Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Baptism (Greek, baptismos, from bapto, to dip or dye), one of the Sacraments of the Christian Church. The rite was probably derived from the ceremonial washings, symbolic of cleansing from sin, of proselytes to Judaism. It was practised by John the Baptist and the disciples of Christ, but formally instituted by Him just before His ascension (Matt, xxviii. 19). Originally adult baptism was the rule, though very probably in the earliest ages of Christianity whole households were baptised together; infant baptism became customary during the fifth and sixth centuries, and Mark x. 14 and John iii. 5 are quoted in its support. Immersion was the earliest mode, and is recognised by the Church of England, but in the Western Church affusion or the pouring on of water became the practice in the thirteenth century, and aspersion or sprinkling is also recognised. Some Protestant sects, however, regard baptism by immersion and adult baptism as the only modes warranted by Scripture. Naming is a common incident of Christian baptism, as of the Jewish rite of circumcision, but not an essential part of it. It is a much disputed point among theologians whether baptism actually produces regeneration or cleansing from original sin, or is only a symbol of the spiritual change involved in conversion to Christianity. No doubt the former belief (which is that of the Eastern and Western Churches) had much to do with the change from adult to infant baptism. Most Protestant sects, however, reject it. The Church of England implies it in her rubrics, but in the Gorham case, in 1850, the Privy Council decided that the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration was no part of the doctrine of the Church of England as by law established. Baptism by laymen, in cases where the services of an ordained minister are not obtainable, is generally recognised in the Church of England and the Church of Rome; the latter allows even women to administer the rite in urgent cases, and recognises baptism "by desire" and "by blood" (i.e. martyrdom).