A Mark of the Apostolic Church

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In The Church of God From The Creation to A.D. 1885 by Elder’s C.B. Hassell and Sylvester Hassell we find, “The second mark of the apostolic church was the baptism, the immersion of believers in water, in the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.”

Those giving credible evidence of a living personal faith in the Triune Jehovah were taken by the ministry, or by persons authorized by the church, and dipped, plunged, overwhelmed, or inundated in water, in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. Thus were those already born of The Spirit born symbolically of the water and initiated into the membership of the visible church, entitled to all her privileges and exposed to all her persecutions. Thus was it clearly and beautifully and divinely indicated that they were thoroughly identified with Christ, made a part of His mystical body, “buried with Him in baptism, and risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead,” “quickened together with Christ from the death of trespasses and sins, fully and freely forgiven and washed from their sins by the blood of The lamb” (Col. 2:12-14; Rom. 6:4-5; Titus 3:5-7; Eph. 5:25-27). Thus were powerfully and comprehensively symbolized the central, vital truths of the gospel—regeneration by the purifying power of The Spirit of God and redemption by the atoning blood of The Son of God, and the identity, as shown by the words of the administrator, of The Father with The Spirit and Son—and the personal faith of the baptized in those truths. Thus does this one divine ordinance impressively preach the entire substance of the gospel of Christ. It was instituted and commanded by Christ, and practiced by the Apostles, and is to be observed by the church in all its primitive fullness and beauty down to the end of time.

Some history on the practice of paedobaptism:

The Roman Catholic “Church” at first allowed sprinkling or pouring only in the case of sick persons (clinici)—the first recorded instance being the case of Novatian, of Rome, about A.D. 250; but the sprinkling of well persons “gradually came in,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica (ninth edition), “in spite of the opposition of councils and hostile decrees. The Roman Catholic Council of Ravenna, in A.D. 1311, was the first council of the ‘Church’ which legalized baptism by sprinkling, by leaving it to the choice of the officiating minister.” The first pope that sanctioned sprinkling for baptism was Stephen II., A.D. 753. In England and Scotland immersion was the ordinary practice till after the “Reformation.” “What principality tended to confirm the practice of affusion or sprinkling,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica, “was that several of our Protestant divines, flying into Germany and Switzerland during the bloody reign of Queen Mary, and coming home when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, brought back with them a great zeal for the Protestant churches beyond the sea, where they had been received and sheltered. And having observed that at Geneva, and some other places, baptism was administered by sprinkling, they thought that they could not do the Church of England a greater service than by introducing a practice dictated by so great an oracle as Calvin.” It is proper here to state that Calvin, in his Institutes, says: “The word baptize signifies to immerse; and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.” In his commentary on Acts 8:38, Calvin says that “the church granted liberty to herself to change the rites somewhat.” In 1643 the Westminster (Presbyterian) “Assembly of Divines,” through the influence of John Lightfoot, voted for sprinkling instead of immersion by a majority of one—24 voting for immersion and 25 for sprinkling. In 1644 the English Parliament sanctioned their decision, and decreed that sprinkling should be the legal mode of administering the ordinance. The independents, or Congregationalists, adopted sprinkling from the Presbyterians; and the Methodists, in the eighteenth century, from the Episcopalians. John Wesley says: “The ancient manner of baptizing was by immersion.” The “form” of baptism was regarded by all these Protestants bodies as non-essential, as though the term “baptizm” was an indefinite one for the application of water in general, which it is perfectly certain that it is not; or as though man has the right or power to change an ordinance of Christ, which he has no more right or power to do than he has to change the course of nature.

Maintaining the apostolic practice:

As God is unchangeable, so is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever,” and his ordinances, like those of God in nature, are unchangeable. It was a terrible sin visited by a terrible punishment, for a man to presume to alter an ordinance of God under the old dispensation (Lev 10; Num 16; 1 Sam 13; 2 Sam 6);” the ordinances of the new testament, though fewer in number, are not of less solemnity and authority, nor is there any scriptural evidence that they may be altered by man.” He who instituted these ordinances can alone change or abrogate them. No theories or traditions or precepts of men are to allowed to make void or modify the commandments of God.

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