Infant Baptism: Scriptural and Reasonable - by Rev. Samuel MillerCovenant Theology - God's Master Plan to Give His Son Jesus Christ a Bride
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When dealing with Covenant Theology “simple” is a good thing. After the Bible, this work is the FIRST that you should read, or one that you should introduce to a friend if they are struggling with covenant concepts.
There is no better succinct, concise, precise and exegetically irrefutable work on infant baptism than Harrison’s work. It is not just about baptism – it’s about infant inclusion in the covenant of grace. It’s about church membership.
The substance of the following discourses was delivered in two sermons, in the church in Freehold, Monmouth county, New Jersey, on the 29th of September 1834. A desire for their publication having been expressed by some who heard them, I have thought it proper to revise and enlarge the whole, and present it in the present form. The subject is one which has given rise to much warm discussion, and it would seem, at first view, to be a work of supererogation, if not still more unfavourable character, to trouble the Christian community with another treatise upon it. But our Antipædobaptist brethren appear to be resolved that it shall never cease to be agitated; and as, indeed, the constant stirring of this controversy seems to furnish no small share of the very ailment on which they depend for subsistence as a denomination, they cannot be expected to let it rest. The great importance of the subject, in my estimation, and the hope that this little volume may reach and benefit some, who are in danger of being drawn into the toils of error and have no opportunity of perusing larger works, have induced me to undergo the labour of preparing it for the press.
My object is not to write for the learned, but to present the subject in that brief, plain, popular manner which is adapted to the case of those who read but little. I have, therefore, designedly avoided the introduction of much more which properly belongs to the subject, and which is to be found in larger treatises; and have especially refrained from entering further into the field of philological discussion, than was absolutely necessary for the accomplishment of my plan.
If I know my own heart, my purpose is not to wound the feelings of a human being; not to stir up strife; but to provide a little manual, better adapted than any of this class that I have seen, for the use of those Presbyterians who are continually assaulted, and sometimes perplexed, by their Baptist neighbours. May the divine benediction rest upon the humble offering!
Princeton, July 1834
Discourse 1 Infant Baptism
“And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us saying, “If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into mine house and abide there.”
As a man has a body was well as a soul, it has pleased infinite wisdom to appoint something in religion adapted to both parts of our nature: something to strike the senses, as well as to impress the conscience and the heart; or rather, something which might, through the medium of the senses, reach and benefit the spiritual part of our constitution. For, as our bodies in this world of sin and death often become sources of moral mischief and pain, so, by the grace of God, they are made inlets to the most refined moral pleasures, and means of advancement in the divine life.
But while the outward senses are to be consulted in religion, they are not to be invested with unlimited dominion. Accordingly the external rites and ceremonies of Christianity are few and simple, but exceedingly appropriate and significant. We have but two sacraments, the one emblematical of that spiritual cleansing, and the other of that spiritual nourishment, which we need both for enjoyment and for duty. To one of these sacramental ordinances there is a pointed reference in the original commission given by their Master to the apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20). And, accordingly, wherever the gospel was received, we find holy baptism reverently administered as a sign and seal of membership in the family of Christ. Thus on the occasion to which our text refers, “a certain woman,” we are told, “named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira,” heard Paul and Silas preach in the city of Philippi; and the Lord opened her heart, so “that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there” (Acts 16:14-15).
I propose, my friends, from these words, to address you on the subject of Christian baptism. You are sensible that this is a subject on which much controversy has existed, in modern times, among professing Christians. It shall be my endeavour, by the grace of God, with all candour and impartiality, to inquire what the scriptures teach concerning this ordinance, and what appears to have been the practice in regard to it in the purest and best ages of the Christian church, as well as in later times. May I be enabled to speak, and you to hear, as becomes those who expect in a little while to stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
There are two questions concerning baptism to which I request your special attention at this time: namely, “Who are the proper subjects of this ordinance? And in what manner ought it to be administered?” To the first of these questions our attention will be directed in the present and the ensuing discourse.
I. Who are to be considered as the proper subjects of Christian baptism?
That baptism ought to be administered to all adult persons, who profess faith in Christ, and obedience to him, and who have not been baptized in their infancy, is not doubted by any. In this all who consider baptism as an ordinance at present obligatory are agreed. But it is well known that there is a large and respectable body of professing Christians among us who believe, and confidently assert, that baptism ought to be confined to adults; who insist, that when professing Christians bring their infant offspring, and dedicate them to God, and receive for them the washing of sacramental water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, they entirely pervert and misapply an important Christian ordinance. We highly respect the sincerity and piety of many who entertain these opinions; but we are perfectly persuaded that they are in error, nay in great and mischievous error; in error which cannot fail of exerting a most unhappy influence on the best interests of the church of God. We have no doubt that the visible church is made up, not only of those who personally profess the true religion, but also of their children; and that we are bound not only to confess Christ before men for ourselves, but also to bring our infant seed in the arms of faith and love, and present them before the Lord, in that ordinance which is at once a seal of God’s covenant with his people, and an emblem of those spiritual blessings which, as sinners, we and our children equally and indispensably need.
Our reasons for entertaining this opinion, with entire confidence, are the following:
1. Because in all Jehovah’s covenants with his professing people, from the earliest ages, and in all states of society, their infant seed have been included. That this was the case with regard to the first covenant made with Adam in paradise, is granted by all certainly by all with whom we have any controversy concerning infant baptism. And indeed the consequences of the violation of that covenant to all his posterity, furnish a standing and a mournful testimony that it embraced them all. The covenant made with Noah, after the deluge, was, as to this point, of the same character. Its language was, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and with your seed” (Gen. 9:9). The covenant with Abraham was equally comprehensive. “Behold,” says Jehovah, “my covenant is with thee.” Behold, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:4,7)
The covenants of Sinai and of Moab, it is evident, also comprehended the children of the immediate actors in the passing scenes, and attached to them, as well as to their fathers, an interest in the blessings or the curses, the promises or the threatenings which those covenants respectively included. Accordingly, when Moses was about to take leave of the people, he addressed them as “standing before the Lord their God, with their little ones, and their wives, to enter into covenant with the LORD their God” (Deut. 29:10-12). And when we come to the New Testament economy, still we find the same interesting feature not only retained, but more strikingly and strongly displayed. Still the promise, it is declared, is “to us and our children, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).
Now, has this been a feature in all Jehovah’s covenants with his people in every age? And shall we admit the idea of its failing in that New Testament or Christian covenant, which, though the same in substance with those which preceded it, excels them all in the extent of its privileges, and in the glory of its promises? It cannot be. The thought is inadmissible. But further,
2. The close and enduring connection between parents and children affords a strong argument in favour of the church-membership of the infant seed of believers. The voice of nature is lifted up, and pleads most powerfully in behalf of our cause. The thought of severing parents from their offspring, in regard to the most interesting relations in which it has pleased God in his adorable providence to place them, is equally repugnant to Christian feeling, and to natural law. Can it be, my friends, that when the stem is in the church, the branch is out of it? Can it be that when the parent is within the visible kingdom of the Redeemer, his offspring, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, have no connection with it?
It is not so in any other society that the great moral Governor of the world ever formed. It is not so in civil society. Children are born citizens of the state in which their parents resided at the time of their birth. In virtue of their birth they are plenary citizens, bound by all the duties, and entitled to all the privileges of that relation, whenever they become capable of exercising them. From these duties they cannot be liberated. Of these privileges they cannot be deprived, but by the commission of crime. But why should this great principle be set aside in the church of God? Surely it is not less obvious or less powerful in grace than in nature. The analogies which pervade all the works and dispensations of God are too uniform and striking to be disregarded in an inquiry like the present. But we hasten to facts and considerations still more explicitly laid down in holy scripture.
3. The actual and acknowledged church membership of infants under the Old Testament economy is a decisive index of the divine will in regard to this matter.
Whatever else may be doubtful, it is certain that infants were, in fact, members of the church under the former dispensation; and as such, were the regular subjects of a covenant seal. When God called Abraham, and established his covenant with him, he not only embraced his infant seed, in the most express terms, in that covenant, but he also appointed an ordinance by which this relation of his children to the visible church was publicly ratified and sealed, and that when they were only eight days old. If Jewish adults were members of the church of God, under that economy, then, assuredly, their infant seed were equally members, for they were brought into the same covenant relation, and had the same covenant seal impressed upon their flesh as their adult parents.
This covenant, moreover, had a respect to spiritual as well as temporal blessings. Circumcision is expressly declared, by the inspired apostle, to have been “a seal of the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:11). So far was it from being a mere pledge of the possession of Canaan, and the enjoyment of temporal prosperity there, that it ratified and sealed a covenant in which “all the families of the earth were to be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). And yet this covenant seal was solemnly appointed by God to be administered, and was actually administered, for nearly two thousand years, to infants of the tenderest age, in token of their relation to God’s covenanted family, and of their right to the privileges of that covenant.
Here then, is a fact a fact incapable of being disguised or denied, nay, a fact acknowledged by all on which the advocates of infant baptism may stand as upon an immovable rock. For if infinite wisdom once saw that it was right and fit that infants should be made the subjects of “a seal of the righteousness of faith,” before they were capable of exercising faith, surely a transaction the same in substance may be right and fit now. Baptism, which is, in like manner, a seal of the righteousness of faith, may, without impropriety, be applied equally early. What once, undoubtedly, existed in the church, and that by divine appointment, may exist still, without any impeachment of either the wisdom or benevolence of him who appointed it. But,
4. As the infant seed of the people of God are acknowledged on all hands to have been members of the church, equally with their parents under the Old Testament dispensation, so it is equally certain that the church of God is the same in substance now that it was then; and, of course, it is just as reasonable and proper, on principle, that the infant offspring of professed believers should be members of the church now, as it was that they should be members of the ancient church.
I am aware that our Baptist brethren warmly object to this statement, and assert that the church of God under the Old Testament economy and the New, is not the same, but so essentially different, that the same principles can by no means apply to each. They contend that the Old Testament dispensation was a kind of political economy, rather national than spiritual in its character; and, of course, that when the Jews ceased to be a people, the covenant under which they had been placed, was altogether laid aside, and a covenant of an entirely new character introduced. But nothing can be more evident than that this view of the subject is entirely erroneous.
The perpetuity of the Abrahamic covenant, and, of consequence, the identity of the church under both dispensations, is so plainly taught in scripture, and follows so unavoidably from the radical scriptural principles concerning the church of God, that it is indeed wonderful how any believer in the Bible can call in question the fact. Everything essential to ecclesiastical identity is evidently found here. The same divine Head, the same precious covenant, the same great spiritual design, the same atoning blood, the same sanctifying Spirit, in which we rejoice, as the life and the glory of the New Testament church, we know, from the testimony of scripture, were also the life and the glory of the church before the coming of the Messiah. It is not more certain that a man, arrived at mature age, is the same individual that he was when an infant on his mother’s lap, than it is that the church, in the plenitude of her light and privileges, after the coming of Christ, is the same church which, many centuries before, though with a much smaller amount of light and privilege, yet, as we are expressly told in the New Testament, enjoyed the presence and guidance of her divine Head “in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). The truth is, the inspired apostle, in writing to the Galatians, formally compares the covenanted people of God, under the Old Testament economy, to an heir under age. “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all, but is under tutors and governors, until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:1-6).
Hence, the inspired apostle, in writing to the Hebrews, referring to the children of Israel, says, “Unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them” (Heb. 4:2). Again, in writing unto the Corinthians, he declares, “They did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank it of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:3). “Abraham,” we are told, “rejoiced to see Christ’s day; he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). And, of the patriarchs generally, we are assured that they saw gospel promises afar off, and embraced them. The church under the old economy, then, was not only a church a true church, a divinely constituted church but it was a gospel church, a church of Christ, a church built upon the “same foundation as that of the apostles.”
But what places the identity of the church, under both dispensations, in the clearest and strongest light, is that memorable and decisive passage, in the 11th chapter of the epistle to the Romans, in which the church of God is held forth to us under the emblem of an olive tree. Under the same figure had the Lord designated the church by the pen of Jeremiah the prophet. In the 11th chapter of his prophecy, the prophet, speaking of God’s covenanted people under that economy, says, “The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit” (Jer. 11:6). But concerning this olive tree, on account of the sin of the people in forsaking the Lord, the prophet declares: “With the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled a fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.” Let me request you to compare with this, the language of the apostle in the 11th chapter of the epistle to the Romans: “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say, then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be broken off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted, contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Rom. 11:15-24).
That the apostle is here speaking of the Old Testament church, under the figure of a good olive tree, cannot be doubted, and is, indeed, acknowledged by all; by our Baptist brethren as well as others. Now the inspired apostle says concerning this olive tree, that the natural branches, that is the Jews, were broken off because of unbelief. But what was the consequence of this excision? Was the tree destroyed? By no means. The apostle teaches directly the contrary. It is evident, from his language, that the root and trunk, in all their “fatness,” remained; and Gentiles, branches of an olive tree “wild by nature,” were “grafted into the good olive tree” the same tree from which the natural branches had been broken off. Can anything be more pointedly descriptive of identity than this?
But this is not all. The apostle apprises us that the Jews are to be brought back from their rebellion and wanderings and to be incorporated with the Christian church. And how is this restoration described? It is called “grafting them in again into their own olive tree.” In other words, the “tree” into which the Gentile Christians at the coming of Christ were “grafted,” was the “old olive tree,” of which the ancient covenant people of God were the “natural branches;” and, of course, when the Jews shall be brought in, with the fullness of the Gentiles, into the Christian church, the apostle expressly tells us they shall be “grafted again into their own olive tree.” Surely, if the church of God before the coming of Christ, and the church of God after the advent, were altogether distinct and separate bodies, and not the same in their essential characters, it would be an abuse of terms to represent the Jews, when converted to Christianity, as grafted again into their own olive tree.
5. Having seen that the infant seed of the professing people of God were members of the church under the Old Testament economy; and having seen also that the church under that dispensation and the present is the same; we are evidently prepared to take another step, and to infer, that if infants were once members, and if the church remains the same, they undoubtedly are still members, unless some positive divine enactment excluding them can be found. As it was a positive divine enactment which brought them in, and gave them a place in the church, so it is evident that a divine enactment as direct and positive, repealing their old privilege, and excluding them from the covenanted family, must be found, or they are still in the church. But can such an act of repeal and exclusion, I ask, be produced? It cannot. It never has been, and it never can be.
The introduction of infants into the church by divine appointment, is undoubted. The identity of the church, under both dispensations, is undoubted. The perpetuity of the Abrahamic covenant, in which not merely the lineal descendants of Abraham, but “all the nations of the earth were to be blessed,” is undoubted (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4). And we find no hint in the New Testament of the high privileges granted to the infant seed of believers being withdrawn. Only concede that it has not been formally withdrawn, and it remains of course. The advocates of infant baptism are not bound to produce from the New Testament an express warrant for the membership of the children of believers. The warrant was given most expressly and formally, two thousand years before the New Testament was written; and having never been revoked remains firmly and indisputably in force.
It is deeply to be lamented that our Baptist brethren cannot be prevailed upon to recognize the length and breadth, and bearing of this great ecclesiastical fact. Here were little children eight days old, acknowledged as members of a covenanted society; a society consecrated to God for spiritual as well as temporal benefits and stamped with a covenant seal, by which they were formally bound, as the seed of believers, to be entirely and forever the Lord’s. Can infant membership be ridiculed, as it often is, without lifting the puny arm against him who was with his “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38), and whose ways are all wise and righteous?
6. Our next step is to show that baptism has come in the room of circumcision, and therefore, that the former is rightfully and properly applied to the same subjects as the latter. When we say this, we mean, not merely that circumcision is laid aside in the church of Christ, and that baptism has been brought in, but that baptism occupies the same place, as the appointed initiatory ordinance in the church, and that, as a moral emblem, it means the same thing.
The meaning and design of circumcision was chiefly spiritual. It was a seal of a covenant which had not solely, or even mainly, a respect to the possession of Canaan, and to the temporal promises which were connected with a residence in that land; but which chiefly regarded higher and more important blessings, even those which are conveyed through the Messiah, in whom “all the families of the earth” are to be blessed. So it is with baptism. While it marks an external relation, and seals outward privileges, it is, as circumcision was, a “seal of the righteousness of faith,” and has a primary reference to the benefits of the Messiah’s mission and reign. Circumcision was a token of visible membership in the family of God, and of covenant obligation to him. So is baptism. Circumcision was the ordinance which marked, or publicly ratified, entrance into that visible family. So does baptism. Circumcision was an emblem of moral cleansing and purity. So is baptism. It refers to the remission of sins by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by his Spirit; and teaches us that we are by nature guilty and depraved, and stand in need of the pardoning and sanctifying grace of God by a crucified Redeemer. Surely, then, there is the best foundation for asserting that baptism has come in the place of circumcision. The latter, as all grant, has been discontinued; and now baptism occupies the same place, means the same thing, seals the same covenant, and is a pledge of the same spiritual blessings. Who can doubt, then, that there is the utmost propriety, upon principle, in applying it to the same infant subjects?
Yet, though baptism manifestly comes in the place of circumcision, there are points in regard to which the former differs materially from the latter. And it differs precisely as to those points in regard to which the New Testament economy differs from the Old, in being more enlarged, and less ceremonial. Baptism is not ceremonially restricted to the eighth day, but may be administered at any time and place. It is not confined to one sex; but, like the glorious dispensation of which it is a seal, it marks an enlarged privilege, and is administered in a way which reminds us that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female,” in the Christian economy; but that we are all one in Christ Jesus.
7. Again, it is a strong argument in favour of infant baptism, that we find the principle of family baptism again and again adopted in the apostolic age.
We are told, by men learned in Jewish antiquities, that, under the Old Testament economy, it was customary, when proselytes to Judaism were gained from the surrounding nations, that all the children of a family were invariably admitted to membership in the church with their parents; and on the faith of their parents; that all the males, children and adults, were circumcised, and the whole family, male and female, baptized, and incorporated with the community of God’s covenanted people. Accordingly, when we examine the New Testament history, we find that under the ministry of the apostles, who were all native Jews, and had, of course, been long accustomed to this practice, the same principle of receiving and baptizing families on the faith of the parents, was most evidently adopted and acted upon in a very striking manner. When “the heart of Lydia was opened, so that she attended to the things which were spoken by Paul,” we are told that “she was baptized and her household” (Acts 16:14-15). When the jailor at Philippi believed, he was baptized, “he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:33). Thus also we read of “the household of Stephanas” being baptized (1 Cor. 1:16). Now, though we are not certain that there were young children in any of these families, it is highly probable there were. At any rate, the great principle of family baptism of receiving all the younger members of households on the faith of their domestic head, seems to be plainly and decisively established. This furnishes ground on which the advocate of infant baptism may stand with unwavering confidence.
And here let me ask, was it ever known that a case of family baptism occurred under the direction of a Baptist minister? Was it ever known to be recorded, or to have happened, that when, under the influence of Baptist ministrations, the parents of large families were hopefully converted, they were baptized, they and all theirs straightway? There is no risk in asserting that such a case was never heard of. And why? Evidently, because our Baptist brethren do not act in this matter upon the principles laid down in the New Testament, and which regulated the primitive Christians.
8. Another consideration possesses much weight here. We cannot imagine that the privileges and the sign of infant membership, to which all the first Christians had been so long accustomed, could have been abruptly withdrawn, without wounding the hearts of parents, and producing in them feelings of revolt and complaint against the new economy. Yet we find no hint of this recorded in the history of the apostolic age. Upon our principles, this entire silence presents no difficulty. The old principle and practice of infant membership, so long consecrated by time, and so dear to all the feelings of parental affection, went on as before. The identity of the church under the new dispensation with that of the old, being well understood, the early Christians needed no new warrant for the inclusion of their infant seed in the covenanted family. As the privilege had not been revoked, it, of course, continued. A new and formal enactment in favour of the privilege would have been altogether superfluous, not to say out of place; especially as it was well understood, from the whole aspect of the new economy, that, instead of withdrawing or narrowing the privileges, its whole character was that it rather multiplied and extended them.
But our Baptist brethren are under the necessity of supposing that such of the first Christians as had been Jews, and who had ever been in the habit of considering their beloved offspring as included, with themselves, in the privileges and promises of God’s covenant, were given to understand, when the New Testament church was set up, that these covenant privileges and promises were no longer to be enjoyed by their children; that they were, henceforth, to be no more connected with the church than the children of the surrounding heathen; and this under an economy distinguished, in every other respect, by greater light, and more enlarged privilege I say, our Baptist brethren are under the necessity of supposing that the first Christians were met on the organization of the New Testament church, with an announcement of this kind, and that they acquiesced in it without a feeling of surprise, or a word of murmur! Nay, that this whole retrograde change passed with so little feeling of interest, that it was never so much as mentioned or hinted at in any of the epistles to the churches. But can this supposition be for a moment admitted? It is impossible. We may conclude, then, that the acknowledged silence of the New Testament as to any retraction of the old privileges, or any complaint of its recall, is so far from warranting a conclusion unfavourable to the church membership of infants, that it furnishes a weighty argument of an import directly the reverse.
9. Although the New Testament does not contain any specific texts, which, in so many words, declare that the infant seed of believers are members of the church in virtue of their birth; yet it abounds in passages which cannot reasonably be explained but in harmony with this doctrine. The following are a specimen of the passages to which I refer.
The prophet Isaiah, though not a New Testament writer, speaks much, and in the most interesting manner, of the New Testament times. Speaking of the “latter day glory,” of that day when “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock,” and when there shall be nothing to hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain; speaking of that day, the inspired prophet declares, “Behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind…. For as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them” (Isa. 65:25; 11:9; 65:17, 22-23).
The language of our Lord concerning little children can be reconciled with no other doctrine than that which I am now endeavouring to establish, “Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands upon them, and departed thence” (Matt. 19:13-15). On examining the language used by the several evangelists in regard to this occurrence, it is evident that the children here spoken of were young children, infants, such as the Saviour could “take in his arms.” The language which our Lord himself employs concerning them is remarkable. “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” That is, theirs is the kingdom of heaven, or, to them belongs the kingdom of heaven. It is precisely the same form of expression, in the original, which our Lord uses in the commencement of his sermon on the mount, when he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;” “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, 10).
This form of expression, of course, precludes the construction which some have been disposed to put on the passage, in order to evade its force: namely, that it implies, that the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as resemble little children in spirit. We might just as well say, that the kingdom of heaven does not belong to those who are “poor in spirit,” but only to those who resemble them; or, that it does not belong to those who are “persecuted for righteousness sake,” but only to those who manifest a similar temper. Our Lord’s language undoubtedly meant that the kingdom of heaven was really theirs of whom he spake; that it belonged to them; that they are the heirs of it, just as the “poor in spirit,” and the “persecuted for righteousness sake,” are themselves connected in spirit and in promise with that kingdom.
ut what are we to understand by the phrase “the kingdom of heaven,” as employed in this place? Most manifestly, we are to understand by it, the visible church, or the visible kingdom of Christ, as distinguished both from the world, and the old economy. Let any one impartially examine the evangelists throughout, and he will find this to be the general import of the phrase in question. If this be the meaning, then our Saviour asserts, in the most direct and pointed terms, the reality and the divine warrant of infant church membership. But even if the kingdom of glory be intended, still our argument is not weakened, but rather fortified. For if the kingdom of glory belongs to the infant seed of believers, much more have they a title to the privileges of the church on earth.
Another passage of scripture strongly speaks the same language. I refer to the declaration which we find in the sermon of the apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost. When a large number of the hearers, on that solemn day, were “pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” The reply of the inspired minister of Christ was, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:37-38). The apostle is here evidently speaking of the promise of God to his covenant people; that promise in which he engages to be their God, and to constitute them his covenanted family. Now this promise, he declared to those whom he addressed, extended to their children as well as to themselves, and, of course, gave those children a covenant right to the privileges of the family. But if they have a covenant title to a place in this family, we need no formal argument to show that they are entitled to the outward token and seal of that family.
I shall adduce only one more passage of scripture, at present, in support of the doctrine for which I contend. I refer to that remarkable, and, as it appears to me, conclusive declaration of the apostle Paul, concerning children, which is found in the seventh chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, in reply to a query addressed to him by the members of that church respecting the Christian law of marriage: “The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1 Cor. 7:14).
The great question in relation to this passage is, in what sense does a believing parent “sanctify” an unbelieving one, so that their children are “holy?” It certainly cannot mean, that every pious husband or wife that is allied to an unbelieving partner, is always instrumental in conferring on that partner true spiritual purity, or, in other words, regeneration and sanctification of heart; nor that every child born of parents of whom one is a believer, is, of course the subject of gospel holiness, or of internal sanctification. No one who intelligently reads the Bible, or who has eyes to see what daily passes around him, can possibly put such a construction on the passage. Neither can it be understood to mean, as some have strangely imagined, that where one of the parents is a believer, the children are legitimate: that is, the offspring of parents, one of whom is pious, are no longer bastards, but are to be considered as begotten in lawful wedlock! The word “holy” is no where applied in scripture to legitimacy of birth. The advocates of this construction may be challenged to produce a single example of such an application of the term. And as to the suggestion of piety in one party being necessary to render a marriage covenant valid, nothing can be more absurd. Were the marriages of the heathen in the days of Paul all illicit connections? Are the matrimonial contracts which take place every day, among us, where neither of the parties are pious, all illegitimate and invalid? Surely it is not easy to conceive of a subterfuge more completely preposterous, or more adapted to discredit a cause which finds it necessary to resort to such aid.
The terms “holy” and unclean,” as is well known to all attentive readers of scripture, have not only a spiritual, but also an ecclesiastical sense in the word of God. While in some cases they express that which is internally and spiritually conformed to the divine image; in others, they quite as plainly designate something set apart to a holy or sacred use; that is, separated from a common or profane, to a holy purpose. Thus, under the Old Testament economy, the peculiar people of God, are said to be a “holy people,” and to be “severed from all other people, that they might be the Lord’s” (Lev. 20:26); not because they were all, or even a majority of them, really consecrated in heart to God; but because they were all his professing people his covenanted people; they all belonged to that external body which he had called out of the world, and established as the depository of his truth, and the conservator of his glory. In these two senses, the terms ” holy” and “unclean” are used in both Testaments, times almost innumerable. And what their meaning is, in any particular case, must be gathered from the scope of the passage. In the case before us, the latter of these two senses is evidently required by the whole spirit of the apostle’s reasoning.
It appears that among the Corinthians, to whom the apostle wrote, there were many cases of professing Christians being united by the marriage tie with pagans; the former, perhaps, being converted after marriage; or being so unwise, as, after conversion, deliberately to form this unequal and unhappy connection. What was to be deemed of such marriages, seems to have been the grave question submitted to this inspired teacher. He pronounces, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, that, in all such cases, when the unbeliever is willing to live with the believer, they ought to continue to live together, that their connection is so sanctified by the character of the believing companion, that their children are “holy,” that is, in covenant with God; members of that church with which the believing parent is, in virtue of his profession, united: in one word, that the infidel party is so far, and in such a sense, consecrated by the believing party, that their children shall be reckoned to belong to the sacred family with which the latter is connected, and shall be regarded and treated as members of the church of God.
“The passage thus explained,” says an able writer, “establishes the church membership of infants in another form. For it assumes the principle, that when both parents are reputed believers, their children belong to the church of God as a matter of course. The whole difficulty proposed by the Corinthians to Paul, grows out of this principle. Had he taught, or they understood, that no children, be their parents believers or unbelievers, are to be accounted members of the church, the difficulty could not have existed. For if the faith of both parents could not confer upon the child the privilege of membership, the faith of only one of them certainly could not. The point was decided. It would have been mere impertinence to tease the apostle with queries which carried their own answers along with them. But on the supposition that when both parents were members, their children were also members; the difficulty is very natural and serious. ‘I see,’ would a Corinthian convert exclaim, ‘I see the children of my Christian neighbours, owned as members of the church of God; and I see the children of others, who are unbelievers rejected with themselves. I believe in Christ myself; but my husband, my wife, believes not. What is to become of my children? Are they to be admitted with myself? Or are they to be cast off with my partner?’
“‘Let not your heart be troubled,’ replies the apostle, ‘God reckons them to the believing, not to the unbelieving parent. It is enough that they are yours. The infidelity of your partner shall never frustrate their interest in the covenant of your God. They are holy because you are so.’
“This decision put the subject at rest. And it lets us know that one of the reasons, if not the chief reason of the doubt, whether a married person should continue, after conversion, in the conjugal society of an infidel partner, arose from a fear lest such continuance should exclude the children from the church of God. Otherwise, it is hard to comprehend why the apostle should dissuade them from separating by such an argument as he has employed in the text. And it is utterly inconceivable how such a doubt could have entered their minds, had not the membership of infants, born of believing parents, been undisputed, and esteemed a high privilege, so high a privilege, that the apprehension of losing it, made conscientious parents at a stand whether they ought not rather to break the ties of wedlock, by withdrawing from an unbelieving husband or wife. Thus the origin of this difficulty, on the one hand, and the solution of it, on the other, concur in establishing our doctrine, that by the appointment of God himself, the infants of believing parents are born members of his church.”
10. Finally, the history of the Christian church, from the apostolic age, furnishes an argument of irresistible force in favour of the divine authority of infant baptism.
I can assure you, my friends, with the utmost candour and confidence, after much careful inquiry on the subject, that, for more than fifteen hundred years after the birth of Christ, there was not a single society of professing Christians on earth, who opposed infant baptism on anything like the grounds which distinguish our modern Baptist brethren. It is an undoubted fact, that the people known in ecclesiastical history under the name of the Anabaptists, who arose in Germany, in the year 1522, were the very first body of people, in the whole Christian world, who rejected the baptism of infants, on the principles now adopted by the Antipædobaptist body. This, I am aware, will be regarded as an untenable position by some of the ardent friends of the Baptist cause; but nothing can be more certain than that it is even so. Of this a short induction of particulars will afford conclusive evidence.
Tertullian, about two hundred years after the birth of Christ, is the first man of whom we read in ecclesiastical history, as speaking a word against infant baptism; and he, while he recognizes the existence and prevalence of the practice, and expressly recommends that infants be baptized, if they are not likely to survive the period of infancy; yet advises that, where there is a prospect of their living, baptism be delayed until a late period in life. But what was the reason of this advice? The moment we look at the reason, we see that it avails nothing to the cause in support of which it is sometimes produced.
Tertullian adopted the superstitious idea, that baptism was accompanied with the remission of all past sins; and that sins committed after baptism were peculiarly dangerous. He, therefore, advised that not merely infants, but young men and young women (and even young widows and widowers) should postpone their baptism until the period of youthful appetite and passion should have passed. In short, he advised that, in all cases in which death was not likely to intervene, baptism be postponed, until the subjects of it should have arrived at a period of life, when they would be no longer in danger of being led astray by youthful lusts. And thus, for more than a century after the age of Tertullian, we find some of the most conspicuous converts to the Christian faith, postponing baptism till the close of life. Constantine the Great, we are told, though a professing Christian for many years before, was not baptized till after the commencement of his last illness. The same fact is recorded of a number of other distinguished converts to Christianity, about and after that time. But, surely, advice and facts of this kind make nothing in favour of the system of our Baptist brethren. Indeed, taken altogether, their historical bearing is strongly in favour of our system.
The next persons that we hear of as calling in question the propriety of infant baptism, were the small body of people in France, about twelve hundred years after Christ, who followed a certain Peter de Bruis, and formed an inconsiderable section of the people known in ecclesiastical history under the general name of the Waldenses. This body maintained that infants ought not to be baptized, because they were incapable of salvation. They taught that none could be saved but those who wrought out their salvation by a long course of self-denial and labour. And as infants were incapable of thus “working out their own salvation” (Phil. 2:12), they held that making them the subjects of a sacramental seal, was an absurdity. But surely our Baptist brethren cannot be willing to consider these people as their predecessors, or to adopt their creed.
We hear no more of any society or organized body of Antipædobaptists, until the sixteenth century, when they arose, as before stated, in Germany, and for the first time broached the doctrine of our modern Baptist brethren. As far as I have been able to discover, they were absolutely unknown in the whole Christian world, before that time.
But we have something more than mere negative testimony on this subject. It is not only certain, that we hear of no society of Antipædobaptists resembling our present Baptist brethren, for more than fifteen hundred years after Christ; but we have positive and direct proof that, during the whole of that time, infant baptism was the general and unopposed practice of the Christian church.
To say nothing of earlier intimations, wholly irreconcilable with any other practice than that of infant baptism, Origen, a Greek father of the third century, and decidedly the most learned man of his day, speaks in the most unequivocal terms of the baptism of infants, as the general practice of the church in his time, and as having been received from the apostles. His testimony is as follows: “According to the usage of the church, baptism is given even to infants; when if there were nothing in infants which needed forgiveness and mercy, the grace of baptism would seem to be superfluous” (Homil. 8 in Lev. ch. 12). Again: “Infants are baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Of what sins? Or, when have they sinned? Or, can there be any reason for the laver in their case, unless it be according to the sense which we have mentioned above: namely, that no one is free from pollution, though he has lived but one day upon earth? And because by baptism native pollution is taken away, therefore infants are baptized” (Homil. in Luke 14). Again: “For this cause it was that the church received an order from the apostles to give baptism even to infants.”
The testimony of Cyprian, a Latin father of the third century, contemporary with Origen, is no less decisive. It is as follows.
In the year 253 after Christ, there was a council of sixty-six bishops or pastors held at Carthage, in which Cyprian presided. To this council, Fidus, a country pastor, presented the following question, which he wished them, by their united wisdom, to solve: namely, whether it was necessary, in the administration of baptism, as of circumcision, to wait until the eighth day; or whether a child might be baptized at an earlier period after its birth? The question, it will be observed, was not whether infants ought to be baptized? That was taken for granted. But simply, whether it was necessary to wait until the eighth day after their birth? The council came unanimously to the following decision, and transmitted it in a letter to the inquirer.
“Cyprian and the rest of the bishops who were present in the council, sixty-six in number, to Fidus, our brother, greeting:
“As to the case of infants: whereas you judge that they must not be baptized within two or three days after they are born, and that the rule of circumcision is to be observed, that no one should be baptized and sanctified before the eighth day after he is born; we were all in the council of a very different opinion. As for what you thought proper to be done, no one was of your mind; but we all rather judged that the mercy and grace of God is to be denied to no human being that is born. This, therefore, dear brother, was our opinion in the council; that we ought not to hinder any person from baptism and the grace of God, who is merciful and kind to us all. And this rule, as it holds for all, we think more especially to be observed in reference to infants, even to those newly born” (Cyprian, Epist. 66).
Surely no testimony can be more unexceptionable and decisive than this. Lord Chancellor King, in his account of the primitive church, after quoting what is given above, and much more, subjoins the following remark: “Here, then, is a synodical decree for the baptism of infants, as formal as can possibly be expected; which being the judgment of a synod, is more authentic and cogent than that of a private father; it being supposable that a private father might write his own particular judgment and opinion only; but the determination of a synod (and he might have added, the unanimous determination of a synod of sixty-six members) denotes the common practice and usage of the whole church.”
The famous Chrysostom, a Greek father who flourished towards the close of the fourth century, having had occasion to speak of circumcision, and of the inconvenience and pain which attempted its dispensation, proceeds to say: “But our circumcision, I mean the grace of baptism, gives cure without pain, and procures to us a thousand benefits, and fills us with the grace of the Spirit; and it has no determinate time, as that had; but one that is in the very beginning of his age, or one that is in the middle of it, or one that is in his old age, may receive this circumcision made without hands; in which there is no trouble to be undergone but to throw off the load of sins, and to receive pardon for all past offences” (Homil. 40 in Genesis).
Passing by the testimony of several other conspicuous writers of the third and fourth centuries, in support of the fact that infant baptism was generally practiced when they wrote, I shall detain you with only one testimony more in relation to the history of this ordinance. It is that of Augustine, one of the most pious, learned and venerable fathers of the Christian church, who lived a little more than three hundred years after the apostles taken in connection with that of Pelagius, the learned heretic, who lived at the same time. Augustine had been pleading against Pelagius, in favour of the doctrine of original sin. In the course of this plea, he asks, “Why are infants baptized for the remission of sins, if they have no sin?” at the same time intimating to Pelagius, that if he would be consistent with himself, his denial of original sin must draw after it the denial of infant baptism.
The reply of Pelagius is striking and unequivocal. “Baptism,” says he, “ought to be administered to infants, with the same sacramental words which are used in the case of adult persons.” “Men slander me as if I denied the sacrament of baptism to infants.” “I never heard of any, not even the most impious heretic, who denied baptism to infants; for who can be so impious as to hinder infants from being baptized, and born again in Christ, and so make them miss of the kingdom of God?”
Again, Augustine remarks, in reference to the Pelagians: “Since they grant that infants must be baptized, as not being able to resist the authority of the whole church, which was doubtless delivered by our Lord and his apostles; they must consequently grant that they stand in need of the benefit of the Mediator; that being offered by the sacrament, and by the charity of the faithful, and so being incorporated into Christ’s body, they may be reconciled to God,” etc.
Again, speaking of certain heretics at Carthage, who, though they acknowledged infant baptism, took wrong views of its meaning, Augustine remarks: “They, minding the scriptures, and the authority of the whole church, and the form of the sacrament itself, see well that baptism in infants is for the remission of sins.” Further, in his work against the Donatists, the same writer, speaking of baptized infants obtaining salvation without the personal exercise of faith, says: ” which the whole body of the church holds, as delivered to them in the case of little infants baptized; who certainly cannot believe with the heart unto righteousness, or confess with the mouth unto salvation; nay, by their crying and noise while the sacrament is administering, they disturb the holy mysteries: and yet no Christian man will say that they are baptized to no purpose.” Again, he says: “The custom of our mother the church in baptizing infants must not be disregarded, nor be accounted needless, nor believed to be anything else than an ordinance delivered to us from the apostles.”
In short, those who will be at the trouble to consult the large extracts from the writings of Augustine, among other Christian fathers, in the learned Wall’s History of Infant Baptism, will find that venerable father declaring again and again that he never met with any Christian, either of the general church, or of any of the sects, nor with any writer, who owned the authority of scripture, who taught any other doctrine than that infants were to be baptized for the remission of sin. Here, then, were two men, undoubtedly among the most learned then in the world Augustine and Pelagius; the former as familiar probably with the writings of all the distinguished fathers who had gone before him, as any man of his time; the latter also a man of great learning and talents, who had travelled over the greater part of the Christian world; who both declare, about three hundred years after the apostolic age, that they never saw or heard of any one who called himself a Christian, not even the most impious heretic, no nor any writer who claimed to believe in the scriptures, who denied the baptism of infants (See Wall’s History, Part 1, ch. 15-19). Can the most incredulous reader, who is not fast bound in the fetters of invincible prejudice, hesitate to admit: first, that these men verily believed that infant baptism had been the universal practice of the church from the days of the apostles; and, secondly, that, situated and informed as they were, it was impossible that they should be mistaken.
The same Augustine, in his “Epistle to Boniface,” while he expresses an opinion that the parents are the proper persons to offer up their children to God in baptism, if they be good faithful Christians; yet thinks proper to mention that others may, with propriety, in special cases, perform the same kind office of Christian charity. “You see,” says he, “that a great many are offered, not by their parents, but by any other persons, as infant slaves are sometimes offered by their masters. And sometimes when the parents are dead, the infants are baptized, being offered by any that can afford to show this compassion on them. And sometimes infants whom their parents have cruelly exposed, may be taken up and offered in baptism by those who have no children of their own, nor design to have any.”
Again, in his book against the Donatists, speaking directly of infant baptism, he says: “If any one asks for divine authority in this matter, although that which the whole church practices, which was not instituted by councils, but was ever in use, is very reasonably believed to be no other than a thing delivered by the authority of the apostles; yet we may besides take a true estimate, how much the sacrament of baptism does avail infants, by the circumcision which God’s ancient people received. For Abraham was justified before he received circumcision, as Cornelius was endued with the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. And yet the apostle says of Abraham, that he received the sign of circumcision, ‘a seal of the righteousness of faith,’ by which he had in heart believed, and it had been ‘counted to him for righteousness’ (Rom. 4:11). Why then was he commanded to circumcise all his male infants on the eighth day, when they could not yet believe with the heart, that it might be counted to them for righteousness; but for this reason, because the sacrament is, in itself of great importance? Therefore, as in Abraham, ‘the righteousness of faith’ went before, and circumcision, ‘the seal of the righteousness of faith came after;’ so in Cornelius, the spiritual sanctification by the gift of the Holy Spirit went before, and the sacrament of regeneration, by the laver of baptism, came after. And as in Isaac, who was circumcised the eighth day, the seal of the righteousness of faith went before, and (as he was a follower of his father’s faith) the righteousness itself, the seal whereof had gone before in his infancy, came after; so in infants baptized, the sacrament of regeneration goes before, and (if they put in practice the Christian religion) conversion of the heart, the mystery whereof went before in their body, comes after. By all which it appears, that the sacrament of baptism is one thing, and conversion of the heart another.”
So much for the testimony of the fathers. To me, I acknowledge, this testimony carries with it irresistible conviction. It is, no doubt, conceivable, considered in itself, that in three centuries from the days of the apostles, a very material change might have taken place in regard to the subject of baptism. But that a change so serious and radical as that of which our Baptist brethren speak, should have been introduced without the knowledge of such men as have been just quoted, is not conceivable. That the church should have passed from the practice of none but adult baptism, to that of the constant and universal baptism of infants, while such a change was utterly unknown, and never heard of, by the most active, pious, and learned men that lived during that period, cannot, I must believe, be imagined by any impartial mind. Now when Origen, Cyprian, and Chrysostom declare, not only that the baptism of infants was the universal and unopposed practice of the church in their respective times and places of residence; and when men of so much acquaintance with all preceding writers, and so much knowledge of all Christendom, as Augustine and Pelagius, declared that they never heard of any one who claimed to be a Christian, either orthodox or heretic, who did not maintain and practice infant baptism; I say, to suppose, in the face of such testimony, that the practice of infant baptism crept in, as an unwarranted innovation, between their time and that of the apostles, without the smallest notice of the change having ever reached their ears is, I must be allowed to say, of all incredible suppositions, one of the most incredible. He who can believe this, must, it appears to me, be prepared to make a sacrifice of all historical evidence at the shrine of blind and deaf prejudice.
It is here also worthy of particular notice, that those pious and far-famed witnesses for the truth, commonly known by the name of the Waldenses, did undoubtedly hold the doctrine of infant baptism, and practice accordingly. In their confessions of faith and other writings, drawn up between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, and in which they represent their creeds and usages as handed down, from father to son, for several hundred years before the Reformation, they speak on the subject before us so frequently and explicitly, as to preclude all doubt in regard to the fact alleged. The following specimen of their language will satisfy every reasonable inquirer.
“Baptism,” say they, is administered in a full congregation of the faithful, to the end that he that is received into the church may be reputed and held of all as a Christian brother, and that all the congregation may pray for him that he may be a Christian in heart, as he is outwardly esteemed to be a Christian. And for this cause it is that we present our children in baptism, which ought to be done by those to whom the children are most nearly related, such as their parents, or those to whom God has given this charity.”
Again, referring to the superstitious additions to baptism which the Papists had introduced, they say, in one of their ecclesiastical documents: “The things which are not necessary in baptism are: the exorcisms, the breathings, the sign of the cross upon the head or forehead of the infant, the salt put into the mouth, the spittle into the ears and nostrils, the unction of the breast, etc. From these things many take an occasion of error and superstition, rather than of edifying and salvation.”
Understanding that their popish neighbours charged them with denying the baptism of infants, they acquit themselves of this imputation as follows:
“Neither is the time nor place appointed for those who are to be baptized. But charity and the edification of the church and congregation ought to be the rule in this matter.
“Yet, notwithstanding, we bring our children to be baptized; which they ought to do to whom they are most nearly related; such as their parents, or those whom God hath inspired with such a charity.”
“True it is,” adds the historian, “that being, for some hundreds of years, constrained to suffer their children to be baptized by the Romish priests, they deferred the performance of it as long as possible, because they detested the human inventions annexed to the institution of that holy sacrament, which they looked upon as so many pollutions of it. And by reason of their pastors, whom they called Barbes, being often abroad travelling in the service of the church, they could not have baptism administered to their children by them. They, therefore, sometimes kept them long without it. On account of which delay, the priests have charged them with that reproach. To which charge not only their adversaries have given credit, but also many of those who have approved of their lives and faith in all other respects.”
It being so plainly a fact, established by their own unequivocal and repeated testimony, that the great body of the Waldenses were Pædobaptists, on what ground is it that our Baptist brethren assert, and that some have been found to credit the assertion, that those venerable witnesses of the truth rejected the baptism of infants? The answer is easy and ample. A small section of the people bearing the general name of Waldenses, followers of Peter de Bruis, who were mentioned in a preceding page, while they agreed with the mass of their denomination in most other matters, differed from them in regard to the subject of infant baptism. They held, as before stated, that infants were not capable of salvation; that Christian salvation is of such a nature that none can partake of it but those who undergo a course of rigorous self-denial and labour in its pursuit. Those who die in infancy not being capable of this, the Petrobrussians held that they were not capable of salvation; and, this being the case, that they ought not to be baptized. This, however, is not the doctrine of our Baptist brethren; and, of course, furnishes no support to their creed or practice. But the decisive answer is, that the Petrobrussians were a very small fraction of the great Waldensian body; probably not more than a thirtieth or fortieth part of the whole. The great mass of the denomination, however, as such, declare, in their Confessions of Faith, and in various public documents, that they held, and that their fathers before them, for many generations, always held, to infant baptism. The Petrobrussians, in this respect, forsook the doctrine and practice of their fathers, and departed from the proper and established Waldensian creed. If there be truth in the plainest records of ecclesiastical history, this is an undoubted fact.
In short, the real state of this case may be illustrated by the following representation. Suppose it were alleged that the Baptists in the United States are in the habit of keeping the seventh day of the week as their sabbath? Would the statement be true? By no means. There is, indeed, a small section of the Anti pædobaptist body in the United States, usually styled “Seventh-day Baptists” probably not a thirtieth part of the whole body who observe Saturday in each week as their sabbath. But, notwithstanding this, the proper representation, no doubt is (the only representation that a faithful historian of facts would pronounce correct) that the Baptists in this country, as a general body, observe “the Lord’s day” as their sabbath. You may rest assured, my friends, that this statement most exactly illustrates the real fact with regard to the Waldenses as Pædobaptists. Twenty-nine parts, at least, out of thirty, of the whole of that body of witnesses for the truth, were undoubtedly Pædobaptists. The remaining thirtieth part departed from the faith of their fathers in regard to baptism, but departed on principles altogether unlike those of our modern Baptist brethren.
I have only one fact more to state in reference to the pious Waldenses, and that is, that soon after the opening of the Reformation by Luther, they sought intercourse with the Reformed churches of Geneva and France; held communion with them; received ministers from them; and appeared eager to testify their respect and affection for them as “brethren in the Lord.” Now it is well known that the churches of Geneva and France, at this time, were in the habitual use of infant baptism. This single fact is sufficient to prove that the Waldenses were Pædobaptists. If they had adopted the doctrine of our Baptist brethren, and laid the same stress on it with them, it is manifest that such intercourse would have been wholly out of the question.
If these historical statements be correct and that they are so, is just as well attested as any facts whatever in the annals of the church the amount of the whole is conclusive, is demonstrative, that for fifteen hundred years after Christ the practice of infant baptism was universal; that to this general fact there was absolutely no exception, in the whole Christian church, which, on principle, or even analogy, can countenance in the least degree, modern Anti-pædobaptism; that from the time of the apostles to the time of Luther, the general, unopposed, established practice of the church was to regard the infant seed of believers as members of the church, and, as such, to baptize them.
But this is not all. If the doctrine of our Baptist brethren be correct that is, if infant baptism be a corruption and a nullity then it follows, from the foregoing historical statements, most inevitably, that the ordinance of baptism was lost for fifteen hundred years: yes, entirely lost, from the apostolic age till the sixteenth century. For there was manifestly, “no society, during that long period of fifteen centuries, but what was in the habit of baptizing infants.” God had no church, then, in the world for so long a period! Can this be admitted? Surely not by anyone who believes in the perpetuity and indestructibility of the household of faith.
Nay, if the principle of our Baptist brethren be correct, the ordinance of baptism is irrecoverably lost altogether; that is, irrecoverably without a miracle. Because if, during the long tract of time that has been mentioned, there was no true baptism in the church; and if none but baptized persons were capable of administering true baptism to others; the consequence is plain: there is no true baptism now in the world! But can this be believed? Can we imagine that the great Head of the church would permit one of his own precious ordinances to be banished entirely from the church for many centuries, much less to be totally lost? Surely the thought is abhorrent to every Christian feeling.
Such is an epitome of the direct evidence in favour of infant baptism. To me, I acknowledge, it appears nothing short of demonstration. The invariable character of all Jehovah’s dealings and covenants with the children of men; his express appointment, acted upon for two thousand years by the ancient church; the total silence of the New Testament as to any retraction or repeal of this privilege; the evident and repeated examples of family baptism in the apostolic age; the indubitable testimony of the practice of the whole church on the pædobaptist plan, from the time of the apostles to the sixteenth century, including the most respectable witnesses for the truth in the dark ages; all conspire to establish on the firmest foundation, the membership, and the consequent right to baptism of the infant seed of believers. If here be no divine warrant, we may despair of finding it for any institution in the church of God.
Footnotes for Discourse 1
1. I consider the Jewish baptism of proselytes as an historical fact well established. I am aware that some Pædobaptists, whose judgment and learning I greatly respect, have expressed doubts in reference to this matter. But when I find the Jews asking John the Baptist, “Why baptizest thou, then, if thou be not the Christ?” etc., I can only account for their language by supposing that they had been accustomed to that rite, and expected the Messiah, when he came, to practice it. We have the best evidence that they baptized their proselytes as early as the second century; and it is altogether incredible that they should copy it from the Christians. And a great majority of the most competent judges in this case, both Jewish and Christian, from Selden and Lightfoot down to Dr. Adam Clarke, have considered the testimony to the fact as abundant and conclusive.
2. It is worthy of notice that this interpretation of the passage is adopted, and decisively maintained, by Augustine, one of the most pious and learned divines of the fourth century. De Sermone Domini in Monte, ch. 27.
3. “Essays on the Church of God” by Dr. J. M. Mason. Christian’s Magazine, II:49-50.
4. Comment. in Epist. ad Romanos, Lib. 5
5. Inquiry into the Constitution, etc., Part 2, Chap. 3.
6. See John Paul Perrin’s account of the Doctrine and Order of the Waldenses and Albigenses; Sir Samuel Morland’s do.; and also Leger’s Histoire Generale des Eglises Vaudoises. Mr. William Jones, a Baptist, in a work entitled A History of the Waldenses, in two volumes octavo, professes to give a full account of the faith and order of these pious witnesses of the truth; but, so far as I have observed, [he] carefully leaves out of all their public formularies, and other documents everything which would disclose their pædobaptist principles and practice! On this artifice comment is unnecessary.
The Puritans made many posters, even in their day, to aid church members in understanding Scriptural truth. I created this new poster to cover the Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.
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