Did Baptists In England Immerse Prior To 1641? -- By: Anonymous
BSac 54:213 (Jan 1897) p. 162
Did Baptists In England Immerse Prior To 1641?
In his article in the Bibliotheca Sacra for October, 1896, Dr. B. B. Warfield says: “The original Baptists apparently did not immerse; and Dr. Dexter appears to have shown that even the first English Baptists who seceded from the Puritan emigrants and formed a congregation at Amsterdam, baptized by affusion. It would seem that it was by the English Baptists of the seventeenth century that immersion was first declared to be essential to valid baptism; and the practice of immersion by them can be looked upon as a survival from an earlier time only in the sense that it was a return to an earlier custom, although with the variation of a single instead of a trine immersion “(pp. 603, 604).
Dr. Dexter, in his “True Story of John Smyth,” argues that immersion was not practiced in England prior to 1641, and was at that time introduced from Holland. He relies upon statements of various authors soon after 1641, to the effect that immersion was “new.” It would be easy to show that Dr. Dexter has strangely misused many authorities quoted. Take a single example: On page 51 of his “True Story of John Smyth,” J. Parnell is quoted, the quotation professing to come from “The Watcher; or, The Stone Cut from the Mountain,” p. 16, as follows: “Now within these late yeeres … they (the Anabaptists) say … they must be dipped in the water, and that they call baptizing.” Now in the original document the words “now within these late yeeres “are more than a page removed from the words “they must be dipped in the water and that they call baptizing”; while the words “they (the Anabaptists) say,” are not found at all. Dr. Dexter has put two fragments of sentences, more than a page apart, together, and inserted words of his own invention, and made the whole into a single statement. This is but one of many instances; and Dr. Warfield should not rely upon Dr. Dexter’s citations, without verification.
But conceding that there were English authors about the middle of the seventeenth century who called immersion “new,” it by no means follows that it was then new in England. When it is remembered that not till August 1st, 1641, were the persecuting courts of High Commission and of Star Chamber abolished, it is not to be wondered at that the Baptists should then have shown themselves as they had not done before. The
BSac 54:213 (Jan 1897) p. 163
fact that they appear about that time, here, there, and everywhere in England, proves that they existed there before; and it also explains why many should regard their practices as new. This is a point Dr. Dexter has wholly overlooked in his discussion.
In 1644, the Baptists put forth their ...
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