Baptism: a Divine Commandment to Be Observed
Being A Sermon Preached At Barbican, October 9, 1765 At The Baptism Of The Reverend
Mr. Robert Carmichael, Minister Of The Gospel In Edinburgh.
Baptism A Divine Commandment
Being about to administer the Ordinance of Baptism, before we enter upon the administration of it, I shall drop a few words on the occasion, from a passage of scripture you will find in
1 JOHN 5:3
 Let the commandments be what they may, which are chiefly intended in the text; yet since water-baptism is a commandment of God, and allowed to be such, and the rest of the commandments mentioned are not denied to be, nor excluded from being the commandments of God; there can be no impropriety in treating on the commandment of baptism particularly and singly from this passage of scripture; and it might have escaped, one would have thought, a sneer, though it has not, of a scurrilous writer, in a late newspaper, referred to in the preface.
 That we are ever referred to this chap. or, for a proof of Infant-baptism, is denied, and pronounced a willful, is representation, by the above mentioned writer, in his second letter in the newspaper. This man must have read very little in the controversy, to be ignorant of this. The very last writer that wrote in the controversy, that I know of, calls the covenant made with Abraham in that chapter “the grand turning point, on which the issue of the controversy very much depends; and that if Abraham’s covenant, which included his infant-children, and gave them a sight to circumcision, was not the covenant of grace; then he freely confesses, that the main ground, on which they assert the right of infants to baptism, is taken away; and consequently, the principal arguments in support of the doctrine, are overturned.” Bostwick’s Fair and Rational Vindication of the Right of Infants to the Ordinance of Baptism, etc. p. 19.
 The above letter-writer, in the news-paper, observes, “that the kingdom of heaven signifies either the kingdom, or church of Christ here, or the kingdom of glory above. If the former, they are declared, by Christ himself, real subjects of his among men; if the latter, if members of the invisible church, why not of the visible?” But, in fact, they themselves are not intended, only such as they; such who are comparable to them for meekness and humility; for freedom from malice, pride, and ambition. But admitting that the words are to be understood of infants literally, the kingdom of heaven cannot design the kingdom, or church of Christ under the gospel dispensation, which is not national, but congregational; consisting of men gathered out of the world, by the grace of God, and who make a public profession of Christ, which infants are not capable of, and so cannot be real subjects of it; and if they were, they mull have an equal right to the Lord’s supper, as to baptism, of which they are equally capable. The kingdom of glory then being recant, it is asked, if members of the invisible church, why not of the visible? They may be, when it appears that they are of the invisible church, which only can be manifest by the grace of God bestowed on them; and it is time enough to talk of their baptism when that is evident; and when it is clear they have both a right unto, and meetness for the kingdom of heaven.
 But our letter-writer says, “When the apostles received their commission, they could not understand it otherwise than to baptize the parents that embraced the faith of Christ; through their preaching, and all their children with them, as was the manner of the ministers of God in preceding ages, by circumcision;” but if they so understood it, and could not other ways understand it, it is strange they should not practice according to it, and baptize children with their parents; of which we have no one instance. By the ministers of God in preceding ages, I suppose, he means the priests and prophets, under the Old Testament-dispensation; but these were not the operators of circumcision, which was done by parents and others: and surely it cannot be said, it was the usual manner of ministers to baptize parents, and their children with them in those ages; and it is pretty unaccountable how they should baptize them by circumcision, as is affirmed; this is something unheard of before, and monstrously ridiculous and absurd.
 The above writer affirms, that my manner of “proving the negative, was by barely asserting there were no children in any of the families, mentioned in the scriptures, as baptized.” The falsity of which appears by the following descriptive, characters given of the patrons in the several, families, and the reasonings upon them.
 In his turn, the writer in the news-paper, “defies me to produce one scripture precept, or precedent, for delaying the baptism of children of Christian parents; or for baptizing adult persons, born of such parents. On this the controversy hinges.” It is ridiculous to talk of a precept for delaying that which was not in being; and of a precedent for delaying that which had never been practiced. If a warrant is required for baptizing adult persons, believers, it is ready at hand (Mark 16:16), and precedents enough: and we know of no precept to baptize any other, let them be born of whom they may; and as for precedents of the baptism of adult persons, born of Christian parents, it cannot be expected, nor reasonably required of us; since the Acts of the Apostles only give an account of the planting of the first churches; and of the baptism of those of which they first consisted; and not of those that in a course of years were added to them. Wherefore, to demand instances of persons, born of Christian parents, and brought up by them, as baptized in adult age, which would require length of time, is unreasonable; and if the controversy hinges on this, it ought to be at an end, and given up by them.
 The letter-writer makes me to say, “All the world acknowledge baptizw, signifies to dip or plunge, and never to sprinkle or pour water on any thing,” which is a false representation of my words, and of the manner in which they were delivered; however, this I affirm, that in all the Greek Lexicons I ever few, and I have seen a pretty many, I do not pretend in have fern all that have been published; yet in what my small library furnishes me with, the word is always rendered in the first and primary sense by mergo, immergo, to dip or plunge into; and in a secondary and consequential sense, by abluo, lavo, to wash, because what is dipped is washed; and never by persundo or aspergo, to pour or sprinkle; as the Lexicon published by Constantine, Budaeus, etc. those of Hadrian, Junius, Plantinus, Scapula. Sebreveius, and Stockins, besides a great number of critics that might be mentioned; and if this writer can produce any one Lexicographer of any note, that renders the word to pour or sprinkle, let him name him. This ignorant scribbler puts the following questions, “Did the Jews plunge their whole bodies in water always before they did eat? Did they dip their pots, brazen vessels and beds?” He does not suffer me to answer the questions, but answers for me, “He knows the contrary.” But if I may be allowed to answer for myself, I must say, by the testimonies of the Jews themselves, and of others, I know they did; that is, when they came flora market, having touched the common people, or their clothes, immersed themselves in water; so says Maimonides in Misn. Chagigah. c. e. sect. 7. “If the Pharisees touched but the garments of the common people they were defiled, and needed immersion, and were obliged to it.” And Scaliger observes, de Emend. Temp. 1. 6. p. 271. “That the more superstitious part of the Jews, every day before they sat down to meat, dipped the whole body; hence the Pharisee’s admiration at Christ (Luke 11:38).” According to the law of Moses (Lev. 11:32), unclean vessels were washed by putting or dipping them into water; and according to the traditions of the ciders, to which our Lord refers (Mark 7:4), not only brazen vessels and tables, but even beds, bolsters and pillows unclean, in a ceremonial sense, were washed by immersion in water. So the Jews say in their Misnah, or book of traditions, “A bed that is wholly defiled, a man dips it part by part.” Celim, c. 26. sect. 14. See also Mikvaot, c. 7. sect. 7.
 The above letter-writer asks, “How often must I be told, that the particle eiv and ek are in hundreds of places in the New Testament rendered unto and from?” be it so; it follows not, that they mull be so rendered here. Greek particles or prepositions have different significations, according to the words and circumstances with which they are used; nor is it as proper or a more just reading of the words, “they went down unto the water and came up from it;” it is neither proper nor just; for before this, they are expressly said to come to a certain water, to the waterside; wherefore when they went down, they went not unto it, if they were there before, but into it; as it must be allowed the preposition sometimes, at least, signifies; and circumstances require that it should be so rendered here, let it signify what it may elsewhere; and this determines the sense of the other preposition, that it tour and ought to be rendered out of; for as they went down into the water, when they came up, it must be out of it. What he means by the strange question that follows, “What will he make of Christ’s going into a mountain?” I cannot devise, unless he thinks the translation of Luke 6:12 is wrong, or nonsense, or both; but has this wiseacre never heard or read of a cave in a mountain, into which men may go, and properly be said to go into the mountain; and such an one it is highly probable our Lord went into, to pray alone; such as the cave in mount Horeb, into which Elijab went. But his tip-top translation of all is that of John’s baptizing in Jordan, which he supposes might be rendered, by baptizing the people with the river Jordan. This is the man that reproaches me with very freely finding fault with the translators; my complaint is only of a non-translation, not of a wrong one; but this man finds fault with the translation as wrong, or however thinks it may be corrected or mended, and that in more places than one.
 The letter-writer I have often referred to, affirms, that “the learned world universally maintain, that the Israelites were no other ways baptized in the sea, than by being sprinkled with the spray of the tolling waves, agitated by the wind that blew as they passed through the channel.” Who the learned world be, that maintain this whimsical notion, I own, I am quite ignorant of, having never yet met with any learned man that ever asserted it. It is a mere conceit and a wild imagination, and contrary to the sacred scriptures, which represent the waves of the feat through which the Israelites passed, not as agitated and tossed about, but as standing unmoved, as a wall on each side of them, whatever was the care in that part where the Egyptians were; The floods, says the inspired writer, stood uprights as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea (Ex. 15:8). And if there was a continual spray of the tossing waves, as the Israelites passed through the channel, how could they pass through the sea on dry ground? As they are said to do (Ex. 14:16, 22, 29). What this man scoffs at, the celebrated Grotius, who is universally allowed to be a man of learning and sense, expresses in a note on 1 Corinthians 10:2 “were baptized, that is, as if they were baptized; for there was some likeness in it; the cloud was over their heads, and so water is over them that are baptized; the sea encompassed the sides of them, and so water those that are baptized.”
 The same writer is pleased to represent this explanation of the baptism of the Spirit as ridiculous; but some of greater learning than he can pretend to, have so explained it, as particularly Dr. Casaubon, famous for his great knowledge of the Greek language; though perhaps this very illiberal man will call the learned doctor a dunce for what he says; his words on Acts 1:5 are these, “though I do not disapprove of the word baptize being retained here, that the antithesis may be full; yet I am of opinion that regard is had in this place to its proper signification, for baptizein is to immerse, so as to tinge or dip; and in this sense the apostles were truly said to be baptized; for the house in which this was done was filled with the holy Ghost, so that the apostles seemed to be plunged into it as into a pool.” In confirmation of which, he makes mention on Acts 2:2 of an observation in a Greek commentary on it, “the wind filled the whole house, filling it like a pool; since it was promised to them (the apostles) that they should be baptized, with the Holy Ghost.” It seems to be the same commentary, Erasmus, on the place, says went under the name of Chrysostom, in which are there words, as he gives them, “the whole house was so filled with fire, though invisible, as a pool is filled with water.” — Our scribbler, in order to expose the notion of dipping, as used in the baptism of the spirit, and fire, condescends, for once, to read dip, instead of baptize; “John said I indeed dip you with water, but one, mightier than I, cometh, he shall dip you with the holy Ghost, and with fire.” But not only the word baptize should be read dip, but the preposition “should be rendered in; in water; and in the holy Ghost; and in fire; and the phrase of dipping in fire, is no unusual one, both in Jewish and Greek authors; as I have shewn in my Exposition of the place, and of Acts 2:3.