HOW SPRINKLING OR POURING REPLACED SCRIPTURAL BAPTISM
The first case of a substitute for baptism known to us, is that of Novatian in the year 251 A.D. Mosheim, in his Historical Commentaries, p.62, vol.1, gives us the history of the baptism of Novatian. He says, “He was seized with a threatening disease and was baptized in his bed, when apparently about to die. It was altogether irregular and contrary to ecclesiastical rules, to admit a man to priestly office who had been baptized in bed---that is, who had been merely sprinkled, and had not been wholly immersed in water, in the “ancient method.” There was no such authority for such an action and the event set off a controversy throughout the whole church.
The first general law for sprinkling was obtained in the following manner:
Pope Steven II, being driven from Rome by Adolphus, king of the Lombards, in 753, fled to Pepin, who a short time before had usurped the crown of France. While he remained there, the monks of Cressy, in Brittany, consulted him whether, in case of necessity, baptism poured on the head of the infant would be allowed---which, however, some Catholics deny---yet pouring or sprinkling was admitted only in CASES OF NECESSITY.
In 1311 the (Catholic) legislature, in a council held in Ravenna, declared immersion or sprinkling to be indifferent. In some areas, however, (Scotland for instance) sprinkling was never practiced in ordinary cases, till after the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. From Scotland it made its way into England, in the reign of Elizabeth, but was not authorized in the Established (Anglican) Church.
As a result of the indifference of many of the Reformation leaders in teaching others the proper form of baptism, Europe, England, and America were greatly affected in the variety of practices that arose.
Martin Luther had said- “Baptism is a Greek word, and may be translated immerse. I would have those who are to be baptized to be altogether dipped.”
John Calvin had said- “The word baptize signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practise of the primitive church.”
Brenner, A Roman Catholic- “For 1300 years baptism was an immersion of the person under water.”
In spite of these clear statements, in England a controversy arose concerning proper baptismal form and Parliament called the Westminster Assembly to decide this issue. (Other issues were settled as well but baptism was one important question) When the time for voting came 24 ballots were cast for sprinkling and 24 ballots for immersion. Dr. Lightfoot, Chairman of the Assembly, was called upon to cast the deciding vote. He voted for sprinkling and it was henceforth the official form of baptism for the Church of England."
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