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The author has been careful not to be too original. In historic works originality is always to be suspected. As far as he is aware, the author has made no facts; but only stated those which, by diligent research, he found already in existence. In many cases the writer has preferred to give statements in the very words of the authors he has quoted, as being far more satisfactory than re-writing them. Robinson erred in this, and impaired the confidence which would otherwise have been placed in his statements. The author had also another reason; it was, that he might afford to many who do not possess the original works, specimens of the various ecclesiastical writers in different ages of the world.
The author now commends his labours to his brethren, and to Christians in general who prefer the truth to gold or fame, to ecclesiastical associations, or private friendship; but, above all, to the blessing of Him who is emphatically THE TRUTH, and who alone can render this effort in any measure effectual to set the minds of his people free from the delusions of error, and thus to promote the ultimate union of all the lovers of Jesus in one glorious visible organization, as they are now one in heart.
PHILADELPHIA, August 25th, 1840.
HISTORY OF BAPTISM.
IMPORT OF THE TERM BAPTIZO.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES RELATING TO THE MEANING OF
The inquirer after historic truth, will readily perceive SECT. that to attain a correct idea of any fact, he must possess
I. a clear apprehension of the terms in which the occur- General rence of that fact is stated. The first historic record on
Principles. the subject of baptism, as a moral institute, is by the evangelist Matthew ; “ Then went out to him (John) Matt. iii. all Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." With respect to the character of the persons referred to in this brief narrative, no dispute has arisen; but it is denied by some that the action performed respecting these persons is defined, further than that water was in some method applied to the persons spoken of. On the other hand, it is maintained, that the term baptize, from the Greek baptizo, specifically designates and requires the act of immersion, and admits of no other. It is important that this question should first
CHAP. be decided; and therefore, although the course of the
history will throw additional light on this point, it will be desirable at once to adduce those arguments which are philological rather than historical, that the inquirer may have his mind cleared from all difficulty, or at least be better prepared to judge of the bearing of history on
this point. Imperfec- That language, as hitherto constituted, has, in all tion of language. ages, proved in many cases but an imperfect medium
for the communication of ideas, will not be denied. This arises mainly from the employment of one word in various senses. Yet it is rare that the connection, or other circumstances, leave any material difficulty in determining in what sense the word is to be used. It is also to be observed that some words have been subjected to a great variety of meanings, while others have retained
in all circumstances their original signification. Variety of
Of the varied meanings of words, the following are meanings.
the most important, and more than sufficient for the present investigation. 1. Primitive, or original. 2. Ordinary. 3. Metaphorical, or figurative. 4. Tech
nical. Primitive The primitive signification is the earliest to which any and ordi
word can be traced, whether it be native to the language nary.
of the author, or of foreign origin. In some instances, the primary and ordinary meanings are identical, in others they widely differ. Of the former kind, immerse, from the Latin immergo, affords an instance; of the latter, prevent, from prevenio, the primary meaning of which is to go before, but the ordinary, to hinder. It is manifest, however, that the meaning of a word, in any given case, is not to be determined by its original sense, but by its actual ordinary meaning in the language in which the author wrote, and that at the time of his
writing; unless the circumstances in which the word SECT. occurs require a figurative or technical signification, (which may also include the ordinary,) to be attached.
Figurative meanings arise from a variety of causes. Figurative. Sometimes the figure involves but a slight change from the original or ordinary meaning, in other cases it bears but little resemblance to the original ; as in the verb to contract, (from the Latin contraho,) the original meaning is simply to draw together; the ordinary, to abridge, or make less; the figurative, or technical, to make a bargain. By far the most frequent occasion of the figurative use of words, is when terms purely physical in their origin, are applied to intellectual or moral purposes ; for instance, firmness refers originally to the hardness and solidity of matter, but figuratively to decision of mental character ; levity, originally, refers to the small proportion which the quantity of matter, in any given body, bears to its bulk; but figuratively, to the absence of proper steadiness, intellectual or moral. As a general principle, little assistance can in general be derived in defining the physical and original meaning of a term by referring to the figurative or metaphorical sense in which it has been used. Take the verb to bridle ; how can any disquisition on the proper regulation of our conversational powers, help the young equestrian to understand how he is to put the bit in his horse's mouth? In some instances, however, the figure can only accord with a definite literal meaning.
Technical meanings, (requisite for purposes of law, Technical. physic, or the arts and sciences,) are usually selected as occasion may arise, from some foreign language; but in some instances terms already in use receive a technical sense. A conveyance, (from the Latin conveho,) is originally the act of conveying from one place to another ;
CHAP. ordinarily, the carriage in which transportation takes
place; technically, a deed transferring property from one person to another. Yet with all these varieties, it is scarcely possible any intelligent reader could doubt whether an author meant to designate a stage coach or a parchment deed, unless his mind were warped by the question affecting some important interest with which he was connected. There are cases, however, in which no possible difficulty can occur, because the ordinary meaning is included in the technical, and the original external act constitutes an essential part of its newly
appropriated or technical sense. General One more general observation on the meaning of and speci- words will suffice. In all languages there are words of
a more specific, and others of a more vague signification. It will be reasonable to presume, therefore, that where an author designs to represent an action, without defining the mode, he uses a general term; but where he intends specifically to designate the precise mode of action, he will be found to use a word corresponding to his object.
Let these plain principles be applied to the term baptizo, as used by the New Testament writers, and even by the Greek classics, and I apprehend the result will leave no doubt on the mind of the candid inquirer. I will not, however, anticipate his convictions by making that application before the facts, as to the use of the term, both in sacred and profane writers, have been fully laid before him.