In Part 2 of my “Dictionary of Episcopal Baptismal Terms (1901)” I continue with terms which have been gleaned from William James Miller’s The American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia (1901) which is available for download online. For a full introduction to the topic and its importance in your genealogical research, please consult Part 1 of this blog.
Dictionary of Episcopal Baptismal Terms
Lay Baptism: Baptism administered by a layman. The church has always held that Baptism by any man in case of necessity is valid. But only great necessity, such as sudden danger or sickness and the inability to secure the services of a clergyman, should be just cause for baptism by a layman, and then great care should be taken that the proper from and words are used. It is well to note that when Holy Baptism is administered by one who is not a Clergyman without such necessity as mentioned above, the person baptizing is guilty of a great sin, even though his act may bring a blessing to the person baptized. His act cannot be undone, but it ought not to have been done.
Name, The Christian: The name received in Holy Baptism. In former days people in general had only one name, as John, Henry, Mary, etc., and were further known by their occupation or some other distinctive word. But the names of trades, place, etc., thus added on to the Christian name (iei., supra or sur nomen) gradually became permanent surnames, so that now every person after infancy and Baptism has two names, viz., a Christian name and a surname. The Christian name we receive at our Christening, that is, Christianing or Baptism or New Birth. It is given, not inherited. It is a new name given to us in our Baptism because we then become something new. It is given in Baptism to indicate a new relationship to God by thus being brought into covenant with Him. We find many examples in the Bible of new names given in connection with a change of spiritual conditions. Thus Abrahm’s name was changed to Abraham when God made His covenant with him, and Jacob’s name was changed to Israel when that covenant was renewed with him, which had been made with ‘Abraham. In the same way and for the same reason Christian names have great significance. They are the sign that those who bear them have been brought into covenant with God, that they have been made in their Baptism, “members of Christ, the children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.”
Neophyte: A term applied in the primitive /church to the newly baptized – “newly grafted” (which the word means) into Christianity. It was customary for them to wear white garments at their Baptism and for eight days after. The word is still frequently used.
New Birth: The name which the New Testament Scriptures, and the Church for nearly two thousand years have given to Holy Baptism, which is the Laver of Regeneration, the new and spiritual Birth.
Parish Register: A book in which all births, Baptisms, Confirmations, deaths, and marriages that occur in the Parish are recorded, together with the list of Families and Communicants. The importance of the Parish Register and the care with which it should be kept will appear when it is considered that it is a legal document.
Regeneration: The inward and spiritual gift in Holy Baptism is regeneration, that is being born anew. It is well to note that Regeneration, or the “New Birth” is often confounded with “Conversion,” or they are regarded as synonymous terms. This is a mistake and contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture. Regeneration is a New Birth unto God whereby we become partakers of the nature of Christ. As the natural birth, so the new and spiritual Birth can take place only once, and that in Holy baptism. A baptized Christian my repeatedly fall from Grace, and by repentance, by amendment of life and by forgiveness he may be again restored, (this is Conversion), but he cannot be said to be again regenerate without a grievous misapprehension of the language of the Bible and a total departure from the Doctrine of the Primitive Church. By Regeneration, therefore, is meant that gracious act of God whereby for Christ’s sake. He brings us into a new relationship with Himself, adopts us as His own children, translates us into the kingdom of His Son, incorporates us into His Church, and so brings us under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is the name originated for Baptism by our Lord Himself in His discourse with Nicodemus, as recorded in the third chapter of St. John’s Gospel, and it is for this reason that this passage is appointed to be read in the service for the Baptism of Adults.
Sacrament: The word “Sacrament” is derived from the Latin Sacramentum, meaning the military oath required of the soldiers of ancient Rome. Its outward sign was the uplifted hand whereby the soldier pledged himself to loyalty, which may be regarded as the thing signified by that outward gesture. The word came to be used for those ordinances of the Christian Church possessing an “outward sign” and conveying an “inward grace.” Thus the Church Catechism treating of the two Sacraments “generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord,” defines a sacrament as being an outward and visible sign ordained by Christ, of an inward and spiritual grace given by Him as its accompaniment. This definition has reference to the Sacramental system of the Church and means that Christ appointed only two Sacraments that are generally or universally necessary to salvation. It does not imply that there are not other Sacramental agencies in the Church – but only that these two are absolutely necessary to salvation. For example, if a man would be saved he must receive Holy Baptism and Holy Communion where these Sacraments are to be had; but for his salvation it is not necessary that he should be married, or ordained to the Sacred Ministry, and yet Marriage and Ordination are thoroughly sacramental in character in that they are grace conferring, and therefore, in her book of Homilies the church calls them Sacraments, The great English divines generally take this position in regard to the Sacraments and the Sacramental System of the Church. Thus Archbishop Bramhall declares: “the proper and certain Sacraments of the Christian Church, common to all, or (in the words of our Church) generally necessary to Salvation, are but two, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord… the rest we retain, though not under the notion of such proper and general Sacraments, – as Confirmation, Ordination, Matrimony, Penitence and lastly, the Visitation of the Sick.” So also, Bishop Jeremy Taylor says, “it is none of the doctrine of the Church of England, that there are two Sacraments only, but that ‘two only are generally necessary to salvation.’”
Sponsors: It would be difficult to say with any degree of certainty at what period the office of Sponsors was established, but it appeared in the very earliest ages of the Christian Church. It is supposed that persecution and the presence of heresy led to its institution. During the time of those early persecutions it stands to reason that the heads of the Church must have been aware of the probability of some at least of those who had been baptized of receding from their vows and thus sinning away their Baptismal grace. It was but natural that they should adopt every precaution to ascertain the character of those whom, by Baptism, they admitted to the Christian covenant. They required, therefore, that some of their own body answer for the real conversion of the presumed neophyte, and should also be Sureties for the fulfillment of the promises then made. Then there were the probabilities during persecution that the parents might not outlive the violence of the times and be enabled to watch over the moral and religious education of their baptized children. The Church was anxious not to lose these lambs of the Flock, and so it was a wise and godly provision that there should be someone who, in default of their parents, surviving or in case of their apostasy, might see to it that their godchildren were “brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life.” The advantages arising from this ancient institution of Sponsors were so great that it has been continued throughout all ages of the Church. And even in this present time, if all Sponsors would fulfill their duties, many a child now lost to the Church, might have been saved to it and brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In the case of Baptism of Infants, the significance of Sponsors is very great, in that Baptism is a covenant, in which God on the one hand is represented by His Minister, and the child is represented by his Sponsors, who answer for him and agree to see to it that this child shall be virtuously brought up and so trained that it shall lead the rest of his life according to this beginning. The Sponsors are called Godfathers and Godmothers because of the spiritual affinity created in Baptism, their responsibility for the training of the child being almost parental.
State of Salvation: By Holy Baptism we are admitted into Christ’s Church, His Kingdom of grace, which in the Church Catechism is declared to be a “State of Salvation,” i.e., a Christian condition in which it is quite certain the salvation of God is within our reach and in which as we are responsive to all its overtures of grace we may grow into the likeness of God’s dear Son. Our final salvation is dependent on our continuance in this state of Salvation by God’s grace unto our life’s end.
Trine Immersion: The name given to the practice in the Primitive Church, of dipping a person, who was being baptized, three times beneath the surface of the water, i.e., at each name of the three Persons in the Blessed Trinity. When Baptism was by affusion or pouring, as is usual at the present time, the affusion was also trine. The Apostolic canons insisted so strongly on this mode of Baptism that they enjoined that the Bishop or Priest who did not thus administer it should be deposed. This threefold method of Baptism still prevails in the Church and is the only proper method of administering this sacrament.
Water: In the Church Catechism it is declared that the outward visible sign or form in Baptism is, “Water; wherein the person is baptized. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” By the rubric in the Office for Holy Baptism it is directed that the Font is to be filled with “pure water.” It is thus the Church fulfills our Lord’s command, following literally His words, “baptizing them with water.” Water, therefore, is the essential element of Holy Baptism, just as the bread and wine are the elements in the Holy Communion. Water as used in Holy Baptism signifies “cleansing.” The amount of water to be used the Church has always regarded as matter of indifference.
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