SITUATION OF ENON
Since to baptize is to immerse, the declaration of Scripture that “John was baptizing in Enon,” is proof that the place afforded water in sufficient quantity for the purpose of immersion. Additional proof is furnished in the statement of the inspired writer, that John selected this place of baptizing,, “because there was much water there.” In the remarks made on this subject in p. 60, I did not think it necessary to enter into any inquiry respecting the geographical situation of Enon. This subject has been considered by the Rev. G. W. Samson, in the tract referred to on p. 63, and he arrives at the following conclusion:–“It was at the point upon the Jordan where the great thoroughfare from Western Galilee and Samaria crosses it, that John selected his favorable location for baptizing.” “The permanent record of the early Christians, sanctioned by the New Testament writers, and confirmed by all subsequent observations, leaves no doubt that Enon was at a passage of the Jordan.” In this part of the river, its course is very winding, its average width forty-five yards, and its average depth four feet.
The tract of Mr. Samson has been published, in connection with several other valuable tracts, in a duodecimo of 194 pages, entitled “Baptismal Tracts for the Times.” The reader who desires to understand the baptismal controversy, will find some important topics discussed in this little volume with much ability.
A different situation has been assigned to Enon, in a work which has just issued from the press–“The City of the Great King; or Jerusalem as it was, as it is, and as it is to be.” The author of this work, Dr. Barclay, a resident missionary in Jerusalem for three years and a half, thinks he has found the ancient baptizing-place within a few miles of the Holy City. He describes it thus:– “Returning by a circuitous route to the place whence we had started, from the brow of Wady Farah, we descended with some difficulty into that ‘valley of delight’–for such is the literal signification of its name–and truly I have seen nothing so delightful in the way of natural scenery, nor inviting in point of resources, &c., in all Palestine. Ascending its bold stream from this point, we passed some half dozen expansions of the stream, constituting the most beautiful natural natatoria I have ever seen; the water, rivalling the atmosphere itself in transparency, of depths varying from a few inches to a fathom and more, shaded on one or both sides by umbrageous fig trees, and sometimes contained in naturally excavated basins of red mottled marble–an occasional variegation of the common limestone of the country. These pools are supplied by some half dozen springs of the purest and coldest water, bursting from rocky crevices at various intervals. Verily, thought I, we have stumbled upon Enon.” “Although this conjecture–that Ain Farah was Aenon–must be set down to the account of a mere random suggestion of the moment, yet a more intimate acquaintance with the geography of the neighborhood has brought me to an assured conviction that this place is indeed no other than the ‘Enon near to Salim, where John was baptizing, because there was much water there.'”
PLACE OF THE EUNUCH’S BAPTISM.
The sacred writer who has recorded the Acts of the Apostles, has informed us that the Eunuch was baptized in “the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.”(1) The word “desert” seems to have suggested to some minds the idea, that the baptism occurred in an arid region, in which water of sufficient depth for immersion could not be found. Gaza, though once a populous city with massy gates,(2) was now almost without inhabitants, according to the prediction of the prophets, “Baldness is come upon Gaza:”(3) “I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof.”(4) In Scripture language, the name desert or wilderness, is applied to a thinly inhabited country, even though including cities or towns distant from each other. It was, therefore, applicable to the region in which Gaza was situated, and into which the road of the Eunuch’s descent from Jerusalem penetrated.
Dr. Barclay describes a journey which he took from Jerusalem to Gaza. He found the way passing through a fertile country, well supplied with water. He sought for the place of the Eunuch’s baptism; but the disquieted condition of the country stopped his prosecution of the search. He says: “We were the more anxious to visit El-Hassy, on account of information received recently from Sheikh of Felluge, and abundantly confirmed at Burrier, that in Wady-el-Hassy about two or three hours distant, at Ras Kussahbeh and at Moyat es-Sid, in the same wady, the stream of water is as broad as our tent (twelve feet), and varies in depth from a span to six or seven feet–occasionally sinking and reappearing. This was, doubtless (Moyat es-Sid), the certain water of which we were in quest; but we were constrained, however reluctantly, to abandon the idea of seeing it.”
Mr. Samson’s description of the country through which the Eunuch journeyed, agrees with that of Dr. Barclay. Several places are noticed on the way, in which immersion may have been performed. Concerning one of these, he thus writes: “In front of the fortress by us is a fine gushing fountain of sweet water, and broad stone troughs in which we water our horses. This spot has been fixed on by Dr. Robinson as the Bethsur mentioned by Eusebius and Jerome as the place where the Eunuch was baptized. The ground in front of the fountain, and of the structure behind it, is so broken up and covered with stones, that it is difficult to determine what was once here. There is now a slightly depressed hollow, with a sandy or gravelly bottom. It is hardly conceivable that, in the days of Herod, the fountain-builder, this most favorable spring should not have been made to supply a pool in this land of such structures; and even now water sufficient to supply such a reservoir flows from the troughs, and soaks into the soil; as, according to Jerome’s mention, in his day it seems also to have been absorbed. That an ancient ‘chariot’ road passed this way, the observant traveller will often perceive on his journey. Dr. Robinson twice between Hebron and Jerusalem, notices this; and we have traced even plainer evidences.”
IMMERSION IN COLD CLIMATES
To the objection stated on p. 67, that immersion is not suited to cold climates, I have not attempted a formal reply. It gives me pleasure to present to the reader the following remarks on this subject, which have been written at my special request, by the Rev. Mr. Samson:
The idea that immersion, as an ordinance of Christ’s church, is incompatible with his design that his religion should spread to all nations and climates, is alike disproved by Scripture, and by the facts of history in the spread of Christianity.
When Jesus said “Go teach,” or make disciples of “all nations,” he added, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The word baptize in the language in which Christ spoke, as every Greek scholar allows, meant nothing else than immerse. It is impossible to reconcile it with the supreme wisdom of Jesus, that without qualification of language, he commanded this ordinance in this form to be performed among the nations of every clime, if there really were anything in immersion inconsistent with health in any latitude, or with propriety in any age of refinement.
Early. in the apostolic history this was tested. The apostle was accustomed to baptism at first in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, among the “common people” that bathed in Jordan, and the pools of the Holy City. He writes a letter to Rome, the centre of refinement and luxury, where some members of “Caesar’s household” had joined the Christian church, in a region ten degrees north of Jerusalem, where the cold of winter compelled the self-denying martyr to send as far as Old Troy for a Roman coat he had left there; yet there had not been, either on account of the peculiar refinement and delicacy of the people of Rome, or on account of the rigor of their winter, any change in the mode of baptism, if we may draw an inference from the apostle’s words: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death.”(5) It ought to be remembered that summer is warm in every climate; that bathing is often practiced, as it was in Rome, and as it is in our country, more by people in northern than in southern latitudes; and that the winter of the southern climate, in the latitude of Jerusalem, where the snow thaws almost immediately on its fall, is more trying than in far northern regions, the air being chillier, and the water more icy-cold.
Subsequent history is more convincing than even these facts of the apostolic age in this regard. The Eastern or Greek Church (by the side of which the Western or Roman Church, occupying three or four little countries of Southern Europe, is a speck on the map), embraces every variety of climate and class of people. Beginning with Abyssinia, in the hot regions of Central Africa, extending through Egypt in Northern Africa, it spreads along all Western Asia, takes in half of Europe, and embraces especially all Siberia and Northern Russia; thus comprising the very coldest regions, as well as the hottest, in which man can live. In all these climates, among all these people, baptism is administered by triple immersion. If it be an infant that is brought, despite his struggles and cries, he is three times plunged in the broad baptismal font. In mid April, while the Jordan’s waters are yet chilly with the melting snows that cover the top of Hermon and all the Lebanon range (from which that stream flows), every year from 5000 to 6000 persons of every age, sex, climate, and condition in life, go down into the chilling stream, and either bury themselves or are buried by others beneath its waters. At St. Petersburgh a stranger expression still is given, at midwinter, in reply to the objection that climate renders immersion impracticable. The chosen day for immersion is at Christmas, near New Year’s; and that through the ice of the Neva. A temporary chapel is erected on the ice, a large hole is cut, and with a round of ceremonies the water is consecrated by the priest; when mothers bring their infants and plunge them, and people of mature age come and dip themselves there. Moreover, at any time in the winter, when proselytes in the most northern regions of the Russian possessions are made, they are baptized through the ice. Any one wishing to verify these statements, may consult such a work as William Burder’s Religious Ceremonies, published at London, 1841; or he may perhaps be personally an eye-witness.
It is the Western, especially the Roman church, that has departed from the original mode of baptism; and that not from reasons connected with climate. All the Northern portion (not the Southern) of Western Europe, which originally was converted to pure Christianity and denied the authority of the Roman church, which in the age of subsequent corruption departed least from the faith as it is in Jesus, and only nominally became allied to the Roman church, and which was the first to hail and to embrace the call for the reformation,–all the coldest regions of Western Europe received and maintained the longest the rite of immersion. It was the warm latitudes that departed from it.
To verify this, one needs but turn to the Latin chronicles of Alcuin and others of those Judson-like missionaries, who, during the reign of Alfred of England and Charlemagne of France, carried pure Christianity into the heart of Germany, and won all the rude tribes of those lands, from which our ancestry sprung, to Christianity. It impresses the thoughtful mind with gratitude, that the truth as it was in Jesus was preached and embraced by the rude men from whom our strong race has come, as we read Alcuin’s letters to Charlemagne, rather commanding than entreating his sovereign to be true to Christ’s appointment; charging him not to force these people by the sword, which he never could do, to receive Christian baptism; and quoting Jerome’s Commentary on Matt. xxviii. 19, 20: “Primum eos doceant, deinde doctas intinquant aqua,” to show that the fathers of the church taught that missionaries “must first teach their people, and then immerse them in water.” And in the cold northern Vistula, thousands on thousands, the records of the times tell us, were, in the heat of summer, and in the cold of winter, baptized on sincere personal profession of faith in Christ.
If farther confirmation of this fact be desired, that the people of cold countries have preferred immersion, it may be found in the work of “Wheatly on the Book of Common Prayer of England,” Bohn’s edition, pp. 337–350. Of the fonts now found in the old English churches, he says, “So called, I suppose, because baptism in the beginning of Christianity was as performed in springs or fountains….In the primitive times we meet with them very large and capacious, not only that they might comport with the general customs of those times, viz.: of persons being immersed or put under water, but also because the stated times of baptism returning so seldom, great numbers were usually baptized at the same time. In the middle of them was always a partition, the one part for men, the other for women; that so by being baptized asunder they might avoid giving offence and scandal.” The author here cites the orders of Edward, when the crowd was so great they could not be gathered around the church door; all of which shows that baptism was often administered to adults, that it was by immersion, and that a very large number could be baptized on one occasion in the ordinary font. Again the author says, “Except upon extraordinary occasions, baptism was seldom, or perhaps never, administered for the first four centuries but by immersion or dipping. Nor is aspersion or sprinkling ordinarily used, to this day, in any country that was never subject to the Pope; and among those that submitted to his authority, England was the last place where it was received; though it has never obtained so far as to be enjoined, dipping having been always prescribed by the rubric. The Salisbury Missal, printed in 1530 (the last that was in force before the Reformation), expressly requires and orders dipping. And in the first Common Prayer Book of King Edward VI., the priest’s general order is to dip it in water.” Here we see that it was not on account of climate any change grew up; the people in the extreme north were the last to surrender the original mode; and not even the Pope’s authority could compel them to strike out of their Missal the form received in the simplicity of their early reception of Christianity. Farther, we read that from love for the primitive ordinance, “fonts were in times of popery unfitly and surreptitiously placed near the churches.” The author states the alleged, and then the real cause why effusion took the place of immersion, as follows:–” Many fond ladies at first, and then by degrees the common people, would persuade the minister that their children were too tender for dipping. But what principally tended to confirm this practice, was that several of our English divines flying to Germany, Switzerland, &c., during the bloody reign of Queen Mary, and returning home when Queen Elizabeth came to the crown, brought back with them a great love and zeal for the customs of those churches beyond sea, where they had been sheltered and received. And consequently having observed that in Geneva and some other places, baptism was ordered to be performed by effusion, they thought they could not do the church of England a greater service than to introduce a practice dictated by so great an oracle as Calvin. So that in the times of Queen Elizabeth, and during the reigns of King James and King Charles I., there were but very few children dipped in the font.” So it appears it was not on the score of health (which down to 1500 years after Christianity had existed in England never had been thought of), but it was fashion which led to the change. Of subsequent times, and the folly of the Reformers of Elizabeth’s and of James’ day, the author adds. “These reformers, it seems could not recollect that fonts to baptize in had been long used before the times of popery, and that they had nowhere been discontinued from the beginning of Christianity, but in such places where the Pope had gained authority. But our divines at the Restoration, understanding a little better the sense of scripture and antiquity, again restored the order for immersion.” Yet though this is still the order of the Book of Common Prayer, the author regrets that it is ineffective. Custom, fashion triumphs, even over a statute of the realm of England.
The struggle of his own mind to be satisfied with the appeal to climate as an argument for sprinkling, speaks out in these two sentences of the author. The present Order of the Prayer Book as to baptism is he says “keeping as close to the primitive rule for baptism as the coldness of our region, and the tenderness wherewith infants are now used, will sometimes admit. Though Sir John Floyer, in a discourse on cold baths, hath shown from the nature of our bodies, from the rules of medicine, from modern experience, and from ancient history, that nothing could tend more to the preservation of a child’s health than dipping it in baptism.”
1. Acts viii. 26.
2. Judges xvi. 1-3.
3. Jer. xlvii. 5.
4. Amos i. 7.
5. Rom. vi. 4.