(from the Greek baptizo, from bapto, to immerse or dip), a rite which is generally thought to have been usual with the Jews even before Christ, being administered to proselytes. From this baptism, however, that of St. John the Baptist differed because he baptized Jews also as a symbol of the necessity of perfect purification from sin. Christ himself never baptized, but directed his disciples to administer this rite to converts (Matt. xxviii: 19; and baptism, therefore, became a religious ceremony among Christians, taking rank as a sacrament with all sects which acknowledge sacraments. Three modes of administering the rite have been adopted -- immersion, pouring, and sprinkling. The question, on which there have been innumerable disputes, turns upon the meaning of the Greek preposition following the verb. The advocates of baptism by immersion, as the only valid form, claim that the preposition is "in;" the advocates of sprinkling contend that the preposition is, "with." The Greek Church adopted the custom of immersion; but the Western Church adopted or allowed the mode of baptism by pouring or sprinkling, since continued by most Protestants.
Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.