Reading "Why Baptism As Symbol And Not A Saving Ordinance" by J. B. Moody, D. D. (First Baptist Church), he made the following statement:
If we are saved now as men were saved in the olden times, then salvation does not depend on baptism, and baptism like other outward ordinances becomes symbolic.1
I may be misunderstanding this, but the statement seems to presume there was no baptism in olden times, but John the Baptist was baptizing before Jesus and the New Covenant. Indeed, even Paul asks the Corinthians:
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? (1 Cor 15:29)
And Judiasm believes in baptism all the way back to Adam and Eve:
Baptism was practised in ancient (Ḥasidic or Essene) Judaism, first as a means of penitence, as is learned from the story of Adam and Eve, who, in order to atone for their sin, stood up to the neck in the water, fasting and doing penance... (Source)
Baptism appears to have pre-dated Jesus, but baptists appear to be using the belief that it did not to justify the idea that baptism is not a saving ordinance (e.g, Mark 16:16).
Question: Do baptists believe baptism did not pre-date Jesus Christ?
1 The beginning of the article leading to this sentence is lengthy and, frankly, doesn't clearly say one way or the other that baptism was or was not used by the ancients. It's, at best, assumed, which is part of my confusion. But, for reference and completeness, here's everything before the quote I used:
THE question as stated indicates the Baptist view, and the ”why” calls for the reasons. It will be my aim to clearly express some of the reasons, and to compress them in the fewest words possible for me.
Baptists believe that baptism is symbolical, because it is an outward ordinance, ”to be seen of men.” There are spiritual qualifications for those seeking the ordinance, but these are preparations for the ordinance, and not the ordinance itself. The visible features of the ordinance are to declare the spiritual features, not to procure them. It expresses a saving faith, not procures it. It expresses repentance not procures it. And so of all other related doctrines. If baptism is for the saved, it is not for the unsaved; if for the believer, it is not for the unbeliever; if for the justified, it is not for ”the already condemned.” Baptists believe that forgiveness, justification, and salvation are of Christ, through faith, and that this saving and justifying faith must precede baptism and hence the relation these sustain to baptism makes baptism symbolical. Baptists are confirmed in this view from several considerations. I will mention a few.
There is but one plan of salvation for all ages. When the writers of the New Testament argue the plan of salvation by grace, and justification by faith, and other vital doctrines, they prove these doctrines by quotations and references to the Old Scriptures. Take the Epistle to the Romans as sufficient proof of this position. There, Paul goes over the whole ground covered by the gospel, beginning with the fall and ruin of man and proceeding step by step through all the - doctrines of the gospel, and he supports every argument by: ”Thus is it written” or ”Thus saith the Scriptures;” showing that he was preaching the same gospel that the Old Scriptures contained. So Peter in the house of the Gentile said: ”To him give all the prophets witness that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:43. So Paul in Rom. 3:21-22. Christ and the Apostles preached salvation according to the Scriptures and that meant always the Old Scriptures. When the writer of the Hebrews said, ”we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul;” he proceeded to define faith-the faith that is ”unto the saving of the soul,” and then to illustrate it in the persons of the Ancients, beginning as far back as Abel, and Enoch, and when he was through with the exemplars of the olden times, he closed by joining ”us” to the list. ”Wherefore seeing we (of this time) are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses (referred to in the previous chapter) let us (as they did) lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us (as they did), looking (as they did) unto the author and finisher of faith.” (Not our faith, but the faith defined and exemplified by them, and us, and which was ”unto the saving of the soul.”)