Water Baptism

Alexander Campbell gives great defense of baptism being immersion and the necessity of it being apart of Gospel by which Christians are saved. This is from chapter 9, pages 161-165 in Campbell’s book, “Christian Baptism” 1851. You’ll find his long list denominational teachers including Calvin, Wesley, Barnes, and Clarke. You need not read any more of my comments. Read this excellent defense.

“OUR ninth argument in proof of Proposition I. is drawn from the apostolic allusions to baptism. In Rom. vi. 4, baptism is referred to as a burial and a resurrection. See also in Col. ii.

These passages read as follows: “Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead, we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Rom. vi. 3-5. Again says Paul, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Col. ii. 15.

Notwithstanding Prof. M. Stuart has spiritualized away any allusion to immersion in these passages, and has been followed by all that class of our American clergy who regard him as one of the ablest and most orthodox of commentators; and, notwithstanding some one or two others, who are the centres of inferior systems, concur with him;–still I would be willing to have these passages interpreted by Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and other doctors of Pedobaptism. Beginning with Calvin and ending with the greatestoracle in all the Presbyterian ranks, in Britain or America, for once, I believe I shall deliver up this passage into their hands, without note or comment.

Calvin: “Are you ignorant. The apostle proves that Christ destroys sin in his people from the effect of baptism, by which we are initiated into the faith of the Messiah. For we, without controversy, put on Christ in baptism, and are baptized on this condition, that we may be one with him. Paul thus assumes another principle, that we may then truly grow into the body of Christ when his death produces its own fruit in us who believe. Nay, he teaches us that this fellowship of his death is chiefly to be regarded in baptism, for washing alone is not proposed in this initiatory ordinance, but mortification, and the death of the old man; whence the efficacy of Christ’s death shows itself from the moment we are received into his grace.”

Barnes: “Therefore we are buried, &c. It is altogether probable that the apostle in this place had allusion to the custom of baptizing by immersion. This cannot, indeed be proved, so as to be liable to no objection; but I presume that this is the idea that would strike the great mass of unprejudiced readers.”

Locke: “We did own some kind of death by being buried under the water, which, being buried with him I  e. in conformity to his burial, as a confession of our being dead, was to signify that, as Christ was raised up from the dead into a glorious life with his Father, even so we being raised from our typical death and burial in baptism, should lead a new sort of life, wholly different from our former, in some approaches towards that heavenly life that Christ is risen to.”

Wall: “As to the manner of baptism then generally used, the tests produced by every one that speaks of these matters, John iii. 23, Mark i. 5, Acts viii. 38 are undeniable proofs that the baptized person went ordinarily into the water, and sometimes the baptist too. We should not know from these accounts whether the whole body of the baptized was put under water, head and all, were it not for the two later proofs, which seem to me to PUT IT OUT OF QUESTION: One, that St. Paul does twice, in an allusive way of speaking, call baptism a burial; the other, the customs of the Christians, in the near succeeding times, which, being more largely and particularly delivered in books; is known to have been generally, or ordinarily, a total immersion.”

Archbishop Tillotson: “Anciently, those who were baptized were immersed and buried in the water, to represent their death to sin; and then did rise up out of the water, to signify their entrance upon a new life. And to these customs the apostle alludes, Rom: vi. 2-5.”

Archbishop Secker: “Burying, as it were, the person baptized in the water, and raising him out again, without question, was anciently the more usual method; on account of which St. Paul speaks of baptism as representing both the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and what is grounded on them,–our being dead and buried to sin, and our rising again to walk in newness of life.”

Sam. Clarke: “We are buried with Christ in, baptism, &c. In the primitive times the manner of baptizing was by immersion, or dipping the whole body into the water. And this manner of doing it was a very significant emblem of the dying and rising again, referred to, by St. Paul, in the above mentioned similitude.”

Wells: “St. Paul here alludes to immersion, or dipping the whole body under water in baptism; which, he intimates, did typify the death and burial (of the person baptized) to sin, and his rising up out of the water did typify his resurrection. To newness of life.”

Bishop Nicholson. “In the grave with Christ we went not; for our bodies were not, could not be buried with his; but in baptism, by a kind of analogy or resemblance, while our bodies are under the water, we may be said to be buried with him.”

Doddridge: “Buried with him in, baptism. It seems the part of candour to confess, that here is an allusion to the matter of baptizing by immersion.”

George Whitefield: “It is certain that in the words of our text, Rom. vi. 3, 4, there is an allusion to the manner of baptism, which was by immersion, which is what our own church allows,” &c.

John Wesley: “Buried with him–alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion.”

Whitby: “It being so expressly declared here, Rom. vi. 4, and Col, ii. 12, that we are buried with Christ in baptism, by being buried under water; and the argument to oblige us to a conformity to his death, by dying to sin, being taken hence; and this immersion being religiously observed by all Christians for thirteen centuries, and approved by our Church, and the change of it into sprinkling, even without any allowance from the author of this institution or any licence from any council of the church, being that which the Romanist still urges to justify his refusal of the cup to the laity; it were to be wished that this custom might be again of general use, and aspersion only permitted, as of old, in case of the clinici, or in present danger of death.”

Macknight: “Planted together in the likeness of his death. The burying of Christ, and of believers, first in the water of baptism and afterwards in the earth, is fitly enough compared to the planting of seeds in the earth, because the effect, in both cases, is a reviviscence to a state of greater perfection.”

Assembly of Divines: “‘If we have been planted together,‘ &c. By this elegant similitude, the apostle represents to us, that, as a plant that is set in the earth lieth as dead and immovable for a time, but after springs up and flourishes, so Christ’s body lay dead for a while in the grave, but sprang up and flourished in his resurrection; and we also, when we are baptized, are buried, as it were, in the water for a time, but after are raised up to newness of life.”

I cannot find room for the witnesses which I could accumulate on this point. Concurrent with these are Grotius, Beza, Bloomfield, Koppe, Rosenmuller, &c. I will conclude this venerable, learned, and highly authoritative list, with the most distinguished Presbyterian preacher of our day. In the recent “Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans,” the justly honoured [163] Thomas Chalmers, D. D. and LL. D., boldly and independently thus expresses himself, on chap. vi. 4:–

“The original meaning of the word baptism is immersion; and, though we regard it as a point of indifferency, whether the ordinance so named be performed in this way or by sprinkling–yet we doubt not that the prevalent style of the administration in the apostles days was by an actual submerging of the whole body under water. We advert to this for the purpose of throwing light on the analogy that is instituted in these verses. Jesus Christ by death, underwent this sort of baptism by an immersion under the surface of the ground, whence he soon emerged again by his resurrection. We, by being baptized into his death, are conceived to have made a similar translation. In the act of descending under the water of baptism to have resigned an old life, and in the act of ascending to emerge into a second or a new life–along the course of which it is our part to maintain a strenuous avoidance of that sin which as good as expunged the being that we had formerly; and a strenuous prosecution of that holiness which should begin with the first moment that we were ushered into our present being, and be perpetuated and made progress toward the perfection of full and ripened immortality.”

This is one of the best arguments for universal consumption. All do not,–all cannot understand Greek criticism. But when Paul explains baptism thus allusively, by comparing it with a burial and a planting, (as seeds in the same bed–for so sunphutoi intimates,) all plain, common-sense men can fully appreciate how the Apostle understood the matter. I have given no comment of my own on Rom. vi. 4; Col. ii. 12. I have given one wholly from the other side. I will only say, that when any of the Liliputians of the present day preach against this view of Rom. vi., it might be a good argument to their modesty to remind them of what Calvin and this host, down to Chalmers, have said.

After hearing these (certainly to us) impartial witnesses, it might be gratifying to some Pedobaptists to hear one of the most reckless, daring, and consequential of American doctors “assure” his people, that their sprinkling is just the very thing that ought to satisfy them. Dr. Miller of Princeton says:–

“I am aware, indeed, that our Baptist brethren, as before intimated believe, and confidently assert, that the only legitimate and authorized meaning of this word is to immerse; and that it is never employed, in a single case, in any part of the Bible, to express the application of water in any other manner. I can [164] venture, my friends, to assure you, with the utmost confidence, that this representation is wholly incorrect. I can assure you, that the word which we render baptize does legitimately signify the application of water in any way, as well as by immersion. Nay, I can assure you, if the most mature and competent Greek scholars that ever lived may be allowed to decide in this case, that many examples of the use of this word occur in Scripture, in which it not only may, but manifestly must signify sprinkling, perfusion, or washing in any way.

“Now, we contend that this word does not necessarily, nor even commonly, signify to immerse; but also implies to wash, to sprinkle, to pour on water, and to tinge or dye with any liquid; and, therefore, accords very well with the mode of baptism by sprinkling or affusion.”

I am, in duty, bound to say, after confronting Prof. Miller of Princeton with this mighty host, that in all my readings on baptism, and they are not meagre, I have not met with any writer of any pretensions, so regardless of his own character for learning, for skill in criticism, for knowledge of language, for a strict regard to truth, for historical accuracy, whether on the subject or action of baptism, as this said Dr. Miller of Princeton. His little book on baptism is really one of the weakest, most puerile, most ill-natured, uncandid performances I have ever read;–the most unworthy performance for any professor in a theological school, in a denomination aspiring after literary eminence, that can well be found in the nineteenth century. I make no comments on the passages above quoted. I simply place them in contrast with his own Calvin, and all between him and his Scotch brother, Chalmers. The contrast alone is enough for one lesson.”