who should be the natural descendants of Abraham. And this view of the subject is more fully confirmed by collating these passages with Gen. 12: 3, 18:18, and 22:18, which in all these places God declares to Abraham that all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him or in his seed.  Now the covenant thus explained directs us necessarily to Christ as that seed of Abraham in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed; and confirms the truth of the foregoing propositions, viz., that God instituted a visible church in the family of Abraham, which was composed of adults and infants; and that this church was founded on the evangelical covenant, and is the same as the church presently exists under the gospel dispensation. If the latter of these propositions should not appear to be clearly established by these Scriptures authorities as the former, it will be abundantly confirmed, as well as the preceding, by the testimony of the Apostle Paul. In Rom. 4: 11,12,16,17, Paul says, “And he” (Abraham) “received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also; and the father of the circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of faith of our father Abraham which he had, being yet uncircumcised. For the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not made to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations.” Again, in Gal. 3: 14,16,17, he says, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. Now Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the covenant of none effect.” Verses 27, 29, “For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” To prove still more explicitly that the Abrahamic and Christian church is the same, only under different dispensations, it is only necessary to refer to the testimony of this apostle in Rom. 11:17,18,21,24, where he says, “and if some of the branches (of the good olive-tree) be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive-tree, boast not against the branches; but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive-tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” And again he says, in Eph. 2: 14, “For he (Christ) is our peace, who hath made both (Jews and Gentiles) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

From these authorities we learn that the covenant between God and Abraham was the evangelical covenant; and that it was by grace, through faith, that Abraham was justified;--that circumcision was the seal which God put on Abraham and his seed, to confirm their right to the covenant blessings;--that this covenant looked directly and especially to Christ; and that it included both Jews and Gentiles in him;--that the Mosaic covenant, which was four hundred and thirty years after this, could not disannul it;--that the Abrahamic church is the church of which the Jews, as the natural descendants of Abraham, were members; but that some of them were excommunicated from this church in consequence of their infidelity concerning the Messiah; and the believing Gentiles were brought into the same church from which the unbelieving Jews were separated;--that believers, whether Jews of Gentiles, are the spiritual seed of Abraham, being united as one body in Christ, the middle wall of partition which separated them being taken down;--that baptism is now substituted for circumcision, so that as many as are baptized into Christ are Abraham’s spiritual seed, introduced into the Abrahamic church, and constituted heirs of the covenant blessings, in like manner as those who were introduced into this visible church, under the Abrahamic dispensation, by circumcision. Now, as the Abrahamic and Christian church are the same, only under different dispensations, and infants are constituted members of this church under the Abrahamic dispensation by the visible initiating rite as equally as are adults; unless it can be made to appear that the rite of church membership is taken away from infants under the gospel dispensation, or that they are nor to be constituted members of the church without any such rite, it will clearly appear that infants, as well as adults, must be baptized. It properly belongs to the opposers of infant baptism, therefore, to show that the right of infant church-membership has been taken away, or that though they are to be received as members into the Christian church, they are not to be baptized. When the Baptists shall have done this, we will cease to baptize infants. (Editor’s Note: It appears that even though such proof has never come forth, the vast majority of Wesleyans have surrendered to the Baptist view without a fight). But until this be done, we dare not deprive them of the only means by which they can be constituted members of the visible church of Christ, seeing God has expressly secured this right to them. Here, therefore, we might rest our cause. But lest any should still suppose that they right of infants to church membership has ceased under the gospel dispensation, it may be observed,

5. That the right of infant church-membership, so far from being taken away under the gospel dispensation, is abundantly confirmed.

In Matt. 19: 13-15, we are told, “Then were brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them and pray; and the disciple rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them.” (See also Mark 10: 13-16, and Luke 18: 15-17). By the kingdom of heaven in this passage, and the kingdom of God , as is expressed by Mark and Luke, we are probably to understand our Lord to mean his visible church; and by the phrases, little children, young children, and infants, those that were literally such can alone be intended. Here, then, we have our Lord’s own declaration, that infants are entitled to a membership in his church. But is by the phrases,--Of such is the kingdom of heaven, and of God, we are to understand our Lord to mean that infants are subject of his grace, and entitled to eternal salvation, which would be using the phrase in a higher sense; then the lower sense is also included. For it would be absurd to suppose that our Lord would say infants are the subjects of holiness and heaven., but they unfit to be admitted into my visible church on earth. Besides, he says, “Forbid them not to come unto me.” Now, pray, in what other sense can man hinder them from coming visibly to him? I think that they can be hindered by us in no other way, and therefore to suppose he meant that they should come to him in a visible manner; because they were entitled to membership in his visible church. Farther, Mark tells us that “he took them up in his arms and blessed them.” This was not a mere empty ceremony, surely, and there is no limitation of any other than spiritual benefit intended. Infants are, therefore, capable of receiving spiritual benefit from Christ, through a visible medium; which is a full refutation of the objection that infants are incapable of benefited by a visible ordinance. Again, in 1 Cor. 7: 14, it is said, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife may be sanctified by the believing husband; else were your children unclean, but now they are holy.” That the apostle does not mean real but relative holiness in this passage must be obvious to everyone, as no mere relationship to our fellow creatures, or natural descent from pious parents, can possibly constitute any human being really holy. Relative holiness, therefore, is alone intended in the text. But what is relative holiness but a visible relation to God, or consecration to his service? The priests under the law, the tabernacle and temple, with the vessels use in the service of God, etc., were all called holy, because they were consecrated to the service of God. So also the whole nation of Israel were said to be a holy people, because they were visibly taken into covenant with God, and consecrated to his service. The whole Christian church is also said to be holy for the same reason; and no person is ever called holy in the Scriptures, except he be thus consecrated to God.  This will enable us at once to determine the sense in which the apostle calls these children holy. They were holy, because they had been taken into visible covenant-relation to God, and consecrated to his service, on the faith of a believing father or mother; and how could this be done under the Christian dispensation, but by baptism?  Here, then, is proof that infants were not excluded from membership in the church of Christ; and very strong presumptive evidence, at least, that they were baptized. Our text also is proof that the right of infant church-membership is not taken away under the gospel dispensation. “The promise is unto you, and to your children,” says the apostle. And it ought to be recollected that both the speaker and hearer were Jews, that is, persons who had always been taught to consider their infant children to be as much entitled to a membership in the church of God as themselves. Their minds must, therefore, have recurred immediately to the terms of the original covenant between God and Abraham, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” They knew that by “seed” children were intended, and that their infant children were as much included in the word “seed” as their adult descendants. When, therefore, Peter said, “The promise is unto you and to your children,” they must have understood him to include their infant children as perfectly as others; neither could he have expected them to understand him in any other sense. If, then, he had not intended to be so understood, he would have guarded them against such an interpretation of his words; and that he did not is proof that he intended that the right of infant church-membership is not taken away under the gospel dispensation. The preceding Scripture proofs, when taken in connection with the fact that infants were constituted church members in the days of Abraham, and continued to enjoy this right without contradiction down to the time of Christ, together with the fact that the Abrahamic church and the Christian church are the same, amount to indubitable proof that infants have now as good a right to membership in the Christian church as adults. Children are, therefore, entitled to membership in the church of Christ ; but if they are entitled to membership they are entitled to baptism; for none are to be admitted to membership in the church of Christ without baptism. Our Lord says, “Go and disciple all nations, baptizing them.” Children, as well as adults, are to be discipled; but such as are discipled are to be baptized; therefore, children are to be baptized. But as it is presumed that such as acknowledge the right of infant church-membership will also acknowledge the right of infant baptism, it is unnecessary to dwell on this point. However, a few farther observations on the text, in relation to this part of the subject, may be thought necessary before we dismiss it. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” According to the text, all that hear the gospel are invited to come into the evangelical covenant by baptism. Those parents who accept the invitation of the gospel, and become members of the visible church by baptism, are informed that their children have as good a right to church membership and to baptism as themselves; for the promise, connected with baptism, are informed that their children have as good a right to church membership and to baptism as themselves; for the promise, connected with baptism, is to you and your children; to those who are afar off and to their children; to as many as the Lord God shall call and to their children. Thus the text is proof of the right of infants to church membership and to baptism equally with their parents. But what children are entitled to Christian baptism? This is an inquiry of some importance, seeing there is a disagreement among the advocates of infant baptism. It is contended by some that none but the children of church members are proper subjects of baptism; while others suppose that all children, without exception, may be baptized. To answer this question and settle this controversy, we should first ascertain who are meant by church members, and into “what” church baptism introduces infants. By church members, I understand this to mean all who are members of the visible church of Christ: and this, and this only, is the church into which baptism introduces either infants or adults. But there is no difference between a member of the church of Christ, and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Protestant Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church., etc.,?  Surely Protestant Christians will not assert that their own particular church is the only church of Christ on earth. Though they consider themselves to be a church of Christ , they will not arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to be considered the visible church of Christ . Baptism introduces a person into the catholic church of Christ. But baptism alone does not constitute him a member of any particular church. To become a member of the Presbyterian Church, or the Methodist Church, something more is required besides being baptized. Therefore, when an infant is baptized, though he is introduced by baptism into the church of Christ, he is not thereby constituted a member of any particular branch of Christ’s church.

We prove the right of infant church membership from their right to membership in the Abrahamic church, and their right to Christian baptism from the circumcision of infants under the Abrahamic dispensation. We should, therefore, take the subjects of baptism in as wide a sense as we find the subjects of circumcision to extend according to the original covenant on which both are founded. Now God says, in Gen. 17: 12,13, “He that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed, must needs be circumcised. And in the 10th verse, he says, “Every man child among you shall be circumcised.” These two precepts certainly require that the children belonging to every circumcised person should be circumcised, whether they were his natural offspring or the children of strangers, or servants, who were placed under his authority. Here, then, we have the law in the case. And this law constitutes all infants, who are placed under the control of baptized adults who have not renounced their baptism, proper subjects of the ordinance.

6. In farther confirmation of the right of infants to Christian baptism, it may be observed that there is strong presumptive evidence that the apostles did baptize them.

In Acts 16: 15, we are informed that a certain woman, named Lydia , was converted through the instrumentality of the Apostle Paul, and that “she was baptized and her household.” And in the 33rd verse of the same chapter it is said, that the Philippian jailer “was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” Also, in 1 Cor. 1: 16, Paul says, that he “baptized the household of Stephanas.” Here there are three whole families which are expressly said to have been baptized. (Editor’s Note: It should be taken into account that none of these verses state a single instance of exclusion of any family members, to include infants). True, it is not said expressly that there were infants belonging to these families, but presumption is that there were; and if there were any infant children belonging to any of these families, they certainly were baptized. It should be noted that the Apostle Paul is recorded to have baptized three families in these verses, and only three instances where he baptized any individuals; the disciples who had been baptized with John’s baptism, and Crispus and Gaius among the Corinthians. It is significant that one half of the information afforded to us in the New Testament of Paul’s baptisms throughout the whole course of his ministry, relates to his baptizing whole families.

The probability that the apostles did baptize infants is greatly strengthened by the practice of the primitive church, and the testimony of early Christian writers.

This testimony is just such as we might expect on the principles of Paedobaptism; but it is altogether unaccountable on the opposite principles. If the practice of baptizing infants was introduced after the apostolic age, how does it happen that we have no account of this innovation upon the usages of the primitive church? It cannot be denied that there were heated controversies among the early Christians concerning subjects of much less consequence than this; and men were denounced as heretics by the early Christians for introducing new doctrines and usages into the Christian church. Therefore, if infant baptism had been introduced in this manner, we should have received some information respecting it, as there would have been controversies on the subject at the time of its introduction; and by some, at least, it would have been denounced as a heresy.  But who ever heard of such a controversy among the early Christians, or of the heresy of the Paedobaptists? Surely no one; or the information would have come down to us; and some one among the numerous modern Antipaedobaptist writers would have brought it to light. We therefore conclude that no such controversy ever existed among the early Christians. Now the entire absence of evidence that infant baptism was an innovation upon the primitive usages of the Christian church is of itself strong presumptive proof that it was an apostolic usage. And farther, that the most early Christian writers have observed such a general silence on the subject of baptism, can only be accounted for on the supposition that there was an entire agreement among them respecting it; and, therefore, they had no occasion to mention it in their writings, And when it began to be mentioned, it was for the purposes that that of correcting the errors of the Antipaedobaptist Christians as there were none such at that early period in existence.  

Justin Martyr, who was converted to Christianity in A.D. 132, suffered martyrdom in the year 167, a man of great learning and piety, in his dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, says, “We also who by him (Christ) have access to God, have not received this carnal circumcision, but the spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it by baptism, by the mercy of God, because we were sinners; and it is enjoined upon all persons to receive it in the same way.”  

In his first apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, speaking of the manner in which persons are discipled to Christ, among other things he says, “We bring them to some place where there is water; and they were regenerated by the same way of regeneration by which we were regenerated; for they were washed with water in the name of the father and Lord of all things, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.” And farther on he says, “There is invoked over him that has a mind to be regenerated, the name of God the Father…” (Editors Note: Much of the way that many early writers connect baptism and salvation is taken to mean that they did not believe in salvation by grace, but by the work of baptism; this is an erroneous understanding. The early church baptized converts almost immediately. This was done much in the way that we have people pray a “Sinner’s Prayer” as the moment of salvation. This does not make the “prayer” the cause or “work” that earns salvation any more than baptism was the cause or work of salvation to them. It was the indicating moment of saving faith to them. Baptism carried a death sentence and was not taken lightly. No one without a firm faith would take on the stigma of being a “Christian” unless they had a saving faith).

Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, in the latter part of the second century, who was intimately acquainted with Polycarp, a disciple of St. John the Apostle, is said to have declared expressly, that “the church learned from the apostles to baptize children.” In his book against heretics he says, “For he (Christ) came to save all persons by himself: all, I mean, who by him are regenerated unto God; infants, and little ones, and children, and youths, and elder persons.”

In these testimonies from Justin and Irenaeus we learn that baptism was considered by the early Christians as coming in place of circumcision, and that infants, as well as adults, were baptized in that age. From the evidence of the early church, it is impossible that infant baptism could have been nothing more than a mere “innovation,” but was based upon apostolic practice and instruction.

It is true that Tertullian, about sixty years after Justin wrote the preceding testimonies, did advise that the baptism of infants should be delayed; but also says, “For no less reason unmarried persons ought to be kept off, who are like to come into temptation, as well as those that were never married, as those in widowhood, until they either marry or are confirmed in continence. They that understand the weight of baptism will rather dread the receiving of it than the delay of it.” What Tertullian has written on this subject is proof that infant baptism was practiced by the Christians of that age, and that he was opposed to the practice: but it is no proof that infant baptism was an innovation upon apostolic usage. Rather it is proof to the contrary; as Tertullian does not insinuate anything of the kind, which he certainly would have if he had either known, or believed it to be such an innovation. The opinions of Tertullian, though very singular, were as far from those of the Antipaedobaptists of the present age as those of the Paedobaptists; and indeed, in respect to the subject of the present controversy, still more so; for he maintained that those infants who were in danger of death ought to be baptized. (Editor’s Note: It appears that Tertullian had deviated from the accepted opinions of the early church by connecting baptism with regeneration [as in baptismal regeneration] and that sins following baptism could not be forgiven; therefore, one should wait as long as possible before they are baptized).

Origen, who was contemporary with Tertullian, and whose ancestors, it is said, had been Christians from the apostolic age; and who, from his great learning and extensive travels, in addition to his Christian ancestry and education. In his Homily on Leviticus, his Homily on Luke 14, and his Comment on the Epistle to the Romans he affirms that the custom of baptizing infants was derived from the apostles. “because the sacrament of baptism the uncleannesses of our birth are purged away, therefore children are baptized.” (Editor’s Note: Origen tended to make baptism the “cause” of this cleansing instead of a testimony of it. As we progress through time, not only the method of baptism evolves, but also the meaning of it. We do not have to baptize a child to “cleanse away” Original Sin, for children are universally cleansed of it without baptism. His testimony to the fact of infant baptism is that it was universally accepted; his hinging the remission of sins upon water baptism, and not the event of salvation in connection with immediate baptism, is quite regrettable).

In the third century, Cyprian, and a council of thirty-six bishops, unanimously agreed that infant might be baptized as soon as they were born. The cause of this decree was the following:--A certain bishop named Fidus had some scruples, not concerning the baptism of infants, but whether they might be baptized before the second or eighth day after their birth. The decree was, as Cyprian writes, “As for the matter of infants whom you said were not to be baptized within the second or third day after their nativity, or, according to the law of circumcision, within the eighth day thereof; it hath appeared to us in council quite contrary. No one was of your opinion. But we all judged that they might be baptized as soon as they are born.” Cyprian also says, “If any thing can hinder men from baptism, it will be heinous sins that will debar the adult and mature there from. And if those who have sinned extremely against God, yet afterward they believe, are baptized, and no one is prohibited, who, being but just born, is guilty of no sin but that of original, which he contracted from Adam.”

Chrysostom in the latter end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century says, “The catholic church everywhere declared that infants should be baptized.” And even Pelagius and his associates, whose sentiments were opposed on the ground that infants were to be baptized, acknowledged that infants were proper subjects of Christian baptism. No society of men calling themselves Christians, except some small fanatical sects, who had nothing of Christianity but the name, and who denied baptism altogether before the middle of the twelfth century, ever pretended to say that it was unlawful to baptize infants. Milner says that the Waldenses in this century were charged with denying infant baptism, but they declared contrary to that opinion. We see that the right of infant baptism is such that no sincere inquirer after truth, whose mind is not biased by an unreasonable prejudice, can hesitate to acknowledge this right. We shall, therefore, proceed to consider,

Point Three: The mode or modes in which Christian baptism may be validly administered.  

Here  again we stand in defense of our existence as a Christian church; for, if none are validly baptized who have not been entirely immersed in water, we and most other churches are not churches of Christ. It is a well known fact that this country, except the Baptists, have been baptized by affusion or sprinkling; and so also have a vast majority of the members of all the European churches, except the Baptists and those who belong to the Greek or Eastern Church. Now, as most of the members of all the professing Christian churches, except the Baptist and Greek Churches have been baptized by affusion or sprinkling, it will follow, if immersion is the only valid mode of baptism, that the great majority of professing Christians are without the pale of the visible church of Christ, and that most professing Christian churches, as the great majority of their ministers and members were never immersed, are not churches of Christ. Therefore, whether we or the Baptists are right in relation to the mode of administering Christian baptism, is a matter of importance to us and to the great majority of Christians in Europe and America .

But it should be distinctly understood that the point in controversy between us and the Baptists is not whether immersion or affusion and sprinkling be the proper mode in which to administer Christian baptism, but whether the mode in which Christian baptism is to be administered is defined in the New Testament. That immersion is a valid mode of administering baptism we do not deny, but we say that the mode of baptism is not defined in the Scriptures, and that it may be validly performed by immersion, or by pouring, or sprinkling. We grant that “the practice of immersion is ancient;” and so are many other superstitious appendages to baptism, which were adopted under the notion of making the rite more emblematical and impressive. We not only trace immersion to the second century, but immersion three times, anointing with oil, signing with the sign of the cross, imposition of hands, exorcism, eating milk and honey, putting on white garments, all connected with baptism, and first mentioned by Tertullian; the invention of men like himself, who with much genius and eloquence had little judgment, and were superstitious to a degree worthy of the darkest ages which followed. (Editor’s Note: Tertullian pressed for baptism by immersion, and for baptismal regeneration. While modern’s appeal to the antiquity of his writings, they ignore the fact that in Tertullian’s lifetime, his opinion was largely ignored as he stood alone in Christendom for his baptismal views. Nearly two hundred years passed before the trend shifted in favor of his position, and baptismal regeneration became the standard). Many rest their beliefs on Tertullian as an authority without realizing that the views that they embrace were aberrations from historical and established Christian practice in his day.

“Neither Tertullian nor Cyprian was, however, so strenuous for immersion as to deny the validity of baptism by aspersion or affusion. In cases of sickness or weakness they only sprinkled water upon the face, which we suppose no modern Baptist would allow, Clinic baptism too, or the baptism of the sick in bed, by aspersion, is allowed by Cyprian to be valid; so that, “if the persons recover, they need not be baptized by immersion.” At present it is only necessary to observe that immersion is not the only mode that can plead antiquity in its favor; and that, as the superstition of antiquity appears to have gone most in favor of baptism by immersion, this is a circumstance which affords a strong presumption that it was one of those additions to the ancient rite which superstition originated. This may be made out to a certainty, without referring at all to the argument from Scripture. The ancient Christians—of about the age of Tertullian and Cyprian, and a little downward,--whose practice of immersion is used as an argument to prove that mode only to have had apostolic sanction,--baptized the candidate naked. Thus Wall in his History of Baptism:  “The ancient Christians, when they were baptized by immersion, were all baptized naked, whether they were men, women, or children. They thought it better represented the putting off the old man, and also the nakedness of Christ on the cross; moreover, as baptism is a washing, they judged it should be the washing of the body, not of the clothes.” This is an instance of the manner in which they affected to improve the emblematical character of the ordinance.  

Now if antiquity be pleaded as a proof that immersion was the really primitive mode of baptizing, it must be pleaded in favor of the gross and offensive circumstance of baptizing naked, which was considered of as much importance as the mode. We must leave it for someone else to contend that they really believe that the three thousand persons mentioned in Acts were baptized naked! And whether St. Paul baptized Lydia , and whether she was put into the water naked. Immersion with all of its appendages, dipping three times, nakedness, unction, the eating of milk and honey, exorcism, bears all of the marks of people seeking to “improve” upon God’s ordinances.

To our views of this subject the Baptists object:

1.  That the Greek word baptizo, “to baptize,” signifies only to immerse or dip.  

For the sake of argument let us suppose this to be correct, viz., that the meaning of the Greek word baptizo  is to immerse. Will this prove that we must necessarily be immersed under water that we may be validly baptized with this Christian sacrament? If so, it will equally follow that, in celebrating the sacrament of the eucharist, we must literally feast, or eat a full meal; as this is the meaning of the word deipnon  (supper), which is used for this sacrament. See 1 Cor. 11: 20, where the phrase kuriakon deipnon, Lord’s Supper, is used for this sacrament. In the connection of this passage the apostle severely censures the Corinthians for understanding and practicing, according to the literal meaning of the word deipnon, a feast, or supper, and declares that this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. He also advises that such as were hungry should eat at home, before they came to the church to celebrate this sacrament. Thus he teaches us that it is not so much the general meaning of the words employed as the design of the institution to which we are to attend in celebrating a divine ordinance; and that, by adhering too closely to the literal meaning of the words employed, we may so pervert a sacrament from its real design as not to celebrate it at all. However, the Baptists, to be consistent with themselves, should insist on our eating a full meal when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, as well as on our being immersed in baptism. But this they are so far from doing, that, like other Christians, they content themselves with eating a small piece of bread and drinking a little wine, which they, as well as others, think to be a valid mode of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. The fact is, the Baptists do not see the full import of the word “supper’ to be necessary to the mode or observation of the sacrament of the eucharist, the Baptists themselves being the judges. Being inconsistent in following the literal meaning of “supper,” they lay claim to consistency by insisting on the necessity of immersion in Christian baptism on the supposed meaning of the word baptizo. But, that the word baptize signifies to immerse, and nothing else, we deny; as the contrary has been proved by several writers. Dr. Dwight observes that “the body of learned critics and lexicographers declare that the original meaning of “ the words “baptizo, and its root bapto,” “is to tinge, stain, dye, or color; and that when it means immersion, it is only in a secondary and occasional sense, derived from the fact that such things as are dyed, stained, or colored, are often immersed for this end:” and he adds, “This interpretation of the words, also, they support by such a series of quotations as seem unanswerably to evince that this was the original, classical meaning of these words.” He goes on to remark, “I have examined almost one hundred instances in which the word baptizo  and its derivatives are used in the New Testament, and four in the Septuagint; these, so far as I have observed, being all the instances in both. By this examination it is, to my apprehension, evident that the following things are true: That the primary meaning of these terms is cleansing; the effect, not the mode of washing; that the mode is usually referred to incidentally, wherever these words are mentioned; and that this is always the case wherever the ordinance of baptism is mentioned, and a reference made at the same time to the mode of administration; that these words, although often capable of denoting any mode of washing, whether by affusion, sprinkling, or immersion; (since cleansing was familiarly accomplished by the Jews in all these ways;) yet, in many instances, cannot, without obvious impropriety, be made to signify immersion, and in others cannot signify it at all.”

The word bapto is never used in the New Testament where the ordinance of baptism is spoken of; but as baptizo is derived from it, its meaning has been strongly insisted on by the Baptists. Mr. P. Edwards says of this word, “that it is a term of such latitude, that he who shall attempt to prove, from its use in various authors, an absolute and total immersion, will find that he has undertaken that which he can never fairly perform.” He then produces seven examples from different authors; the last three of which, being from profane [classic] Greek writers of undoubted authority, I shall briefly notice. Homer says, “The lake was baptized with blood.” Aristophanes, speaking to Magnes, the comedian, who used to color his face instead of wearing a mask, says, baptomenos, he baptized it. These passages rendered into plain English would read, “The lake was colored with blood.” Magnes stained his face. The word bapto, therefore, cannot possibly be used in these passages for immersion; and Mr. Edwards has fully made out his case, viz., “That we can only view it as meaning to wet or stain, and that by whatever mode the nature of the thing to be wetted or stained may require.”

This being the meaning of the word bapto, and the word baptizo being a derivative from it, must mean something similar, and be less emphatic, in respect to the mode of wetting, than its primitive word. Professor Woods observed that “even bapto does not always signify total immersion. This might be made evident from classic usage, and is perfectly evident from the New Testament.” (Woods on Baptism, p. 151). Let this suffice in respect to the general meaning of the word baptizo, to baptize. I shall now adduce a few quotations to prove that it does not always mean immersion in the New Testament. In Mark 7: 4,8, it is said of the Pharisees, “When they come from the market, except they wash, baptizoontai, except they baptize, they eat not. And many other things there be which they receive to hold, as the washing, baptizmous, the baptizing, or baptisms, of cups and pots, brazen vessels and tables,” klinoon, sofas, or couches. That is, those sofas on which they reclined at their meals. “For laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold the traditions of men, as the washing, baptizmous, the baptisms, of pots and cups.” Now, no man can reasonably suppose that the word baptizo  is used by St. Mark in these passages for immersion, for it would be perfectly absurd that the Jews were in the daily practice of immersing their sofas, or couches, in order to wash them.

Again, in 1 Cor. 10: 2, the apostle, speaking of the Israelites who went out of Egypt , says, “And were all baptized, ebaptisanto, into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Now, that the apostle does not mean that the Israelites were immersed on this occasion is evident; inasmuch as we are told in Exod. 13, that God promised that they should “go over on dry ground,” and that the Lord “made the sea dry land,” “and the children of Israel were baptized, as far as respects the cloud, we may learn from the twenty-seventh  Psalm, verse 11-20, where the psalmist is evidently speaking of this event; “The clouds poured out water.” Thus, then, we have reason to think that they were baptized by an affusion of water from the cloud; and we have reason to think that they were also sprinkled by the mist of the sea, which was the wall on either side of them. Thus, much is probable, but we certainly know that they were not immersed by the very testimony of God himself. (Editor’s Note: Also notice that their enemies were the only one’s to be immersed in water when God released the walls of the sea upon them! The only baptism by immersion that occurred here was the drowning of the unbelieving Egyptians!)

This first objection of the Baptists, therefore, has no force, as nothing can be determined from the meaning of the word baptize, in relation to the mode of baptism. There is, however, another objection which is urged by the Baptists against our views of this subject.

They object,

  1. That the circumstances in which baptisms were performed, especially by John the Baptist, and the terms employed by the New Testament writers, when recording certain cases of baptism, go to prove that baptism was only by immersion.

      Let us attend to this objection.

And first, it is said that the circumstance of John’s “baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was much water there,” is proof that he immersed. See John 3: 23.

If it should be admitted that John immersed all who were baptized by him, it would not decide this question, inasmuch as John’s was not Christian baptism. His was a mere preparatory dispensation, and his baptism was of a very different nature from that which was afterward instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ. This is evident from the fact that Paul commanded certain persons, who had been baptized with John’s baptism, to be baptized in the name of Christ, that is, with Christian baptism. This he certainly would not have done if the baptism of John and that of Christ had been the same. See Acts 19: 1-7. But, waiving this, there is no proof to be derived from this passage that John immersed any among the multitudes who were baptized by him. His choosing a place where there was plenty of water, that is, where many springs and rivulets, so far from being proof that he immersed all who cane to him, is no proof that he immersed any. (Editor’s Note: John could have taken people to an ocean, but that would not prove a mode or how wet anyone got in baptism! It is sensible that John, who was drawing large amounts of people to be baptized in this arid region, would not go somewhere where he would not foul the limited supply of water, whether he sprinkled, poured, or immersed). It is a well-known fact that even in this country, (America), where water is far more abundant than in the land of Judea, where John fulfilled his ministry, those persons who arrange large gatherings, even camp meetings, are very careful to procure places where there is plenty of water. (Editor’s Note: It is easy to miss in our modern day, that it has not been all that long ago in our history that clean, or even running potable water, was not available). And yet this not done with any view to baptizing at these meetings. How much more necessary was it for John to do this, who continued for months in the same place, attended by such vast multitudes that flocked to hear him from every part of Judea and Galilee. This was necessary for other purposes than that of baptizing; and, therefore, if John had not intended to baptize, he would have chosen this or a similar place. The circumstances of John choosing a place where there was plenty of water as the scene of his public ministry is therefore no proof that any were immersed by him. Besides, there were such vast multitudes that flocked to his ministry and his baptism that it is very improbable that they were all immersed. We have no evidence that he was assisted in baptizing by any other persons, and without a miracle, one man could not immerse such vast numbers as flocked to John’s baptism. But it is still urged that baptism is performed by immersion only, because it is said in Matt. 3: 5,6, “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all of Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan;” and verse 16, “Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water.” And again, Acts 8: 38, 39, “And they went down both into the water, both Phillip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water…” These I believe are the only cases in which it is pretended there is any direct proof of immersion. But, alas, for such proofs as these! If they were baptized in Jordan —if Jesus did come up out of the water—if Philip and the eunuch did both go down into the water, and come up out of the water; where is the proof of immersion in all of this? Was Philip immersed under water as well as the eunuch? He is said to have gone down into the water as well as the eunuch. Is going down in or into the same as going under? Or coming “out of” the same as coming from under? If the text in Acts is proof that the eunuch was immersed under water, it is equal proof that Philip was immersed under water. (Editor’s Note: If the eunuch was immersed in this passage, then all Baptists and Restorationists are yet as unbaptized as any Methodist who experienced infant baptism, for they were not baptized Scripturally! From this very verse, it is proof that that unless the one doing the baptizing is immersed along with the one being baptized, then one has not been baptized in the Scriptural mode, and therefore not legitimately baptized. This is the irrefutable conclusion if we take the logic of the Immersionists to its logical end!)

But the fact is that these Greek prepositions are so indefinite in their meaning that nothing can be proved from them respecting the mode of baptism. The prepositions used in the above passages are en, apo, eis, and ek. The preposition en, which in Matt. 3: 6 is rendered “in,” is rendered “with” twice in Matt. 3: 11, “I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” Surely no one except the unreasonably biased by a particular creed would attempt to translate the passage as “he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost?” Therefore, we must render en as “with” in this passage. (Editor’s Note: We cannot possibly think that “we” are applied to the Holy Spirit, not the Holy Spirit to us).

Apo , which is rendered out of in Matt. 3:16, is generally rendered from, as in Matt. 3: 7, where it could not possibly mean out of. “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” John the Baptist did not intent to teach the Pharisees that they might escape out of  the wrath to come once they were in it; and therefore he did not intend to say, “Who hath warned you to flee out  of the wrath to come?”

Eis, the word rendered into in Acts 8: 38, is necessarily rendered “to” in John 20: 4,--“And came first to the sepulcher, yet went he not in.

Ek, which is rendered out of in the 39th verse is necessarily rendered from in John 13: 4, “He riseth up from supper.”

Thus we see that the foregoing passages afford no proof of immersion. They might be rendered with equal propriety, “Were baptized of him at Jordan ;” “Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water:” “And they went down both to the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they were come up from the water…”  What then would become the imaginary proof of immersion in these passages? Professor Woods remarks that “the preposition apo generally signifies from,” and renders Matt. 3: 16, “went up from the water.” Concerning Acts 8: 38, 39, he says, “Every one acquainted with the Greek language knows that the passage may just as well be rendered, ‘They descended to the water, and ascended from it,’” He adds, “it is evident, then, that the argument which has been urged in favor of immersion from the baptism of Jesus and the Ethiopian eunuch is founded on the mere sound of the words used in the common version. On the slightest examination the argument vanishes.” In addition to the foregoing passages the Baptists urge Rom. 6: 3, 4, and Col. 2: 12, as proofs of immersion in Christian baptism. The author just quoted remarks that, “in these texts believers are said to be buried with Christ in or by baptism. I remark, first, that the language is figurative. In this all are agreed. Secondly, the phrase, we were buried, does not relate to living men, but to dead men; not to water, but to earth. It does not mean we were immersed or plunged into water, but, as dead bodies, we were interred or covered up in a grave and laid in a tomb. The figure of speech is the same as in the expressions used in connection with this, in which Christians are said to be crucified and dead. It designates the character which they sustain in consequence of their union to Christ. They are crucified to the world, dead to sin; and to make it more forcible still, dead and buried:  and this mortified temper of Christians and their conformity to Christ is signified by baptism, and equally so, whatever may be the mode of baptism;” “and as far as I can judge, there is nothing in the language employed in these passages which implies that baptism has any more resemblance in these passages which implies that baptism has any more resemblance to Christ’s burial than to his crucifixion and death. (Editor’s Note: Upon an unbiased observation of Romans 6, and Colossians 2, one will be able to see two remarkable things: First, there is not one drop of water in either passage. To insert a sprinkling there, alone a flood or burial by immersion, is eisgesis, not exegesis. Secondly, it is an irony that those that claim that immersion identifies us with Christ’s burial are missing the obvious failure of the symbolic representation; Jesus never went “under” anything in His burial, He was inserted into an above-ground tomb; so going “under” water does not represent the death and burial of Christ in the least).

“Water used in baptism is a sign of that moral purification of believers which the apostle means to express by their being crucified and dead, and conformed to Christ’s death. Their being dead, or in a state of death, in conformity with Christ, is the expression which contains the metaphor. Now is baptism meant to be the sign of a metaphor, or the thing intended by the metaphor?” “The argument in favor of immersion is founded on the supposition of a real resemblance between baptism and death.” This supposition, we think, is very unnatural, and far different from what the apostles had in view.” (Woods on Baptism, pp. 154, 155, 159, 162). Having considered the grounds on which Christian baptism can be administered, I shall proceed to notice some farther reasons on which we ground a contrary opinion.   

  1. There are other circumstances recorded in the New Testament which render it highly improbable that the persons who were baptized were all immersed.

The multitudes baptized by John have been already noticed as a reason for supposing that he did not always immerse in baptizing. But there are also several other cases of baptism recorded in the New Testament under such circumstances as to render it probable, at least, that the apostles and other primitive ministers did sometimes baptize by affusion or sprinkling, and not always by immersion. The first of these cases is that of the three thousand who were baptized on the Day of Pentecost. Let it be remembered that it was the third hour of the day, at nine o’clock in the morning, when the multitudes came running together to see and hear the occurrence which had taken place among the disciples; that after this, Peter, and the other apostles sent a considerable time in preaching to them before any of them were baptized; and that day must have been far spent before the work of baptizing could possibly have commenced. We cannot, therefore, suppose that more than one half a day was employed in baptizing these three thousand persons. Add to this that we have no evidence that any were employed in baptizing on this occasion, except the twelve apostles. Here then, were three thousand persons to be baptized by twelve men in the space of six hours; that is, two hundred and fifty to each administrator. This would be less than one and a half minute to each subject. Now, it is possible, unless they were specially assisted by a miraculous influence, that twelve men could have immersed this multitude in so short of a time? I think not; and as there is no intimation of any thing miraculous in this part of the transactions of that day, I conclude that it is altogether improbable that all these persons were immersed. Besides, to have immersed so many in so short a time would have required many places where there was an abundance of water, which could not have been so readily obtained in Jerusalem, especially at that season of the year, when the springs of that country were generally very low. Add to this that there is no intimation of their going out in search of such places, or of any change of apparel; both of which would have been necessary, and from the circumstances of the case would not have been provided until the every time when they were needed. These facts being admitted, and they cannot be readily contradicted, there is every reason to think that the apostles on this occasion, at least, baptized by affusion or sprinkling, and not by immersion. (Editor’s Note: Some may argue that the apostles had till midnight, making it twelve hours and not six in which to immerse each convert. Take into account that it would still be a gargantuan task at three minutes per person, no breaks, standing waist deep in cold running water for the entire period without a break for food, water, or a restroom. It would assume that this all occurred like clockwork, perfect coordination without any hesitations, everyone knowing exactly what to do on queue. We must also assume that automatically, torches (the number of which could never have been planned for), were miraculously available to light the path into and out of the water, for if they were not, and it was done in the dark, their baptism would be no testimony at all, defeating the purpose of their baptism).

The second case to which I shall direct your attention is that of Cornelius and his friends, who were baptized by the Apostle Peter, as recorded in Acts 10. In respect to this case, it is worthy of remark that Cornelius “had called together his kinsmen and near friends,” who probably were numerous, and when added to the near family of Cornelius, composed of a considerable congregation. These persons were all Gentiles, and entirely unacquainted with the nature of the instructions which they were to receive until they heard them from the lips of the apostle; they could not therefore, be prepared with suitable changes of apparel for the purpose of being immersed. As soon as Peter came to the home of Cornelius, he was introduced to this assembly, and began to address them in the name of Jesus Christ. While he was thus addressing them, the Holy Ghost fell upon them; the evidence of which was indubitable: insomuch that the Jewish Christians who had accompanied Peter and who were present, though they were “astonished,” could not gainsay it. Then Peter, addressing himself to those Jewish Christians, said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” It is natural to understand these words to mean, Can any man forbid water from being brought in here? For it was in the house of Cornelius, in the presence of this assembly, at the very time of these transactions that Peter made this inquiry. We cannot, therefore, without a very forced and unnatural construction of his words, and defiance of the circumstances in which the words were uttered, understand him to be inquiring, “Can any man forbid our going out to some pond, river, or fountain of water, to baptize these Gentiles? The subsequent verses represent that the baptism of these persons took place immediately in the place where they were assembled; Peter commanded them to be baptized, which being done immediately, the religious services came to a close. At that point, these Gentile Christians implored him to tarry with them for a few days. All the circumstances of the case, therefore, seem to say that water was brought into the house of Cornelius, into the very apartment where they were assembled, and that these persons were baptized immediately on the spot; and, consequently, that they were baptized by affusion or sprinkling, and not by immersion: and it would be certainly a matter of some surprise, on the presumption that they were immersed, that no mention is made of looking or inquiring for a suitable place for the purpose of baptizing this company, and that there is nothing said concerning a change of dress. There is a strong presumption, therefore, in this case also in favor of baptism by affusion or sprinkling.

The third and last case which I shall present to your consideration is that of the Philippian jailor and his family, recorded in Acts 16. This jailor had thrust Paul and Silas into a dungeon, and secured their feet into stocks. In this situation these apostles prayed and sung praises to God. While they were thus glorifying their heavenly Father, he interposed on their behalf. Instantly the bolts and bars gave way, and the prison doors flew open. They jailer, discovering that the prison doors were open, and supposing that the prisoners were all gone, and that he would be held accountable, attempted to take his own life. This was prevented by his being informed by Paul that the prisoners were all safe. Then the jailer called for a light, hastened into the prison rooms, and finding everything as Paul had declared to him, was led to reflect on his own lost and sinful condition, when he came trembling and prostrated himself before these persecuted servants of Jesus Christ, anxiously inquiring what he must do to be saved. The same hour of the night he took Paul and Silas out of the “inner prison,” washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his family, immediately. It is a rational conclusion from the circumstances here recorded that the jailer’s residence was under the prison roof; that, though he took the apostles out of their inner prison of dungeon, he did not take them beyond the confines of the prison walls; that he and his family were baptized in his own apartment; and, therefore, that they were baptized by affusion or sprinkling. There is additional presumptive evidence, therefore, in the circumstances of this latter case in favor of baptism by affusion or sprinkling; and when taken in connection with all that has been adduced in the present discourse, it is humbly presumed, and will sufficiently establish the truth of the proposition on which our opinion rests in opposition to the Baptists, viz.: that the mode in which Christian baptism is to be performed is not defined by the Scriptures; and therefore, it may be validly performed either by sprinkling, or pouring, or by immersion. Here, then, we might rest our cause; but, as there is farther evidence in favor of baptism by affusion or sprinkling, I shall subjoin a few more remarks. 

In reviewing the circumstances already noticed, it is worthy to remark that there is no mention made in the New Testament of going to any pond, river, stream, or fountain of water, for the sole purpose of baptizing, except it be in the case of Philip and the eunuch, and they were traveling on the highway; it was in the eunuch’s carriage where Philip preached to him, in which no water could be had, and he was baptized at the first water to which he could have access. Even this exception, therefore, will not at all affect the conclusion at which we wish to arrive. As it respects other cases, John the Baptist preached and baptized at the same places, viz., at Jordan , and at Aenon, near Salim. The apostles, on the Day of Pentecost, appear to have been baptized at the place of their public assembly, as there is no mention made of their going elsewhere for this purpose. Cornelius and his friends were probably baptized in his house where Peter preached to them. The jailer and his family were baptized under the prison roof, being the place where the apostles taught him the way of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To these examples there is nothing of a contrary nature to oppose, as far as Scripture evidence is concerned; and, therefore, as far as we can derive the information from the New Testament to direct our practice, we conclude that the time and place of public worship is the proper place and time to administer Christian baptism.


  1. The nature and design of Christian Baptism is evidence that affusion or sprinkling rather than immersion is the proper mode in which it should be administered. 

Water baptism, as we have seen, is an outward and visible sign of the internal influence of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. Both are called baptism in the Scriptures. See matt. 3: 11. John says, “I indeed baptize you with water; he (Jesus) shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Editor’s Note: It should be observed that John’s baptism “with” water, is not baptism “under” water. The water is applied to us, not us applied to the water! Also take note how the inspiration of the Holy Spirit validates the fulfillment of the image of John’s baptism in the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; Acts10: 44-47 states, “When Peter spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word..,” “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Notice that Peter likened this baptism with the Spirit back to theirs on the Day of Pentecost, the very baptism of the Holy Ghost which John’s baptism foreshadowed. On the Gentiles the Spirit “fell,” just as it did on the Jewish disciples at Pentecost. We read, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (See Acts 2: 1-2). Notice once again that the baptism was applied to them, and they were not applied to the thing in which they were to be baptized! Is it not irresistible logic to suggest that John’s baptism must have imitated the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and not be symbolically in opposition to the baptism of the Holy Spirit in which his baptism foreshadowed?)  In Acts 1: 5 our Lord says, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” The influence of the Holy Spirit is therefore a baptism, and to receive the Holy Ghost is to be baptized. Now let us attend to the manner in which this baptism is represented in the Scriptures as being communicated. In Ezek. 36: 25, God says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and I will put my Spirit within you.” Here sprinkling with clean water is a metaphor, and when performed is a sign by which God represents the baptism of the Holy Ghost; therefore, to sprinkle with clean water is to baptize. Again, in Joel 2: 28, God says, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” In this passage, the baptism of the Holy Ghost is represented under the metaphor of pouring out water. That this is a prediction of the baptism of the Holy Ghost is certain from the fact that it is quoted and applied to the gift of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, by St. Peter, under the immediate and plenary inspiration of God. To pour water upon a person is therefore, to baptize them. Again our Lord, as we have seen, promised his disciples that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost in a few days after his ascension to heaven. This occurred about ten days later when the Holy Ghost came upon them. See Acts 2: 2-4. This, Peter said, Christ had shed forth. The baptism of the Holy Ghost, therefore, was by affusion, and not by immersion. Again, it is said that the Holy Ghost fell upon Cornelius and his friends. Acts 10: 44. Now, as the communication of the Holy Ghost is expressly called baptism, and the manner of its communication is uniformly represented as sprinkling, pouring, coming upon, being shed forth, we are certain that baptism by affusion or sprinkling is valid baptism. But where is it promised that we shall be immersed in the Holy Ghost, or where is it said any were thus immersed? I think that this is not said in the Bible, and therefore, there is more Scriptural evidence in favor of pouring or sprinkling in baptism in the Scriptures, than in favor of immersion. We however, do not wish to intimate that the evidence for affusion and sprinkling in Christian baptism renders a baptism by immersion to be invalid. We think directly to the contrary. Though we would think that sprinkling and pouring would represent the most suitable mode, we could, nevertheless, administer baptism by immersion with a good conscience and give the right hand of fellowship to those Christians who have been immersed in Christian baptism as we would with those baptized by another mode. I shall close this discourse with a quotation from Professor Woods:--“I have now given you the result of my serious and long-continued inquiries on the mode of baptism, so far as it can be determined from the Holy Scriptures. This result is that Christ and the apostles have left undecided. And then the question which naturally arises to my mind is, Why have they left it undecided, unless it be to show us that they did not deem the particular mode to be of any material consequence, and that God would have it conformed to circumstances, and would be pleased with baptism in every decent mode, provided that it be performed with a cordial desire to do his will.”  

I have now said what I think to be necessary on this subject; and from what has been said we may learn,  

1.   That baptism is a sacrament of the gospel which is instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ for very important purposes; that he designed it to be perpetuated in his church to the end of the world; and that it is the duty of all Christian people to attend to it.  

2.  That none can lawfully administer this sacrament but Christian ministers; that they are bound, as far as opportunity serves, to administer it to all who are the proper subjects of this ordinance; and that they have no right to refuse it to any who are able to give them sufficient Scriptural evidence that they are qualified to receive it; but that they have no authority to rebaptize, as this would be to profane this ordinance of God.

3.  That penitent adults and the infant children of all those baptized parents who have not renounced their baptism, together with the foster children and servants of such persons, provided they are to be charged with their education, are as proper subjects of Christian baptism as adult believers; and, therefore, that they should not be kept from this ordinance.  

4.  That the mode in which Christian baptism is to be performed is not so clearly laid down in the Scriptures, but that it may be validly performed either by sprinkling or pouring, or by immersion; but that, nevertheless, the Scriptures do afford more evidence in favor of sprinkling and pouring than of immersion; and that the time and place of public worship is the most proper time and place to administer Christian baptism. And I would add, finally,

5.   That while we should be careful to pay proper attention to this and every other ordinance of God, we should be equally careful not to substitute an attention to outward ordinances in place of inward piety and a righteous life; but use them as means of grace that we do not abuse them to our own destruction, but that we may become holy here, and be fitted for the inheritance of the saints in the eternal kingdom of our heavenly Father, where there will be no need of these shadows to lead us to the uninterrupted enjoyment of the infinitely perfect and infinitely enduring Substance.  AMEN. 

Baptism: Its Mode, Its Meaning, Its Madness

Biblical Theology