Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 13, 1951

Immersion Or Sprinkling?

Benjamin Franklin

"I have a difficulty about baptism," says a man. "One preacher says nothing but immersion is baptism; another says pouring or sprinkling will do as well—that he would as soon have sprinkling as anything. I find that there are strong, talented, and learned men on both sides of this question, and if the preachers can not settle it and decide which is right, how am I to determine what to do?" There need be but little dispute about that.

Who denies that immersion is valid as the initiatory rite? The whole Romish Church admits not only the validity of immersion, but that it was the original practice. The Greek Church has practiced immersion from the beginning. The Episcopalian Church admits that immersion was the original practice. The Methodist Church has endorsed immersion in its creed, its standard works, and its occasional practice, from the commencement of its existence. The great historians, John L. Mosheim, Neander, and Wall, admit the validity of immersion, and that it was the original practice.

Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and more than three hundred others, whose names appear in the quotations from the learned authorities on this subject of the most distinguished religious teachers that have appeared in the last three centuries; reformers, critics, commentators, historians, and translators, in one form or other, have committed to writing, and left the testimony, that immersion was the original practice and valid. You will inquire then, why so many of them sprinkled? They did it, not on the ground that there was any authority in the Bible for sprinkling or pouring, but on the ground that a change in the form would not vitiate the ordinance if they retained the substance. They admitted the change from the original practice—immersion to sprinkling or pouring—to accommodate the ordinance to supposed cases that might occur in cold countries, or where water would be difficult to obtain, and cases of weakness where they could not bear immersion, arguing only the law of expediency for it, but claiming no divine authority for the change.

The Case For Immersion

The validity of immersion remains unquestioned by anything deserving the name of authority, and is sanctioned by the weight of all historians, critics, commentators, lexicographers, translators. No matter what you may think of sprinkling or pouring, there is no question about immersion. It has never been in dispute nor doubt. It remains unquestioned and unquestionable, so far as men of learning and reputation are concerned. Those who receive immersion are satisfied, living and dying. Their minds are at rest about the ordinance. They never hear any preaching that unsettles their minds. Their conscience is at rest so far as baptism is concerned. They have no doubt of it, living or dying.

This is not the case with those who have received sprinkling or pouring for baptism. Their conscience is not at rest. Many of them live in continual doubt and perplexity about their baptism. They are continually hearing preaching, or reading books or tracts, such as unsettle their minds and fill them with doubt and confusion. Their preacher visits them, talks with them, prays with them, brings them tracts and books to read, and preaches on baptism. In this way he occasionally pacifies them for the time being, but again they hear someone quoting the admissions of the learned authorities, that immersion was the invariable practice of the original church; that they "buried" in baptism (Col. 2:12); were "buried by baptism into his death" (Rom. 6:1-4); and immersion comes into the mind in spite of all efforts to keep it out. The mind is again unsettled more than ever. The minds of many of this class are unsettled in death, and they go thus unsettled and in doubt into the presence of God.

The Safe Course

What, then, is the safe course to pursue? Undoubtedly, to practice that which never was in doubt; that which never was in dispute among great, good, and pious men. "Go," according to the scriptures, "to a certain water," where there is "much water;" go "down into the water," be "buried in baptism," come "up out of the water," and the controversy is ended so far as you are concerned. Touching this institution, your soul is at rest, this is infallibly safe. No matter what they can prove about sprinkling or pouring, your baptism stands unquestioned and your conscience is at rest.

What would you give for a farm with a doubtful title. No matter if three-fourths of the attorneys of your acquaintance would declare the title good, and only one-fourth declare it doubtful, you would not be content with such a clouded, shady title to a farm. Use the same good sense in your acts of obedience to God. Do nothing that is doubtful as an act of obedience to the Lord, when you can do that which was never doubtful. If you are aiming to please God, be certain to do that which all of any note admit to be valid, and leave the doubtful. This is infallibly safe. Be immersed on a confession of your faith, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and you will have no more trouble about baptism.