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Theodosia Earnest or The Heroine of Faith
by A. C. Dayton
Second Night's Study
Punctual to his promise, Mr. Percy came in soon after supper on the next evening, and found the Rev. Mr. Johnson, the pastor of their church, already there. He had called early to take a social cup of tea, having learned that Theodosia was "like to go crazy about these new-fangled Baptist notions."
He did not think she looked much like a maniac, however, though there was a deep and saddened seriousness upon her face. Nor did she act like a maniac, for never before had she seemed so respectfully affectionate to him and to her mother.
He had not said a word upon the subject of dispute, and seemed reluctant to approach it; but when Mr. Percy came in, it could no longer be postponed.
"I am very glad to meet you here, Mr. Johnson," said the young man. "Miss Theodosia and I had quite a discussion yesterday evening on the subject of baptism. She has taken a fancy that she has never been baptized; and I believe that I nearly exhausted my logic in trying to convince her that she had. I hope your arguments will be more effectual than mine."
"Really, my children, I don't know," said the old man, "what I may be able to do; I have never studied these controversies much; I think it is better to live in peace and let every one enjoy his own conscientious opinion. These discussions are apt to run into disputes and quarrels, and often occasion a great deal of ill feeling. I have known them to divide churches, and even families. It is better to avoid them."
"But what are we to do with such lovely heretics as this?" said the young man, with a smile and a sly glance toward her mother. "She must be satisfied that she has been baptized, or you will have her running to the school-house next Sunday to hear that uneducated Baptist preacher, and ten to one, she will ask him to go down into the water and baptize her according to the New Testament model. She says she wants to be baptized as Jesus Christ was, and that was in the river, you know."
"Oh, as to that," rejoined the pastor, "there is no evidence that Jesus Christ was immersed in the river at all. It has been satisfactorily proved that he was sprinkled or poured upon; and it is very certain that sprinkling was practiced by the apostles and early Christians."
"Oh, I am so glad to hear you say that," replied the young lady. "You don't know what a load it has taken off my mind. Do tell me how it is ascertained that Christ did not go into the river, and what evidence there is that he was sprinkled, and it was sprinkling which he commanded. You can't imagine how anxious I am to know."
Well, I don't know that I can call up all the evidence just at this time, and we would not have time to go over it, if I could; but you may be assured that there is such evidence,and that of the most satisfactory, character, or else all the learned and talented theological scholars of the various Pedobaptist churches would not have continued, for so many ages, to teach and practice it."
"Certainly, I have no doubt the evidence exists, since you say so; but can't you tell me what it is,or show me where to find it?I shall never be able to rest in peace till I am convinced that I have been baptized. And If that which I witnessed at the river yesterday was baptism, I am sure I never was."
"Oh, don't be so confident, my daughter. There are more modes of baptism than one. That was, perhaps, one mode (though of that I have some doubt). You were baptized by another mode.That may have been baptism. Yours certainly was."
"Well, do please prove it to me some way, Mr. Johnson. What you say is something like what Mr. Percy said yesterday. He told me that baptize was a generic term, expressing rather a certain result than any specific act. I think that was the idea, was it not, Mr. Percy?"
"Exactly; and if so, I leave it to Mr. Johnson if the manner of reaching the result is not a matter of indifference."
"Certainly," said the pastor; "'baptism is the application of water as a religious ordinance.' It does not matter about the quantity of water or the mode of applying it."
"Yes; that is what mother said yesterday. And we looked in Webster, and found that such was, indeed, the present English use of the word baptize. But brother says baptize is a Greek word slightly modified, and transferred from the Greek Testament to the English. It is the New Testament meaning in the time of Christ and among the people for whom the Gospels were first written,that we want, not the meaning that it has acquired in the English since its transfer to our language."
"You see, pastor, she is going to be hard to satisfy. She pleads her cause like a lawyer."
"No, no, Mr. Percy, I will not be hard to satisfy. I desire, I long, I pray to be satisfied. I can never rest till I am satisfied. I only ask for the evidence.You said yesterday that baptizo was a generic term meaning to sprinkle, to pour, or to dip; but we found it in the Lexicon, and it proved to be a specific term, meaning only to dip. Not a word was there about sprinkling or pouring. It was simply and only dipping. Today, Mr. Johnson tells me about several modes-but they are not modes of dipping. And yet if the Greek word baptismos, baptism, means dipping,then they must, in order to be modes of baptism, be modes of dipping. But, Mr. Percy, you have not yet told us the result of your examination of other Lexicons."
"We can make nothing out of them. I am sorry to say they all agree substantially with the one you have in the house. If we trust to them we must grant that the word means primarily and ordinarily to dip, to plunge, to immerse. Of this there is no doubt."
"Then I am more perplexed than ever. You said yesterday that in order to know what the act was which the disciples performed and Christ commanded, we must ascertain the precise meaning of baptize, as they employed it in the Greek language. You have examined all the Lexicons (the highest authorities) and find they all agree in saying it was dip, plunge, immerse. You admitted yesterday that if they should agree in this, the question was settled. If they said baptize meant to dip, and baptismos a dipping or immersion, then every time we read that one was baptized, we must understand that he was immersed. I thought that was a plain, straight. forward case. I felt that I could understand it. Well, now you say you have examined carefully the other Lexicons, and they all agree with this. No one says sprinkle, no one says pour-all say dip, and consequently the Gospel says that Jesus was dipped of John In the river of Jordan. But then our pastor says that he has evidence that Jesus did not enter the river at all, and that he was sprinkled, and not dipped. Of course he would not say it unless it was so, but I really don't understand how it can be so."
"I have some curiosity on that point myself," said Mr. Percy, evidently relieved to find that he could (for the moment, at least), take the other side of the question. "I find myself in a very close place. These Lexicons have killed me. I don't know what to say. I suppose, of course, there is some way to get around the difficulty; but I must leave it to our pastor to point it out. For my part, I submit the case."
"Really," said Mr. Johnson, "the question never presented itself to me in just this light before. You must give me a little time to consider about it. And in the meantime let me beg of you both that you will examine some of the standard writers upon the subject. I do not think you have done this yet. What have you in the house?"
"Not a book upon the subject, except it be the Bible, and I don't much care to read any other till we have examined that. If sprinkling is there, it ought to be so plainly taught that I can see it for myself. If I can't find it, I will always doubt if it is there," rejoined the young lady.
"True, my child," said the pastor; "but we often fail to see things at first glance, which are very evident when they have once been pointed out, and our attention fixed upon them. This is the advantage of using proper helps to understand the Scriptures. Those not familiar with the language in which they were written, and with the customs and manners of the people to whom they were originally addressed, will derive great assistance from judicious criticisms. I like, myself, always to read a commentary on every chapter that I attempt to under stand."
"Oh, as to commentaries, we have Barnes' Notes on the Gospels, and on some of the Epistles. And we have McKnight's exposition and new translation of the Epistles. Uncle Jones admires these old volumes of McKnight's very much, but they always seemed very dry to me. I love Mr. Barnes, and have studied his notes in Sunday-school and Bible class all my life."
"Mr. Barnes is a very learned and eminent divine," replied the pastor. "His notes have attained a wide circulation, and won for him an enduring reputation. You cannot follow a safer guide. Have you examined him upon the subject?"
"I suppose," said she, "that I have read it a dozen times, but I never thought any thing particularly about it, and don't recollect a word."
"Suppose, then, you get his Notes, and let us look at them a moment before I leave. I can stay but a few minutes longer."
Edwin had found the volume while they were talking of it, and now handed it to the pastor.
"I suppose we shall find it here, Matthew 3:6, as this is the place where the word baptize first occurs. Mr. Percy, will you have the kindness to read it aloud for our common benefit?"
Mr. Percy read: "And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." "The word baptize signifies, originally, to tinge,to dye,to stain, as those who dye clothes. It here means to cleanse or wash anything by the application of water. (See note, Mark 7:4.)
"Washing or ablution was much in use among the Jews, as one of the rites of their religion. It was not customary, however, to baptize those who were converted to the Jewish religion until after the Babylonish captivity."
"At the time of John, and for some time previous, they had been accustomed to administer a rite of baptism or washing to those who became proselytes to their religion, that is, who were converted from being Gentiles." * * * "John found this custom in use, and as he was calling the Jews to a new dispensation, to a change in the form of their religion, he administered this rite of baptism or washing to signify the cleansing from their sins, and adopting the new dispensation, or the fitness for the pure reign of the Messiah. They applied an old ordinance to a new purpose; as it was used by John it was a significant rite or ceremony, intended to denote the putting away of impurity, and a purpose to be pure in heart and life."
Mr. Percy stopped reading, and looking up at Mr. Johnson, said, "Pardon me, pastor, but if Mr. Barnes were present here as a witness in this case, I would like to ask him a single question by way of a cross-examination. He says that 'Washing or ablution was much in use among the Jews as one of the rites of their religion,' and yet he tells us that baptism was not in use till after the captivity.Must not baptism then have been something new and different from the washing or ablution?"
"And I," said Theodosia, "would like to ask a question too; perhaps pastor Johnson can answer it as well as Mr. Barnes. He says, when they received a convert from the Gentiles, they baptized him; John found this rite in use, and merely applied an old ordinance to a new purpose. Now, I want to know how this ordinance was administered. What was the act which they performed upon the proselyte? Did they sprinkle him, or pour upon him, or was he immersed? If this can be ascertained, it will of course determine what it was that John did when he baptized. Can you tell us, Mr. Johnson, which it was?"
"Yes, my child; it is universally conceded that the Jewish proselyte baptism was immersion. I do not know that this has ever been denied by any writer on either side of this controversy. It is distinctly stated to have been immersion by Dr. Lightfoot, Dr. Adam Clarke, Prof. Stuart, and others who have espoused our cause."
"How then do you get rid of the difficulty? If, as Mr. Barnes says, 'John applied an old ordinance to a new purpose,' and that old ordinance was immersion, it is absolutely certain that John immersed. There is not room for even the shadow of a doubt."
"It would seem to be so, indeed," said the pastor. "I never thought of it just in that light before. But though it is admitted by all that the proselyte baptism was immersion, it is doubted by many whether it existed at all before the time of John. Some think it originated about the time of Christ, and that the Jews practiced it in imitation of John's baptism."
"I do not see," rejoined Mr. Percy, "how it can make the slightest difference in the result of the argument, whether it was in use before the time of John, or was borrowed from him. If they immersed before the time of John, and he borrowed his rite from them, of course it was immersion that he borrowed. If they immersed after the time of John, and borrowed their rite from him, of course John immersed, or they could not have borrowed immersion from him."
"But if John immersed," said Theodosia, "then Jesus was immersed by John. This immersion was called his baptism. The disciples saw it, and spake of it as such; and ever afterward, whenever baptism was mentioned, their minds would revert to this act; and so, when Jesus said to them, 'Go and baptize,' they must have understood him to mean, that they should go and repeat on other. the rite which they had seen performed on him. And not only so," added the young lady, "but Christ's disciples had themselves been accustomed to practice the same baptism under his own eye. If John immersed, they had not only witnessed his immersion of Jesus, but they had themselves immersed hundreds, If not thousands, under the personal direction of Jesus himself."
"That would certainly settle the question. But where did you make that discovery?" asked Mr. Percy, incredulously.
"Oh, it is in the record," she replied. "Here is the testimony, John 3:22, 23: 'After these things, came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea, and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Ænon, near to Salim, because there was much water there; and they came, and were baptized.' And in the next chapter it says that the 'Pharisees heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.' Now John baptized and Jesus baptized. They both did the same thing; that is as plain as words can make it: as plain as though it said Jesus walked, and John also walked; or Jesus talked, and John also talked. Whatever it was that John did, Jesus was doing the same thing. If John's baptism was immersion, then Jesus and his disciples were immersing, and they immersed more than John."
"That is really," said Mr. Percy, "a complete demonstration. Don't you think so, Mr. Johnson?"
"Well. I must confess it looks so at the first glance. 'Ye must look into this matter another time. Let us, for the present, see what Mr. Barnes says further, Please read on, Mr. Percy; I have not much more time to spare this evening."
Mr. Percy read on:
"The Hebrew word (tabal) which is rendered by the [Greek] word baptize, occurs in the Old Testament in the following places: -Lev. 4:6; 14: 6, 51; Num. 19:18; Ruth 2:14; Ex. 12:22; Deut. 33:24; Ezek. 33:15; Job 9:31; Lev. 9:9; 1 Sam. 9:27; 2 Kings 5:4; 8:15; Gen. 37:31; Joshua 3:15. It occurs in no other places; and from a careful examination of these passages, its meaning among the Jews is to be derived."
"Oh," said the young lady, "that is what I like; I like to find the meaning in the Scriptures, then I know I can rely upon it. Just wait a minute, Mr. Percy, if you please, till I can get my Bible and hunt out those places, and see how it reads. If it reads sprinkle, then it is all right-sprinkling is baptism; if it reads pour, then pouring is baptism; if it reads dip, then dipping is baptism. We will soon see."
"Let me read a little further, Miss Theodosia, and perhaps you may not think it necessary to examine the texts."
She had, however, got her Bible, and was getting ready to turn to each text in order, when he resumed as follows:
"From these passages, it will be seen that its radical meaning is not to sprinkle or to immerse. It is to dip.Commonly for the purpose of sprinkling or for some other purpose."
"What? Do let me see that. Pardon me, pastor, but what does the good man mean? It is not to sprinkle; it is not to immerse; it is to dip!Edwin, please get Webster's Dictionary, and tell us the difference between the meaning of dip and immerse"
Here it is. Immerse is to plunge into a fluid. Dip is to plunge anything into a fluid, and instantly take it out again."
"Why, Mr. Percy, that just describes the act of baptism which we saw at the river. It was not an immersion, strictly Speaking, but a dipping, a plunging beneath the water, and a raising out again. 'It is not to sprinkle or to immerse; it is to dip! Commonly for the purpose of sprinkling, or for some other purpose.'"
"What are you laughing at, brother Edwin?"
"I was only thinking how a preacher would look, dipping a man 'for the purpose of sprinkling' him. But see! there goes my teacher, and I believe he is a Baptist. At any rate he goes to all their meetings. Let me call him in; he can tell us something more about these things."
And before any one could interfere, he had run to the door and hailed Mr. Courtney.
Seeing this, the Rev. Mr. Johnson arose, and reminding the company that he had an engagement at that hour, promised to call again and talk over the matter more, at another day, and took his leave, passing out just as the teacher was coming in.
"Mr. Courtney," said Mr. Percy, "perhaps you can help us a little. We were just looking at Barnes on Baptism."
"I did not know he had ever written on the subject, except some very singular remarks he made in his Notes on the third chapter of Matthew."
"It was those we were examining, and I infer that you do not think very favorably of his argument."
"I think he makes a very strong argument for the Baptists."
"Simply thus: It is an axiom in logic as well as in mathematics, 'that things which are equal to the same thing, are equal to one another.' Now he states a very remarkable and exceedingly significant fact, when he says that the Hebrew word tabal is rendered by the word baptize.It occurs, he says, fifteen times in the Hebrew Bible. Now when the Jews translated their Scriptures into Greek, whenever they came to this word, they rendered it baptize;and when our translators came to this same word, they rendered it by the English word dip.It follows, therefore, since dip in English and baptize in Greek are both equivalent to tabal in Hebrew, they must be equivalent to each other.
"Mr. Barnes says further, that the true way to ascertain the meaning of this word among the Jews, is to examine carefully the fifteen places where it occurs in the Old Testament. I see, Miss Ernest, that you have the Bible in your hand; suppose you turn to those places, and let us see how they read. It will not take more than a few minutes of our time."
"I had gotten the book for that very purpose, sir. I like this way of study, comparing Scripture with Scripture. I always feel better satisfied with my conclusions when I have drawn them for myself directly from the Bible."
"Well, here is the first place, Leviticus 4:6: 'And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood.'
"The second, Leviticus 14:6: 'And shall dip them into the blood of the bird that was killed over running water.'
"The third, Leviticus 14:51: 'And dip them in the blood of the slain bird and in the running water.'
"The fourth, Numbers 19:18: 'And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it into the water.'
"The fifth, Ruth 2:14: 'And Boaz said unto her at meal time, come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar.'
"The sixth, Exodus 12:22: 'And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood.'
"The seventh, Deuteronomy 33:24: 'And let him dip his foot in oil.'
"The eighth, Ezekiel 23:15: 'Exceeding in dyed attire.'
"The ninth, Job 9:31: 'Yet shalt thou plunge m in the ditch.'
"The tenth, Leviticus 9:9: 'And he dipped his finger in the blood.'
"The eleventh, 1 Samuel 14:27: 'And he (Jonathan) put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in the honey comb.'
"The twelfth, 2 Kings 8:16: 'And he (Hazael) took a thick cloth, and dipped it in the water, and spread it on his face.'
"The thirteenth, Joshua 3:5: 'The feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of Jordan.'
"The fourteenth, 2 Kings 5:14: 'And he went down and dipped himself seven times in Jordan.'
"The fifteenth, Genesis 37:31: 'And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid, and dipped the coat in the blood.'
"The passage in the 2 Kings 5:4, is very remarkable, since it corresponds precisely in the Septuagint to the text in Matthew. The Septuagint says of Naaman, Ebaptizato en to Jordane.Matthew says of the people baptized by John, Ebaptisonto en to Jordane.Nobody has ever questioned the correctness of the translation in Kings. He dipped himself in Jordan; and had Matthew been translated by the same rule, it must have read, they were dipped by John in Jordan.
"But I fear this subject may be disagreeable to you. Mr. Barnes, I know, is a most eminent minister of your own denomination, and I ought probably to have avoided speaking thus in your presence."
"Oh, no, sir," said the young lady; "I want to learn the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, on this subject. I am glad to learn it from any source, and in any way. Perhaps you can assist us further; but let us see what further Mr. Barnes has to say."
Mr. Percy read again:
"In none of these cases can it be shown that the meaning of the word is to immerse entirely. But in nearly all the cases the notion of applying the water to a part only of the person or object, though it was by dipping, is necessarily supposed. . . . It cannot be proved, from an examination of the passages in the Old and New Testaments, that the idea of a complete immersion ever was connected with the word, or that it ever in any case occurred."
"Stop, Mr. Percy," said the young lady. "Pray stop, and let me think a moment. Can it be possible that a good man, a pious minister of Jesus Christ, could dare to trifle thus with the holy Word of God? Oh, it is wonderful! I cannot understand it! He said just now, that the meaning of the word 'was to dip for the purpose of sprinkling, or for some other purpose.' To dip means to plunge any thing into a fluid, and immediately take it out again. To immerse means merely to plunge the object in the fluid. Whatever is dipped, therefore, is of necessity immersed, to the same extent that it is dipped; and yet he says these things which the Word says were dipped, were none of them entirely immersed."
"Do not think too hardly of him," said Mr. Percy. "An advocate who has a bad cause to sustain (I know from experience), is sometimes obliged to resort to just such a jumble, to cover the weak points of his argument."
"Perhaps," said Theodosia, "it might be excusable in a lawyer, though even of that I am doubtful; but that a minister of the holy Word of Jesus should thus stoop to 'darken counsel with words without knowledge,' is something I never conceived of till now."
"When you have become more familiar with the influence which passion and prejudice, and especially early education and church attachments, exert upon the minds of even the wisest and best of men," said Mr. Courtney, "these things will not appear so strange to you. Mr. Barnes doubtless believes that sprinkling is baptism. He was taught so in early life, and has for many years taught others so. To convince him of the contrary, would now be almost or quite impossible, and when any text of Scripture comes in opposition to this opinion, he can hardly help perverting or misunderstanding it. You desired to know the true meaning of the word baptize, as it was used in our Saviour's time among the Jews; and you applied to him for information. He told you very properly that you must go to those places where it occurs in the original of their own Scriptures, and pointed out to you the fifteen places, which he assures you are the only places in which it occurs. He has thus given the matter into your own hands. You turn to the places, one by one, and find that in fourteen out of the fifteen it clearly means to dip.That such is the case, he does not deny. He is obliged to grant that 'its radical meaning is to dip.'This, now, he has proved from the Scriptures themselves. But this overthrows his sprinkling, so he must get rid of its force. This he undertakes to do-1. By intimating that there is some important difference between dipping and immersion. It is not sprinkling nor immersion,' he says; 'it is dipping.' And then he tries to confuse the matter by mixing in the object, 'for the purpose of sprinkling, or for some other purpose,' as though the purpose modified the act performed. The baptism mentioned in these fourteen places was equally dipping, whether it was performed for the purpose of sprinkling, as when the priest dipped the hyssop; or for the purpose of smearing, as when the priest dipped the tip of his finger in oil; or for the purpose of cleansing, as when Naaman dipped himself in Jordan; or for the purpose of pollution, as when Job was plunged in the ditch; or merely for the purpose of wetting, as when Ruth dipped her morsel, or Hazael his thick cloth. The wetting, the defiling, the cleansing, the smearing, were not the baptism; they were not the dipping, but a consequence of it. The sprinkling was not the baptism, the dipping, but a subsequent and altogether a different act. Then to make 'confusion worse confounded,' he intimates some vast distinction between entire immersion and dipping. These things, said to be baptized in these fourteen places, he can't deny were dipped; but 'none of them,' he says, 'were entirely immersed.' But the extent of the immersion does not affect the meaning of the word. The word immersed expressed only the act of plunging the object into the fluid. The word dip expressed this act, and the additional one of taking it out again; and this, he said and proved, was the Scriptural meaning of baptize. As far, then, as they were baptized, they were dipped; and as far as they were dipped, they were immersed. We learn the extent of the dipping from other words, not from this one. If Naaman is said to have dipped himself, or Hazael the cloth, there is not the slightest reason to doubt that the whole person and the whole cloth were immersed. If Jonathan dipped the end of his staff, why the end only was immersed. It was immersed, however, just as much as it was dipped or baptized."
"But," said Mr. Percy, "what will you do with the hyssop, and the living bird, etc., that were to be baptized into the blood of the slain bird, and where Mr. Barnes says it is clearly impossible that they all should be immersed in the blood of the single bird."
"I simply say that they could be immersed in it as easily as they could be dipped in it. If you will turn to Leviticus 14:6, you will see that the blood of the slain bird was to be caught over running water; and as it rested on, or mixed with the water, these things could all be entirely immersed, if need be. You will remember, however, that in common language the whole of a thing is often mentioned when a part is only meant. I say, for instance, that I dipped my pen in ink, and wrote a line; you do not understand that I dipped more than the point-enough to take up the ink to write. If I tell you that I dipped my hair brush in water, and smoothed my hair, you do not understand that I dipped it in, handle and all, but only the bristles. So only enough of the cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, etc., may have been dipped to take up enough to sprinkle with; but as much as they were baptized, so much were they dipped; and so far as they were dipped, just so far were they immersed. But it does not make any difference to Mr. Barnes or his sprinkling brethren, whether the dipping was partial or complete; for they do not dip their subjects of baptism at all, in whole or in part, for the purpose of sprinkling, or for any other purpose; and, therefore, if the Scriptural meaning of the word baptize is to dip, as Mr. Barnes has so clearly proved by Scripture itself, then they do not baptize at all.
"Oh, yes, I see now how it was," said Theodosia, "when Dr. Fisher performed this ceremony upon me. He baptized his own hand; for he dipped that in the bowl, but he only sprinkled me; and therefore, according to the showing of Mr. Barnes himself, I have never been baptized."
"Do not put down the book yet," said Mr. Courtney "Just turn to Matthew 20:22, and you will find that Mr. Barnes has no more difficulty than the greatest Baptist in the land, in understanding the word baptism to signify not only immersion, but complete immersion, whenever it does not refer to the ordinance.
"'The baptism that I am baptized with.' On this Mr. B. remarks as follows: 'Are ye able to suffer with me the trials and pains which shall come upon you in endeavoring to build up my kingdom? Are ye able to be plunged deep in afflictions? to have sorrows cover you like water, and to be sunk beneath calamities as floods, in the work of religion? Afflictions are often expressed by being sunk in the floods and plunged in the deep waters.' (Ps. 59:2; Isa. 43:2; Ps. 124:4, 5; Sam. 3:54.)
"You see Mr. Barnes has no more difficulty than the translators of the Old Testament, in giving the word its true meaning-to dip, to plunge, to sink beneath the waters, etc., when it does not refer to the ordinance; but when it does, all is confusion and mystery."
"I begin to think," said Theodosia, "that theological writers are not to be relied upon at all. And I feel more than ever inclined to trust to the Bible alone, and study it for myself. When such a man as Mr. Barnes can be so far blinded by education and prejudice as to come so near the truth and not see it-to point out the way toward it so plainly, and yet refuse to walk in it, and endeavor to hide it from others by such a strange medley of words, I have no further use for any book on the subject but the word of God. I will study that; and it shall be my only guide. If I find that Jesus was sprinkled in Jordan, I will be content. If I find that he was poured upon, I must be poured upon. If I find that he was dipped, then I must be dipped."
"Oh, no, Miss Theodosia; you are decidedly too hasty. I have often found in court, that a witness whom I expected to testify in my favor, and who evidently desired and intended to do so, has nevertheless, on a cross-examination, given such testimony as was altogether favorable to the opposite party. But I did not abandon my client, and give up my suit. I sought for other witnesses. Our information on this subject is, as yet, very limited. There are other sources of evidence; let us examine them. Something may yet turn up to change your opinion of theological writers. Did you not say you had McKnight on the Epistles in the house?"
"Yes; and uncle Jones, who you know is one of the Elders in our church, says it is one of the best, if not the very best of commentaries."
"Well, let us see what he says. How will we find the place?"
"Take a concordance," suggested Edwin, "and look at every place where the word baptize occurs."
"That is a first-rate idea. Well, here is the first place. Romans 6:4. Buried with Christ by baptism. In the note he says: 'Christ's baptism was not the baptism of repentance, for he never committed any sin. But he submitted to be baptized-that is, to be buried under the water by John, and to be raised out again-as an emblem of his future death and resurrection. In like manner, the baptism of believers is emblematical of their own death, burial, and resurrection; perhaps also, it is a commemoration of Christ's baptism.'"
"Stop, Mr. Percy, are you sure you are not reading falsely?"
"Yes, I am perfectly certain. Here is the book, you can see for yourself."
"No; but I thought you must be playing some trick on me. At any rate, McKnight must have been a Baptist. No one who believed in, and practiced sprinkling, could have written in that way.
"Perhaps he was a Baptist. Let us look at the title page and preface, and see who and what he was. It appears from this, that James McKnight, D.D., was born Sept. 17, 1721. Licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Irwine of the Scotch Presbyterian church. Ordained at Maybole in 1753. Chosen Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church in 1769, which position he held for more than twenty years. This brief history of his life, prefixed to the first volume of his Notes, informs us further, that he spent near thirty years of his life in preparing these Notes, and 'that the whole manuscript was written over and over, by his own hand, no less than five times.' They were therefore the deliberate and carefully expressed opinions of a most eminent and very learned Presbyterian Doctor of Divinity, and presiding officer of the Presbyterian church in the country where he lived. Of course he cannot be suspected of any bias toward the obscure and despised sect called the Baptists."
"Well, read on then. Theologians are mysterious men."
"That is all he says on this verse. But here is verse 5th. 'Planted together,' etc.
"The burying of Christ and of believers, first in the water of baptism, and afterward 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.'"
"Surely, he must consider baptism to be a burial in water. But perhaps he thinks there were several baptisms, and that dipping was one form or mode, while sprinkling was another."
"No, for here is his note on Ephesians 4:5. One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.
"'Ye all,' says he, 'serve one Lord, and all have the same object of faith, and have all professed that faith by the same form of baptism.'"
"Has he any thing else on the subject?"
"Yes, here, on 1 Corinthians 10:2, 'And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.'
"'Because the Israelites, by being hidden from the Egyptians under the cloud, and by passing through the Red Sea, were made to declare their belief in the Lord and his servant Moses, the Apostle very properly represents them as baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.'
"And here again-l Corinthians 15:29-'Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead.'
"'Otherwise what shall they do to repair their loss who are immersed in sufferings for the resurrection of the dead.'
"And here again - Hebrews 9:10-'Divers washings (Baptisrnos).'
"'With nothing but meats, and drinks, and divers immersions,and ordinances respecting the body.'
"One more place, and we have all that he says upon the subject.
"1 Peter 3:21, 'The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us, etc.'
"The water of baptism is here called the anti-type of the water of the flood, because the flood was a type or emblem of baptism in three particulars:
"1. 'As by building an ark and entering into it, Noah showed strong faith in the promise of God, concerning his preservation, by the very water which was to destroy the Antediluvians for their sins. So by giving ourselves to be buried in the water of baptism, we show a like faith in God's promise, that though we die and are buried, he will save us from death and the punishment of sin, by raising us up from the dead at the last day.'
"2. 'As the preserving of Noah alive during the nine months of the flood, is an emblem of the preservation of the souls of believers while in the state of the dead, so the preserving believers alive while buried in the water of baptism, is a prefiguration of the same event.'
"3. 'As the water of the deluge destroyed the wicked, but preserved Noah by bearing up the ark, in which he was shut up, till the waters were assuaged, and he went out to live again upon the earth; so baptism may be said to destroy [or represent the destruction of] the wicked, and to save the righteous, as it prefigures both these events. The death of the wicked it prefigures by the burial of the baptized person in the water, and the salvation of the righteous by the raising of the baptized person out of the water.'"
"Well, Mr. Percy," said Theodosia, "what do you make of this witness? Do you wish to cross-examine him, or ask him any further questions?"
"Yes, I would like to ask the Rev. Dr. McKnight if he practiced sprinkling for baptism; and if he did, upon what grounds he could sustain a practice so different from his own exposition of the teachings of the Scripture."
"As Dr. McKnight has not answered in his writings, and is not present in person, it may be satisfactory,' suggested Mr. Courtney, "to inquire of some other representative of the same church establishment. If you have Dr. Chalmers' Lectures on Romans, you will find the question answered."
"Yes, sister, don't you know mother bought Chalmers' Lectures only the other day? I will go and get the book," said Edwin.
"Ah, here it is-page 152; Romans 6:4-7. '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 apostle's days, was by the actual submerging of the whole body under water. We advert to this for the purpose of throwing light on the analogy which is instituted in these verses. Jesus Christ, by death, underwent this sort of baptism, even 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 new life.' Here we have a distinct avowal of the well-established fact that the meaning of the word baptism is immersion, and that the practice of the Apostolic church was conformable to this truth. But in the very face of it we have the candid declaration 'that we (Presbyterians) regard it as a matter of indifferency whether the ordinance so named be performed in this way or by spriukling.'"
"But, Mr. Courtney, how can it be a matter of 'indifferency?' If the word means immersion, then immersion was what Christ commanded-then the 'ordinance so-called' is 'immersion.' How can immersion be performed by sprinkling? Really, these theologians are a strange, mysterious people. I cannot comprehend them. Christ commands me to be baptized-baptism means immersion-then, of course, if he meant any thing, he meant immersion. But these great and good men tell me it is a matter of 'indifferency' whether I do what he commanded, or something else altogether different from it."
Pardon me, Miss Theodosia; it is only when the theologians are in error, and blinded by their educational prejudices, or attachment to their church forms and dogmas, that they are so unreasonable and so mysterious."
"Yet I have been accustomed to think they could hardly be in error at all. I have taken it for granted, until yesterday, that what the ministers of our church said about the teachings of the word of God, was all true, as a matter of course. I can hardly believe now that it is not so. I can't understand how those, who are so wise, so learned, so pious, so anxious to know the truth, and who spend all their time in learning and teaching it, can be wrong; or how a simple girl like me, may differ from them and yet be right. I am afraid to take a single step in opposition to my pastor's teaching, though I see clearly (as I think) that I shall step upon the rock of God's unfailing truth! How can it be, that such good men talk one way and act another? How do they try to justify their 'indifferency' to the commands of Christ? They give some reason, do they not?"
"I think most of them don't trouble themselves on the subject: they think little, and care little about it-not deeming it essential to salvation. When they do think or read upon the subject, it is in order to quiet their minds, or reply to an opponent. They have the practice of their church, received by tradition; they take it for granted it is right. They are where you were a day or two since, when you took it for granted that the ministers of your denomination could not be wrong. They don't think their church can be wrong; and they twist, pervert, and torture the Scriptures, as you have seen Mr. Barnes do, or openly set aside their teachings as a matter of 'indifferency,' as we have seen Dr. Chalmers do, in order to continue the usage of the church."
"But," asked Theodosia, "does not Dr. Chalmers stand alone upon this point of 'indifferency?' It surely is not common for the ministers of our church (who in learning and piety I have always thought had no superiors in the world) to speak of literal obedience to Christ's commandments as a matter of no consequence. To me it seems to border upon absolute impiety, almost upon sacrilege. I am in a maze of astonishment."
"If you will continue your investigations for a little time, you will cease to be astonished at almost any sort of assertions made by the advocates of sprinkling," said Mr. Courtney. "You will, for instance, find them admitting, in one sentence, that immersion was submitted to by Christ, and practiced by the Apostles; and in another, holding it up to the reprobation and abhorrence of every Christian as an indecent and abominable rite. But, in regard to your question. Dr. Chalmers, so far from standing alone, simply echoes the sentiments of Calvin, the founder of your church, and others of its most eminent supporters. 'It is of no consequence at all,' says Calvin, as quoted by Prof. Stuart, 'whether the baptized person is totally immersed, or whether he is merely sprinkled by an affusion of water. This should be a matter of choice to the churches in different regions, although the word baptize signifies to immerse, and the rite of immersion was practiced by the ancient church.' 'To this opinion,' says Prof. Stuart, 'I do most fully and heartily subscribe."'
"Well, I declare! these Presbyterian Doctors of Divinity are the most mysterious of people to me. They freely admit that the meaning of the word is to immerse, or to dip, and that immersion was practiced by the first churches-(and of course, if such is the meaning of the word, it must have been practiced by the first churches, as they could not misunderstand the commandment). Yet they tell us that it is of 'no consequence at all' whether we obey the commandment or not. Do the other denominations opposed to the Baptist occupy the same position?"
"I cannot answer for all," said Mr. Courtney; "I can for some. I have here a transcript of some of the writings of Mr. John Wesley, who was the founder of the Methodists, the most numerous of the Pedobaptist sects in this country. He says, in his notes on Romans 6:4-'The allusion is to the ancient manner of baptizing, by immersion.' And he relates in his journal, vol. 3, page 20, 'that Mary Welch, aged eleven days, was baptized according to the custom of the first church, and the rule of the church of England, by immersion.'
"On page 24 of the same volume, he says-'I was asked to baptize a child of Mr. Parker's, second bailiff of Savannah; but Mrs. Parker told me, neither Mr. P. nor I will consent to its being dipped. I answered, if you certify that the child is weakly, it will suffice (the Rubric says) to pour water on it. She replied nay, the child is not weak, but I am resolved it shall not be dipped. This argument I could not confute, so I went home, and the child was baptized by another."'
"It would seem, then," said Theodosia, "that Mr. Wesley conformed his practice to his belief. He believed that baptism was immersion, and refused to baptize at all unless he could do it according to the word of God. I honor the man for his consistency."
"Still," said Mr. Percy, "it does not seem that he was influenced by the word of God, but by the 'Rubric.' The word of God makes no exception in favor of those who may be certified to 'be weak,' but yet on the authority of 'the Rubric,' or formula of the church of England, Mr. Wesley was perfectly ready to dispense with the dipping, and employ pouring, if the parents would only certify."
"Moreover," added Mr. Courtney, "it seems, from his conduct afterward, that he felt as much at liberty himself to change the ordinance of Christ, as the makers of the Rubric had done; for when he organized his societies, and gave them 'the Discipline' as their organic law, he directed baptism to be performed by sprinkling or pouring, if the parties preferred it.
"And though Mr. Wesley once refused to baptize a person at all unless he could do it by dipping, 'according to the custom of the first church,' or under a certificate of weakness, his followers, by his direction and by authority of his Discipline, employ sprinkling almost exclusively, and call immersion a vulgar and indecent practice; although they will sometimes perform it to satisfy a weak conscience, rather than lose a member.
"Martin Luther, the great reformer and founder of the Lutheran church, evidently entertained the same opinion with the other noted Pedobaptists we have been speaking of. After speaking of baptism as a symbol of death and resurrection, he says, 'On this account I would wish that such as are to be baptized, should be completely immersed into the water, according to the meaning of the word and the signification of the ordinance, as also, without doubt, it was instituted by Christ.
Yet Luther is the father of a sprinkling church-the Lutheran; and whether he did so or not, it is evident that his followers, like Drs. Chalmers and Calvin, regard it as a 'point indifferency.'"
"That is sufficient, Mr. Courtney," replied the young lady; "I merely wish to know if the other denominations were guilty of the same inconsistency with our own."
After a little further conversation, Mr. Percy and Mr. Courtney took their leave.
Mrs. Ernest, the mother, had, during the time of this interview, been sitting quietly in a corner, very busily engaged in hemming some ruffles. She took no part in the discussion, but as soon as the gentlemen were gone, she turned to Theodosia, and said- "My dear child, I am perfectly astonished at your behavior this evening."
"Why, mother," said the young lady, in amazement, "what have I done? I am not conscious of any impropriety."
"Do you think, then, that it is perfectly proper and becoming in you to talk as you did this evening about the good and eminent clergymen of our church? It made my flesh quake and my heart burn to hear that impertinent little Baptist pedagogue accuse such a man as Dr. Albert Barnes of perverting the scriptures and mystifying the truth. I wonder if he thinks a learned and pious Presbyterian minister, like Mr. Barnes, is more likely to be 'blinded by prejudice and passion' than an ignorant Baptist schoolmaster. You thought I was not listening; but, though I did not take any part in your conversation, I assure you I heard every word of it, and if it had not been for the presence of Mr. Percy, I do believe I would have been tempted to order the fellow out of my house. How could you be so destitute of every particle of self-respect, and of all regard for your own church-the church of your mother and your grand parents, in which you was born and raised, as to permit a man to talk in that way in your presence? I declare I was perfectly ashamed of you! If that Mr. Courtney ever shows his face in my house again, I do think I shall insult him."
"Mother, what was it that Mr. Courtney said that was so unbecoming and offensive? I am sure he seemed to me only as one anxious to get at the truth."
"Why! did he not say that our preachers perverted the Scripture? Did not he say that they set aside the commandments of Christ as matters of 'indifferency?' [wonder if he thinks he knows more about the Scriptures than Dr. Chalmers or Mr. Barnes, or even the weakest preacher in our church? I always heard that the Baptists were an ignorant, bigoted, and intolerant sect, and I believe it now more than ever. Just to think that-"
"But, mother, please let me say one word. Mr. Courtney did, indeed, intimate that Mr. Barnes had mystified and perverted the Scripture, but did he not prove it before he said it? It was Mr. Percy who read in Mr. Barnes' notes that we must look in the Old Testament at those fifteen places, to learn the meaning of the word baptize. We looked, and found that in fourteen of the fifteen, the action was dipping, and in none of them sprinkling or pouring. It was Mr. Percy who read that 'the meaning of the word is not to sprinkle or to immerse, but it is to dip for the purpose of sprinkling, or for some other purpose.' It was Mr. Percy who read in Dr. Chalmers that 'we (Presbyterians) consider it a point of indifferency' whether the ordinance of Christ is performed as he commanded, or in some other way. Now, if Mr. Barnes does prove that the word means 'to dip,' for the purpose of sprinkling, or for some other purpose,' and yet tells us that it can be done by pouring, does he not mystify the subject by a strange medley of words? Was it so very wrong in Mr. Courtney to point out these self-evident prevarications of Mr. Barnes, or the openly avowed disregard to the commandment of Jesus Christ and the practice of the Apostolic churches in Dr. Chalmers?
"If Presbyterians are guilty of such inconsistency, I am sorry for it, and ashamed of it, but I can't help seeing it when my attention is directed to it; and I really do not see how it could have been becoming in me to get angry with those who were so kind as to point it out to me. On this subject I feel that I would be willing to learn the truth even from an infidel or an idiot, if they could aid me."
"It is the part of a true friend," said the mother, "to bile a friend's infirmities, not to divulge and glory in them. And even if our ministers have done and said some thoughtless and silly things, it is not for a Presbyterian like you, to speak of them, or permit others to speak of them so contemptuously, in your presence. If you have no spirit of resentment, I'll let you know that I have, and Mr. Courtney too, if he comes here with any more of his Baptist abuse of our pious and learned ministers."
"But, mother, if our ministers are wrong (as being human they surely may be) how can it be wrong to point out their errors, and guard inquirers after truth from falling into them?"
"I don't say," replied the mother, "that it is wrong to point out any trifling errors, which they may have inadvertently taught; provided it were done in a mild, gentlemanly, courteous, and Christian manner. But is it kind, is it courteous, is it Christian-like, to accuse a great and good man like Mr. Barnes. of torturing, perverting, and mystifying the Word of God, to sustain some church dogma or church practice? Do you call that gentlemanly?"
"My dear mother, please don't be so angry with me; I really can't see why we should not call things by their real names. And I must confess that so far as I can understand the meaning of the words, Mr. Barnes does, on this subject, mystify and pervert the language of Scripture, and Dr. Chalmers does clearly intimate that it is no matter whether we do what Christ commanded in this ordinance, or something else-which he did not command. And I begin to fear that others on our side of this controversy are in the same predicament. Whether those on the other side are not equally inconsistent, I have yet to learn."
"Well, my child, I don't know what to do with you. You have no more respect for the opinions of the learned and excellent ministers of our church, than for those of the most ignorant people."
"I am determined, mother, that I shall never trust any more to the mere assertions of any man, or set of men, except those holy men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Whatever I can find for myself clearly put down in The Book, that I will believe. Henceforth, the Bible is my only guide, and I will myself judge of its meaning for myself."
"But, my child, do you, can you, think that you are as competent to judge of the true interpretation of the Word as the great and good men who have given all their lives to its study?"
"No, mother; but how if these great and good men disagree? Must I turn Catholic, and so secure an infallible priest? If I don't do this, I must maintain my right to my own private judgment. I am accountable only to God; I will be guided only by his Word. I thought you and pastor Johnson would have encouraged and assisted me in the investigation of this or any other question connected with my religious faith and practice. [know that he has always told us to examine the Scripture for ourselves-and 'each to be fully persuaded in his own mind.'"
"Certainly, my child; but then we thought that your investigations would tend to confirm rather than shake your faith in our doctrines; but you seem to be losing confidence rather than increasing it. These studies seem only to disturb and unsettle your mind; and I fear, if you continue them, they will end in your separation from us all. How, then, can I help desiring that you should leave off these distressing investigations?
Till you do so, I can hardly feel that you are my own dear Theodosia. You begin almost to feel like a stranger to me now. I declare, I believe you will break my heart." And, overcome by her maternal feelings, she burst into a flood of tears, in which the daughter freely joined.
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