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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Baptism, Lay

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baptism administered by unordained persons. In ordinary practice, the Christian Church has always held that baptism should be performed by ordained ministers (see above, Ministers of Baptism). Nevertheless, in case of necessity, baptism may be performed by any Christian, and is valid if performed according to Christ's order in Matthew 28:19. It would be clearly wrong to assert that lay baptism is, under all circumstances, as regular as that by a minister; but it is also very difficult to decide that lay baptism is invalid where the services of a minister cannot be procured. The principle upon which this view of the case rests has been thus fairly stated by Hooker (Eccl. Polity, bk. v, 62:19): "The grace of baptism cometh by donation from God alone. That God hath committed the ministry of baptism unto special amen, it is for order's sake in his church, and not to the end that their authority might give being, or add force to the sacrament itself. That infants have right to the sacrament of baptism we all acknowledge. Charge them we cannot as guileful and wrongful possessors of that whereunto they have right, by the manifest will of the donor, and are not parties unto any defect or disorder in the manner of receiving the same. And, if any such disorder be, we have sufficiently before declared that, delictum cum capite semper ambulat,' men's own faults are their own harms." From this reasoning (which appears to be just), the inference is, that in the case of lay baptism, infants are not deprived of whatever benefits and privileges belong to that sacrament, the administrator, in any instance, being alone responsible for the urgency of the circumstances under which he performs the rite. By the rubrics of the second and of the fifth of Edward VI it was ordered thus: "The pastors and curates shall often admonish the people, that without great cause and necessity they baptize not children at home in their houses; and when great need shall compel them so to do, that then they minister it in this fashion: First, let them that be present call upon God for his grace, and say the Lord's Prayer, if the time will suffer; and then one of them shall name the child and dip him in the water, or pour water upon him, saying these words: I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." But in the revision of the Prayer-book after the Hampton Court Conference (1604), the rubrics were altered so as to exclude entirely this authority for lay baptism. Still, such baptism is not decided to be invalid. The Romanists admit its validity. See Procter On Common Prayer, p. 378, 382; Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 16, ch. 1, § 4. On the practice of the Church of England with regard to lay baptism, see Bingham, Scholastical History of Lay Baptism (1712, 2 vols.), ch. 3, § 5, extracted in Henry, Compendium of Christian Antiquities, Appendix. See also Waterland, Letters on Lay Baptism (Works, vol. 10); Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, § 137; Summers On Baptism, ch. 4. The Presbyterian Directory for Worship declares that "baptism is not to be unnecessarily delayed; nor to be administered, in any case, by any private person, but by a minister of Christ, called to be the steward of the mysteries of God" (ch. 7, § 1). The Reformed Confessions, so far as they speak on this point, generally oppose lay baptism: see Conf. Helvet. 2:20; Conf. Scotica, 22. Comp. also Calvin, Institutes, bk. 4, ch. 15, § 20.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Baptism, Lay'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/b/baptism-lay.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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