BAPTISM IN JESUS' NAME EARLY 1800'S                    
By: Thomas Weisser


The hypothesis of a triune Deity, or, as the subject of the hypothesis is more commonly designated, a Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity, is, in the present state of biblical knowledge, based on a single text of the sacred records, Matt.. xxviii. 19. Now the Bible is not a small volume, and all its other leading and cardinal truths are iterakd (uttered repeatedly)-as who could doubt they would be iterated? till they become incomparably the most familiar of any to every reader's apprehension and memory. The unimpersonality of the Supreme Being is a doctrine of this description. The book is, literally speaking, instinct with it. A Jewish 
child must have lisped that the God of our fathers was One. Here, on the contrary, is a dogma (which, whether it be recognized as a metamorphosis (change of 
substance) or only a development of the Jewish notion of Jehovah, is unquestionably that dogma which we might have expected to find promulgated (to make known) with more emphasis, and earnestness, and perspicuity (clearness), than any other in the New Testament,) once, and once only, in its integral and peculiar form, confided to that portion of the Divine Oracles. Is there that human being, who, reasoning upon such a fact from analogy alone, would not instantly vociferate (shout), Impossible! absolutely impossible!

The occasion of so singular and sudden a revolution in the faith of the Jewish converts to Christianity, as from a One to a Three-One God, must have been, at the 
moment at least of its origination, and for some time afterwards, a phenomenon of no ordinary magnitude and notoriety in their eyes, and have filled their minds with more than "special wonder." They would of course, over and over again, point and revert to the dictum as the polar star of their regenerated or new creed the living voice from Heaven in apology for their real or seeming apostasy. But "the Elect Angels" themselves, adverted to in a solitary adjuration in one of Sd. Paul's manifold letters, seem to have excited as extraordinary a sensation in the Judaeo-Christian world, for twenty or thirty years after Christ's ascension into Heaven, as the tri-monad of this ever memorable verse. It drops stillborn from the lips of its parent it excites nowhere the slightest surprise it awakens not anywhere the most transient curiosity-it never so much as once again occurs in the same shape to the senses or imagination of its proselytes and so far from giving an entirely new tone, a quite metamorphosed-aspect to apostolic theology, it leaves that theology precisely as it found it dictates not a single invocation organizes not so much as the exordium (beginning) or peroration (conclusion) of an epistle inspires not, modifies not, a doxology (hymn praising God) introduces not a particle of change in the established nomenclature (system of terms) of the Gospel antecedent (preceding) to its appearance affects not an iota the object or mode of worship peculiar to the Jew from the moment of his conversion to Christianity. Mark only the contrast at a remoter period from the date of its publication. It has now, naturally enough, amplified the vocabulary of the Christian; his very discourse teems with it his whole argumentation proceeds and rests upon it it has become the alpha and omega of his prayer and praise the very cuckoo-note of his matins (order for public morning prayer in the Anglican Church), of his vespers (religious service held late afternoon or evening), of his noonday devotion. There it stands, an isolated mark, before his upraised, wondering, and ever fixed eye the keystone of his religious system the grand and characteristic credendum (articles of faith) which descriminates his faith from that of the Jew, and alone constitutes him the more than merely nominal Christian. Preposterous! must not any reasoner, not steeped to the very lips in prejudication, exclaim Incredible! utterly incredible!

Whether, indeed, the commission in question would necessarily have suggested, or does so conclusively prove, the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, in its last and most approved form, is, I believe, a moot point amongst Trinitarians themselves. Its precise import, however, matters little to the point immediately at issue. In opposition almost to every member of the Christian denomination in which I claim a right to enroll my unworthy name, I frankly and at once recognize this text as exclusively a Trinitarian text; as a single but formidable point d' appui (a prop) for some such doctrine; as a solitary stronghold, impregnable to its adversaries, if it be not itself a mere castle in the air. And with my eyes wide open to the torrent of obloquy (discrediting) which may pour upon the avowal, from what might otherwise have been, perhaps, a friendly, or at least a neutral quarter, and which, amidst the unanimous and unmeasured hostility provoked in every other, I might, in common prudence, have spared my devoted head, a regard to truth compels me to add, that I never anywhere met with comment to my mind much more deplorably untenable 
(undefendable) than that of the very ablest writers of the Unitarian school upon the subject of the present controversy. That our Saviour should have commissioned 
his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and that they should have considered it as perfectly optional; whether they would so baptize, or simply and solely in his name, is to me not one whit less absolutely incredible, than that they should have smiled in their sleeves at the preciseness of the command; or have abbreviated its form, to save themselves time and labour. The apposition, on the same plain and in haec verba (in this word), of the Supreme Being, a "mere" man, and an attribute, does seem to me likewise, I will candidly own, to defy outright the gravity of criticism. And if the extreme ingeniousness of their well-known periphrasis (a round about way of speaking) escape a smile from the members of any religious fraternity but their own, it must owe its protection, I cannot but think, to the singular solemnity of the subject, or to an enviable degree of respect for any conscientious extravagance of opinion. It is very nearly on a par with "the last resource" of the Trinitarian, in reply to our Saviour, where he asks, "Why callest thou me good?" where he, in terms, negatives his own omniscience or where he interdicts prayer to himself, even in the capacity of a mediator, as quiet a work of supererogation (doing more than duty requires). 

The Jews never so much as once reproached or taunted the apostles with treason to the Divine Unity. Had so frequent and notorious a practice as the baptism of 
converts to Christianity, never but palpably identified the rite with only the new construction of the fundamental article of the national faith, would it have quite 
escaped their animadversion (criticism)? But this milder view of the case really has the air of gross sarcasm upon the face of it. Had, then, so nefarious (wicked) 
a revolt to what, in their eyes, could scarcely have seemed less than flagrant polytheism, thus ostentatiously and repeatedly challenged the spectators' contempt 
and wrath would it not here and there have been visited with instant death on the spot, rather than with any more ceremonious method of persecution?

It does not appear, nor would it seem probable, that any of the Apostles, with the exception of Sd. Paul, were baptized. The command runs, to baptize others, and 
says nothing of the functionaries themselves. But, supposing the disputed mandate to have involved a compendium (comprehensive summary of a subject) of the new 
faith, and initiation into that new faith to have been the meaning and intention of the ceremony, was it not as necessary, or at least would it not have been an 
expedient, that Peter or John should thus, in terms, adopt its peculiar symbol, and give this public attestation of their conversion to its characteristic 
doctrine, as that any other convert of Judaism should? Supposing these disciples of Christ to have been confirmed Trinitarians at the moment of his death; or (of 
the two suppositions the more probable,) to have become proselytes to the Triunity of the Supreme Being in the interval between his resurrection and ascension, 
would it have been quite a work of supererogation (doing more than duty requires) so to publish and accredit their still recent convictions to their fellow-
countrymen and the world? It has been said, indeed, that they were shy at first of propagating the seeming heresy: and those who had the effrontery (audacity) to 
accuse them of the dissimulation might well conclude, too, that they would be shy of overtly giving credit to it. Perish the calumny (slander) with its inventors! 
What they believed, they taught. They did believe that Jesus was the Son of God; and believed it at the moment that the commission was given to baptize into his 
name, with a boldness which would have laughed at torture and at death. To have been baptized into such a faith, would have been a mockery of the rite, which, at 
the era of its institution, had no recondite (dealing with profound matters) or mysterious meaning as applicable to the child of a Christian just severed from the 
womb, as to an adult Jew or Pagan, but was a simple, public, and significant as intelligible credential (and neither less nor more) of a Proselytes belief, for 
the first time; in the grand, leading, vital, I had almost said only truth of Christianity. The Apostle of the Gentiles did, therefore, so "call upon the name 
of the LORD"; did so set to his sea not that he had long been, but that he had very recently become, a Christian; while no such demonstration would, of course, 
be required, or thought of, on the part of his predecessors in a faith which bore on its front no other dogma than that which primarily distinguished the disciple 
of Christ from the disciple of Moses, was the sum and substance of the "sure belief amongst them" from its earliest moment, and of which they were the well-
known missionaries and heralds, no less to the unbelieving "worshippers of the Father," than to the sceptics or polytheists of the Gentile world. 

The confession put into the mouth of the eunuch was, perhaps, not his own; but it sufficiently attests the very credo of the proselyte, and his only credo in the 
moment of baptism, at the date of the particular conversion. Such a simple "belief with all the heart," some time afterwards, would scarcely have entitled the 
confessor to the privileges of the mere catechumen.

That trine immersion was practised by the Apostles, is not, I believe, the orthodox opinion at the present day. It seems, however, to have prevailed in the time of Tertullian, with whom it was the favorite mode, and not ill to correspond with baptism in the name of the Trinity. And surely none of the more devoted followers of the Apostles were more likely to innovate so fantastically quite on an apostolic practice, than to have evolved a simpler initiation into the religion of Christ, into what they might at one time or other deem its more complex indeed, but fuller and only correct signification.

The ceremony of Exorcism, ere long, likewise abdicated the stricter apostolic method; and if introduced even into any Protestant church, would not, I apprehend, 
return to it. The name of Christ only scarcely now, upon such an occasion, occupy the place of that of the Trinity in Unity. Once superseded, its substitution would 
look like an invidious (such as to bring unpopularity) distinction. In this, as in the parallel instance, the formula would too happily be represented as obviously 
identical, or at least as bearing to a syllable and letter precisely the same import.

The primitive formula of baptism survived, in the bosom of the Church, the days of the Apostles for a considerable period of time, and was not indeed repressed, and at length superseded, but by calling in the argument of the constable ecclesiastical. It is said (how truly we cannot know) to have been of rare occurrence; but how came it there at all, after the church had become Trinitarian? This single fact appears to me absolutely decisive proof of a revered innovation in the practice after the death of the Apostles.

Incredulity (unbelief) itself would not require more unequivocal and decisive evidence of the non-existence of the reputed baptismal commission in the apostolic 
age, than the passage in Sd. Paul's Epistles from which the motto on the title-page of the present essay is taken. By the advocate of its authenticity the passage might, with the aid of a somewhat sportive imagination, be quoted as a sort of inverted fac simile of the dictum itself. Let us under the auspices of a like humor, hazard a Trinitarian paraphrase upon it. "There is one body and one SPIRIT [the third person of the Trinity], even as ye are called," &c. "One LORD [the second], one Faith [in the THREE persons];" quaere, what three? "One GOD and Father [the first]." In its most mystifying mood, could the genius of higgledy-piggledy (confusion) go further? No commonly discreet Trinitarian would probably meddle, now-a-days, with so forlorn a subject of comment. But he must not be permitted to resign it so quietly. Had the baptismal mandate, in its orthodox form, been familiar to the Apostle's mind, might he not have been reminded of it' en passant (in passing), during the immediate association of ideas ? Had he been so reminded of it, could he have written what he has written, and as he has written here? We are of course shocked at the libel; but let us remember the inference. No such commission occurred to the Apostle's recollection at the moment. This is a fatal presumption enough; but the negative is not all. Absolved from the imputation of parallelism, let us now read the passage under the guidance of common sense and unsophisticated piety. "There is one body and one spirit, even," &c. "one Lord [the Lord Jesus Christ], one faith [in his name], one baptism [in his name], one GOD and Father of all," &c. What now has become of baptism in the name of the Holy Ghost? what of baptism in the name of the Father? The collocation (placing together) palpably excludes the latter. The appropriation to "the Son" is in harmony with every other mention of the rite in the Scriptures. The caricature stands disclosed a living picture of the Christian faith, with no other figures on the canvass than what are seen in every other passage of the Apostle's writings. All is in admirable keeping, in lucid order, in obvious import, in natural connexion, in familiar truth. If evidence like this can dupe to wrong conjecture, what security can human language afford against misconception?

To be baptized "into or in the name of" an object of faith, is, it need not be observed, a perfectly intelligible and rational idea. But what shall we say of 
being baptized with an object of faith? or of one person of the Trinity baptizing with another person of the Trinity? It were not very audacious conjecture 
certainly, however dogmatical, that if our Saviour spake of his Apostles being baptized "with the Holy Spirit," he had not, only a few days before, spoken of 
their baptizing "into the name of the Holy Ghost."

It does surely seem a little ominous, that of a dicruvn that was to elucidate, or reform in its fundamental point the theology of a prior revelation vouchsafed by 
the One and only true GOD to his peculiar people, not even a mutilated fragment should be found in any Evangelist, save Sd. Matthew. The ellipsis (omission of words that would clarify) in Sd. Mark's Gospel, xvi. 10. would, indeed, on the most casual or close attention to the sequel, be filled up so as to correspond exactly with the depositions to the fact of baptism, made by its historiographer in the Acts of the Apostles. It passed unheeded by Sd. Luke; and Sd. John, the reporter kat'esoxnv the memorabilia of our Saviour, finds no place for it in his Gospel. It should however, in common justice, be observed, that the omission of the beloved disciple may, perhaps, be sufficiently accounted for and vindicated by the avowed purpose of his memory, which had professedly in view an object more akin to the purport of this rite, as it was actually administered immediately afterwards, than to be contemplated at the moment of its institution. His Epistles speak the same apologetic language, for their silence on the subject. We might therefore well retract our sunrise, but for a very curious circumstance, which makes it almost impossible to award to this incuria (carelessness) a plenary (complete) absolution. It so happened that as he was engaged in the latter compositions, a sort of ideal Trinity did present itself to his imagination, while the real one altogether vanished from his memory. Not so, forsooth, from the quicker and more accurate recollection of some or other of his readers. The opportunity furnished by the obvious resemblance was too golden for pious roguery to resist; and the extrusion of the furtive deposit from its nook of juxtaposition (placing side by side), has been, as it is too well known, a work which a long series of years was unable to accomplish, nor finally achieved till the well-posted parallel bade fair to common sense and external evidence forever fairly out of countenance.

Does not the previous word in the commission, ua0ntevoate seem to countenance the opinion that to make disciples was the proper meaning of the word used by our 
Saviour? and the else tautologous (needless repitition without imparting additional force) word didaokovtea adds probability to the conjecture. Now to whom had "the teacher sent from GOD" ever hitherto made disciples, but to himself? It is assuredly the first instance on record of making disciples eo nomine to the Trinity. But upon this, or any other internal evidence of interpolation, it will be unnecessary to expatiate (enlarge upon), because the principal argument in proof of it may well spurn any auxiliary. How ill therefore the corollary in its present form seems to quadrate (to conform) with the disclosure in the first instance, and how legitimately, on the other hand, and appositely (suitably) from the "power" announced as now given to the Divine speaker, might proceed the mandate to baptize in a sole name, and that his own, not to mention the close of the verse referring to no more persons than one, and that one himself I forbear to submit to the consideration of the reader.

Dismissing, then, every collateral presumption, but assuming certainly-and with no very remarkable effrontery (audacity) I must think assuming, that as their heavenly Master was understood by his apostles to command them to baptize, precisely so, and so only, and never but so, his Apostles did in every instance baptize; let me immediately proceed to the question, which resolves itself into a simple and short historical issue; HOW the Apostles baptized? And the appeal can, in this instance, be made only to a single record the Acts of those Apostles.

To ascertain the point, it will only be necessary to transcribe verbatum the several passages in the narrative which have relation to baptism. "Then Peter said 
unto them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." "who 
[Peter and John] when they were come down prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: for as yet he was fallen upon none of them, only they were 
baptized IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit as well as 
we? And he commanded them to be baptized IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. When they heard this, they were baptized IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS."

What need have we of further witnesses? may we not well exclaim. The inference from this statement is as obvious as the statement itself is plain and unimpeachable. The argument comprehending them both might be dictated by a child, and exhausted by a clown. It is little more than an appeal to the eye or ear.

But it may be said (it must be said, or the controversy is here at an end,) that one thing may mean another; that to baptize in or into the name of one person, may 
mean to "baptize in the name of three persons"; that to "baptize in the name of Christ," may mean to baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of 
the Holy Ghost." It may be said, undoubtedly, and what is more, it may be admitted; as it might be said and admitted, that so to baptize meant anything else 
whatever of which the affirmation did not involve a complete contradiction in terms. We are now required, per saltum (by a leap), to take it for granted that it 
does so mean, because the text in question cannot be supported unless we adopt the construction, that it must so mean, and that obviously it means nothing else. It 
is readily conceded, that to speak in the name of Christ has reference singly to himself; that to preach in the name of Christ has the same reference; that to pray 
in the name of Christ has no other: but it is contended, that to baptize in the name of Christ, is to baptize in the name of the Trinity in Unity. To this 
dictatorial mode of argument one scarcely knows how satisfactorily to reply, but by as prompt and positive an asseveration (emphatic assertion) in its teeth. Any 
reasoning upon the inference is out of the question, as it assumes the very point at issue. Whether the assumption on which it rests be quite so uncontrovertible, 
whether the supposed fortress from it so haughtily spurns the expostulations (earnest protestations) of common sense be indeed so impregnable, or (to state the 
case more correctly) whether, amid the uncertainty when even the autograph of the Evangelist was written; the greater uncertainty when it was published; and allowing only the possibility of a supposed deflection, rather from the letter than the spirit of the original manuscript, not being without its charms and temptations in the eye of one or other of its numerous copyists; or, of the hiatus (interruption) possessing greater fascinations still the external evidence for the whole verse in question, irrefragably (undeniably) prove that the Apostles must have known of a commission, of their knowledge of which not the shadow of a presumption exists in a history of their res gestae (exploits) during a period of nearly thirty years, all antecedent to the existence of any document whatever that can be produced in contradiction to that the only question not shut out from inquiry by these our peremptory (dictatorial) interpreters. That question having been already virtually argued, I have only to remand to the decision of every ingenuous mind. That if we are to believe their historian, they knew no more of such a commission than they did of the doctrine imputed to it after their deaths, seems to me as incontestable as an agregate of negative and positive evidence can make any fact not immediately cognizable by the senses. And to any person who arrives at the same conclusion from a view of the reasoning on which it rests, the queries when, or by whom, or why, or how the amendment or interpolation was put into our Saviour's mouth in lieu or exposition of the command which all the rest of the narrative fixes for his own, may perhaps offer some amusement to curiosity, but can derive no interest from a concern for truth.

For the conviction of the ordinary incredulousness, it can hardly now be necessary to multiply proofs of the utter ignorance, on the part of the Apostles, of a 
mandate from Christ to baptize in the name of the Trinity. And upon those who adhere to the authenticity of the injunction, on the ground of the generally reputed genuineness of the text, demonstration itself were entirely thrown away. Though "one" or a hundred of the contemporaries of Sd. Peter or Sd. John "were to rise from the dead," for the express purpose of assuring adders deaf like these upon principle, that they had repeatedly heard either or both of these ministers of the word baptizing in the name of Christ, and never in any other, in only common consistency they neither would nor could "believe": their case may therefore be laid aside as desperate. But if any doubt can remain as to the import of the unambiguous attestations in the history, let the hand of Sd. Paul perfect a conviction which his tongue must have already much more than matured.

In his Epistle to the Romans, the great Apostle to the Gentiles thus writes (chap. vi. ver. 4.): "We are buried with (him) by baptism into death," &c. With whom? Christ. In that to the Colossians the same figure occurs in nearly the same words: "Know ye not," he asks, in the preceding verse of the former Epistle, "that all who have been baptized into Jesus Christ, have been baptized into his death?" "For all ye that are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." Gal. iii. 27. The sequel of most of these extracts would tend still further to indicate our Saviour as the one and only object of every allusion and application suggested to the Apostle's mind, by the fact of Christian baptism. But seriously, and most sincerely speaking, I am quite ashamed of incessantly so burning candles in broad daylight. And now, however deeply in despair, let me ask any Trinitarian, who, to save his creed from sinking, has caught at the last plank in a construction so revolting to his reasoning and feelings on every other occasion, as that "in the name of Christ" means nothing more than upon his authority, and in pursuance of his command, whether he is not still a little surprised that mention upon mention, recollection upon recollection, of the institution in question, should never once casually or ever so remotely have been associated with the idea of the Trinity? But I must no longer play the hypocrite with him, or tempt him to play it with himself. Can he then think it possible, that the one could ever have been dissociated from the other for a single instant in a single instance? Let him for one moment only recollect the idea never but and only associated in his own mind with baptism, and the next, with his hand upon his heart, say whether the person who gave the command, or those persons in whose name it was in his opinion to be executed the doctrine which the speaker is supposed in that command to have promulgated, or the events in that speaker's life and analogical incidents suggested by them were the more likely to have been, upon the same occasion, the prominent and uppermost object in an Apostle's mind, the one and the only topic of his discourse and writings. In fancy I pause for his answer Ohe! jam satis est. (stop, it is already enough) IT WAS CHRIST "THAT THIS APOSTLE, AND ALL THE OTHER APOSTLES, PREACHED: IT WAS IN HIS NAME ONLY THAT THEY TAUGHT: IT WAS THROUGH FAITH IN HIS NAME ONLY THAT THEY WROUGHT MIRACLES AND IT WAS ev OR eis HIS NAME ONLY 

Little else now remains in completion of my purpose, than that I apologize as briefly as possible for the, alas! eccentric title under which I have adventured to obtrude these few obnoxious observations upon the eye of the public. To a would-be apostolic Christian, then, (he records it without a blush,) "THE SON" appears A MYSTERIOUS BEING. If for a consciousness less frequently perhaps avowed than felt, I be called in question by some of my fellow Christians who may think they know HIM more perfectly, I can only take refuge in the sanctuary of Scripture: and while with an Apostle, in "the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen or can see," I recognize "THE GOD of our Lord Jesus Christ," yet neither would I "deny the Lord," or not so "confess," my Saviour, "to the glory," still and always, "of the one and only true GOD, the Father, his GOD and our GOD." I may or may not envy the eagle eye that can stand gazing unimpaired on "the dayspring from on high," but mine was confessedly cast in an inferior mould, and aches and becomes dizzy in its more than mortal lustre.

A word or two more only, in intended extenuation, perhaps in actual aggravation of my crime, and I close this well-nigh unprecedented aggression upon the tolerant spirit of the whole Christian commonwealth. If in reviewing these few unlettered pages it should be thought that an insinuation has here and there trespassed too closely on a sneer, let it be recollected how extremely difficult it must be in an inquiry of this kind to steer quite clear of such an impropriety, and all but 
impossible not to give a sanction to the imputation of it. To the charge of no common or temperate zeal against the dogma of a Trinity in Unity, I plead at once, 
loudly shouting, Guilty, and throw myself upon the mercy of my opponents. With the determined and unvarying opinions I have, for a long series of years, entertained 
upon the question, I should feel a little disgraced by any ampler exhibition of pusillanimity (cowardliness). Considering myself, as avowedly I do, only as a UNITARIAN believer in the divinity of Christ, THE APOSTOLICAL CHRISTIAN, they would themselves blame me if I did not express the deep and poignant mortification and regret I feel at seeing this vital truth, as I deem it, of Christianity, banished from its proper home to a tenet which verily makes a perfect riddle of almost every page of the Bible; which unwittingly indeed, but therefore unblushingly, laughs to scorn the doctrines of Mediation, Atonement, Advocacy, Intercession; which has already, incomparably beyond any other cause, retarded, and as knowledge advances and is generally diffused, must more and more retard, the progress of the Gospel over every quarter of the habitable globe. These are awful retrospections and melancholy anticipations; and dwelling as they perpetually do, on my understanding and my heart, if they can not vindicate, may at least excuse my undisguised and vehement acrimony towards a creed which from my inmost soul I believe to have been no more the faith of Christ, or his apostles, than it was of Moses, of Zoraster, of Confucius, or of Mohammed. It will be easy to cover this unwelcome invitation to "dare examine" the one and only remaining foundation of that creed with scorn, or to overwhelm it with contumely (humiliating treatment); it will be easier still, perhaps, to dismiss it in 
silence to the shade of oblivion: but of spleen, let it be remembered, that it would once have rolled Christianity herself in the dust; and of superciliousness, 
that it would have buried her in an immediate grave.

(The above material was edited and published by Thomas Weisser in 1986.)
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