Baptism has always been by Immersion
At Westminster in England on August 8, 1644, after another warm dispute, it was voted that “’pouring or sprinkling water on the face’ was sufficient and most expedient.” This event was reported by the historian, Dr. John Lightfoot, who was present. Out of this meeting came the Westminster Confession of Faith, “a creedal standard for all Presbyterian churches.” This conference was called on June 1, 1643. Some Episcopalians, Independents, and Puritans were present but no Baptists. Lightfoot’s entry for Aug. 7, 1644 tells of a “great heat” in the debate over the issue of baptism. Rabbi Coleman, a great Hebrew scholar and Marshall, a great pulpit orator insisted that the Hebrew word tauveleh – dipping, demanded immersion “overhead.” The vote was 24 for dipping, 25 against it. How did this Presbyterian body, without a Baptist in it, come to such a “great heat” on this subject of immersion if it were a novelty and among believers in England at that time? The answer is clear. Immersion was practiced from the days of the N.T. Dr. Philip Schaff, a member of the German Reformed Church, wrote: In England immersion was the normal mode down to the middle of the 17th century. The New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible with the imprimatur of Francis Cardinal Spellman states: “St. Paul alludes to the manner in which Baptism was ordinarily conferred in the primitive church, by immersion. The descent into the water is suggestive of the descent of the body into the grave, and the ascent is suggestive of the resurrection to a new life.” The ordinance of believer’s baptism has historical perpetuity from the days of the apostles until now.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 325-26.
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Failing to baptize infants was worthy of death
Dr. John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, and a Baptist laymen, John Crandall, had walked eighty miles to a blind friend’s home in Lynn, Massachusetts for worship services. Little did they know that they were being closely watched by the authorities. In the midst of their worship in the Witter home, a marshal and his deputies burst in and arrested them, took them to dinner, and then took them to a Puritan meeting that was obviously designed to show them the error of their ways. The three men entered, bowed to the assembly, sat sown, and refused to remove their hats as a demonstration against the treatment that they were receiving. They attempted to defend themselves but were silenced, and then were confined to the Boston jail, being charged with being, “certain erroneous persons, being strangers,” though their offense was understood to be holding a religious service without a license. They were also indicted for holding a private meeting, serving communion to an excommunicated person, rebaptizing converts, etc. They were tried on July 31, 1651. John Cotton, the Puritan preacher acted as the prosecutor and stated the case against the three heretics. He shouted that they denied the power of infant baptism, and thus they were soul murderers. With great fervor he said that they deserved capital punishment just as any other type of murder. The men declared that they conducted a private service not a public service, and claimed under the ancient English maxim that a man’s house, however humble, is his castle. Judge Endicott agreed with John Cotton that these three men should be put to death. Clarke wrote a defense and was fined and released after someone paid his fine, Crandall was released. Holmes was fined and refused to pay the fine and was whipped until he nearly died, but recovered to become a great pastor.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 313-14.
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“The Conversion of a Church”
The Congregational church in Sedgwick, Maine, had enjoyed the ministry of the Reverend Daniel Merrill for twelve years. During that time it became one of the largest of the denomination’s churches in the state. However, when several of his ministerial students became Baptists, the rev. Mr. Merrill determined to restudy the matter of baptism and write a book on the subject which would protect against such losses, and such a volume would be invaluable to many in refuting what he considered heresy taught by the Baptists. After more than two years of studying the scriptures he concluded that the Bible did not support his long-held position of sprinkling.
The matter came to a head when a group of children were presented to be sprinkled and the pastor could no longer with good conscience perform the rite. For several months Merrill continued in agony of heart for, as he confessed, he “could not bear the idea of being called one [a Baptist].
On February 28, 1805, after a series of sermons on the biblical mode of baptism, the congregation voted unanimously to call for a council of Baptist ministers to administer New Testament immersion, to constitute them as a Baptist church, and to ordain Daniel Merrill as their pastor. In all, sixty-six candidates were baptized on May 13, 1805, and nineteen more were baptized on the following day.
Thus concluded the remarkable story of the conversion of a pastor and his people, to the principles of the Baptists.
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History, Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, pp. 195-196
On Jan. 03, 1644, the British Parliament passed a law making sprinkling mandatory for all, making outlaws of all who were not. This meant that they would be deprived of the “inheritance of the state, the right of burial, and of all the rights granted to other “sprinkled” citizens. The purpose of passing this law was to choke the Baptists that were prospering in the land. The law said that the minister, in the name of the “Father, of the son, and of the Holy Ghost”, was to pour or sprinkle water on the face of the child, “without adding any other ceremony.” Prior to the time that the Presbyterians gained power in Great Britain, the same law read by “immersion” but the members of the Westminster Assembly who presented the famed Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith, came within one vote of demanding immersion as the form of Baptism. Therefore “so goes the church, so goes the state”. Prior to that time all denominations in Great Britain practiced immersion except for the Roman Catholics. It was a novelty for any sect until the Presbyterians introduced it. Dr. W.H. King of London made a complete search of the subject of Baptism in the British Museum. He said that he had examined more than 7,000 pamphlets on the subject of baptism, or the opinions and practices of the Baptists. And that he can report that: “There is not a sentence or a hint…that the Baptists generally, or any section of them, or even any individual Baptist, held any other opinion than that immersion is the only true and scriptural method of baptism, either before the year 1641 or after it.” We know that baptism does not save us, in eternity, but is “an answer of a good conscience toward God” ( 1 Pet. 3:21).
At every opportunity he preached the gospel
November 16, 1786 – Abraham Marshall returned to his beloved home state of Georgia from a round trip on horseback to Connecticut to care for matters of his deceased father’s estate. The trip had begun on May 10. The bachelor pastor made a similar trip of 2,200 miles in 1792 in search of a life partner. Abraham’s greatest delight was in his preaching. At every opportunity he preached the gospel and defended the faith. As he traveled northward he met a man named Winchester who knew some of his relatives of whom one was Rev. Eliakim Marshall, Separatist, Congregationalist minister, respected citizen, and long-time pedobaptist in New England. When Abraham arrived at Windsor, CT, he was the house guest of his cousin Eliakim, and it wasn’t long until the subject of Baptism came up. After long discussions from the Word, Eliakim was convinced of immersion. But his wife opposed it on the basis that he had been raised a Congregationalist. But after his conversion he had left the church and was fined in 1746 for non-attendance. He had been ordained as a pastor of a New Light Separatist church in Wetherfield, CT. He was also active politically and served the state assembly and also ran for governor in 1780, thus his wife thought it demeaning for him to admit doctrinal error. But he did so in a powerful sermon in the presence of his congregation. Abraham Marshall recorded in his diary, “…then we advanced…to a river…and baptized Eliakim Marshall in the presence of hundreds who had never seen the ordinance administered according to the pattern and example of the great Head…before.” The following day Abraham had the privilege of delivering the ordination sermon of Eliakim as a Baptist preacher, and until his death Eliakim served as a Baptist pastor.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins /Thompson/, pp. 476-78.