Sprinkling as a form of baptism, took the place of immersion after a few centuries in the early Church, not from any established rule, but by common consent, and it has since been very generally practiced in all but the Greek and Baptist churches, which insist upon immersion. In its defense the following considerations are offered:
(1.) The primary signification of the word baptize" (βαπτίζω) cannot be of great importance, inasmuch as the rite itself is typical, and therefore derives its moment not from the literal import of the term, but from the significance and design of the ordinance.
(2.) Although no instance of sprinkling is expressly mentioned in the New Test., yet there are several cases in which immersion was hardly possible (Ac 2:41; Ac 10:47-48; Ac 16:33).
(3.) In cases of emergency, baptism by aspersion was allowed at a period of high antiquity, especially in the case of sick persons. SEE CLINIC BAPTISM. This form was also admitted when the baptismal font was too small for immersion, and generally, whenever considerations of convenience, health, or climate required (Walafrid Strabo, De Rebus Eccles. c. 26; Gerhard, Loc. Theol. 9, 146). Aspersion did not become common in the Western or Latin Church until the 13th century, although it appears to have been introduced much earlier (Aquinas, Summa, quaest. 66, art. 7). See Coleman, Christ. Antiq. p. 276 sq. SEE BAPTISM.