committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

BAPTIST THOROUGH REFORMERS

LECTURE V

THE SECOND FEATURE OF THE REFORM AT WHICH BAPTISTS AIM –
THE RESTORATION OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM

"My kingdom is not of this world" – John xviii. 36.

 

       THERE was much misapprehension, during the ministry of Christ on the earth, concerning the nature of that kingdom which he was about to establish. It was most generally supposed, that it would be a temporal kingdom, differing from others only in its superior external splendor, its brilliant warlike achievements, and its universal extent. It was this false idea, that so perplexed Herod, at the announcement of the birth of the infant Saviour. It was this false idea that led the Jews to reject their Messiah, when he appeared among them in the chararter of the meek and lowly One. It was this false idea that led the disciples, just before the ascension of Christ, to ask, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?"

        The principles to which the Saviour gave utterance, were calculated to remove these false impressions from the minds of all who had imbibed them. He taught his followers to cherish a spirit of self-denial, and humility, and peace. Every act of his life, and every word of his lips, bore testimony to the fact that he came not to set up an earthly empire, but a spiritual kingdom; and when he uttered the words of the tezt, "My kingdom is not of this world," he simply gave an exposition of the principles he had been teaching during his life.

        When the apostles were enlightened by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they understood perfectly the nature of this declaration; and hence, tliey admitted none to visible membership in the gospel kingdom but those who gave evidence of repentence, and faith in Christ. They taught that the church of which Jesus is the Head, was a spiritual organization, composed not of those who came into it by hereditary descent, but of those who were born of the Spirit. But, there has been a departure from these principles; and organizations now exist, under the designation of Christian churches, which aim to unite the church and the world, and introduce the impious, and ungodly, and profane, into Christ's kingdom – thus reversing his declaration, that his "kingdom is not of this world." Against this innovation Baptists strenuous!y protest. We announce, then, as the Second Feature of the reform in which Baptists are engaged,

The Restoration of the Spirituality of Christs kingdom.

       Let us inquire here, How is it, that the principle expressed in the text came to be violated? How does it happen, that others than those possessing the qualifications demanded by the Gospel, come to have a place in Christ's professedly visible kingdom? How comes it to pass, that what is professedly Christ's church, is the receptacle of the godless and the vile? I reply, simply through the introduetion of the unscriptural rite of infant baptisrn. So long as the church followed the direction of her Lord, and baptized into her membership only those who gave evidence of faith, so long she retained her spirituality; but when she permitted tradition to add to the Word of God, and received into her membership infants, who grew up in sin and unbelief, then her spirituality was exchanged for worldliness – then she introduced a traitor into the citadel, who betrayed her into the hands of her enemies. In contending, then, for the baptism of believers only, we aim at the restoration of the principle expressed by the Saviour in the words of the text: "My kingdom is not of this world." I shall endeavor to show,

1. That Infant Baptism tends to the Violation of this Principle. It is an undeniable fact, that all Pedobaptist churches have contended that infants are proper subjects for membership in the church, arid therefore should be baptized. There are two opinions, however, as to the grounds of infant baptism. Some contend that the infants of professed believers should be baptized because they are already members of the church, by their natural birth, while others contend that they should be baptized in order to make them members. All Pedobaptists, however, agree, that infants are proper subjects for church membership, and by baptism they receive such to their membership. This is true, not only of the Church of Rome, but of all the Protestant Pedobaptist denominations, as can easily be shown by their Confessions of Faith and writings on the subject.

        The Episcopal minister, at the baptism of an infant, says: "We receive this child into the congregation of Christ's flock." And again: "Seeing that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's church." And in the prayer he thanks God that it hath pleased him "to regenerate this infant, and incorporate him into his holy church."[1] M. E. Church Discipline, Art. XVII, says: "Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized, but it is also a sign of regeneration, or the new birth. The baptism of young children is to be retained in the church." The Presbyterian Confession of Faith says: "The visible church consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children."[2] We are told again, that "Baptism is a sacrament," "whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible chureh."[3] "All baptized persons are members of the church, are under its care, and subject to its govermnent and discipline, and when they have arrived at years of discretion, they are bound to perform all the duties of church members."[4]

        This is the doctrine of all Pedobaptist denominations. Those baptized in infancy are considered as sustaining the relation of members. The propriety of this relation is urged in every possible way. Says one writer, "Infants may be the disciples of Christ. A disciple is a scholar; this is the meaning of the word. And a child is a scholar before he learns his lesson, as well as afterwards. He is reckoned a scholar when he is committed to the care of the instructor, or has his name put down with those who belong to the school whether he puts his name down himself, or whether his parents put it down for him. The church is the school of Christ. The names of all those to whom God's gracious covenant [baptism] is applied, belong upon the records of the church."[5] Here it is plainly taught that infants, by their baptism, are not only admitted into the church, but actually made disciples of Christ. Surely, Mr. Arnold had forgotten what Christ said, when he wrote the above: "If any man will be MY disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." However, I did not introduce this extract to combat it in this place, but simply to show that Pedobaptists contend for infant membership.

       Another writer says: "This relation of children to the chnrch is generally represerited, by the most respectable authors, as infant membership. Against this I can see no valid objections. In a very important, though in a very qualified sense, baptized children may be considered as infant members of the Christian church."[6]

        Says Dr. McDowell: "By baptism children become members of Christ's visible church." He says again, "Children by baptism, are brought under the watch-care of the church, and become the subjects of its wholesome discipline."[7]

        From these quotations, (and they might be increased indefinitely) it will be clearly seen that infants become members of Pedobaptist churches by baptism; and these infants are the constituent elements of which these churches are composed. Having thus been admitted members in infancy, they retain their connection with the church after they are grown up, however vicious and abandoned they may become. Thongh they are sometimes guilty of such vile crimes as to merit their exclusion from society, and their confinement in the penitentiary, still they are not excluded from the church; and though they sometimes die under the hand of the public executioner, without any evidence of repentance, they die as members of the church into which they were baptized. Is not this uniting the church and the world "until death doth them part?"

       Although these remarks apply, more particularly, to national churches – all of which are Pedobaptist – as the Romish, Greek, Lutheran and English Episcopal, who all receive and retain infant members, however vicious they may become, yet the same is true, in some sense of all other Pedobaptist churches. Dr. Woods, speaking of the duty of the church to its infant members, says: "On the question whether the church ever ought, by a public act, to cut off those who give evidence of obstinate impiety, there have been various opinions." "It is, in my view, utterly inexpedient to attempt to fix upon any particular age, at which those who were baptized in infancy, and who exhibit no evidence of piety, are to be abandoned by the church, as those for whom no farther efforts are to be made. For, suppose you fix upon the age of eighteen, or twenty, or twenty-one; who can be sure that a youth at that age though without any evidence of regeneration, may not be in a state of mind which is more susceptible of good impressions, and which affords more hope of salvation, than at any period of his life before? Now if any person should be in this state, and the church should adopt a principle like what I have referred to, they must forthwith exclude such a person from all the advantages of their Christian friendship; and they must do this at a time when those advantages would be most highly prized." "We are not to attend to present appearances; but are to consider the forbearance and longsuffering of God, and the multiplied instances in which His grace has visited those who had long lived in sin, and who, in human apprehension, had been fitted for destruction. And when those who have been devoted to. God in baptism, wander far and long from the path of duty, and show fearful symptoms of obduracy, we are not quickly to despair of their salvation, but are to follow them with every effort which the sincerest love can dictate. And when no other effort seems to promise any good, we are to abound in prayer, relying on the infinite grace of God, and earnestly hoping that our prayers will prevail and that our children will at length be persuaded to consider their ways, and turn to the Lord."[8]

        From this it will be perceived that those who are made members of Pedobaptist churches in infancy continue such when grown up – that they are not to be excluded no matter how ungodly they become, so long as hopes may be entertained of their conversion; or, in other words, so long as they live. This, we know, is the practice of Pedobaptists universally. Is not this uniting the church and the world?

        Now let it be remembered, that I have thus far confined my remarks to the effects of infant membership where only the children of professedly pious parents are admitted into the church by their baptisin in infancy. How much more palpable does this evil appear, when we extend our observation to the practice – which exists, to a, greater or less extent, in almost; every Pedobaptist commnnity – of baptizing the children of unconverted parents. The majority of Pedobaptists do not require piety as a condition in the parents, but simply a desire to have their children christened. There is nothing in the standards of any Pedobaptist church that actually prohibits the baptism of children of unconverted parents. The Presbyterian Confession of Faith appears to prescribe limits, but it does not actually do so, nor is it so understood by the ministry of that church. Says Dr. McDowell, "Seeing that a person by baptism has becorne a member of the visible church, although destitute of piety, and althongh he gives the church no evidence of visible piety, yet on what ground, or in what way can he be kept back from baptism for his child? I answer, let him be seriously and solem?ly told the nature of baptism," etc. " If this were properly done, it would have a great effect in keeping back many improper persons."[9] I might, if it were necessary, furnish instances where Presbyterian ministers have baptized the children of unconverted parents without the least hesitation. But the worst feature of all is, that in some cases unconverted persons are urged to bring their children to baptism. Suppose, however, that in all cases, none but the children of truly pious parents were admitted to infant baptism and membership – would this remove the evil? Are such children any better than others? No; for like all others, they are born with carnal and depraved natures. They are of the world – they belong to it; and notwithstanding their religious parentage, they are "children of wrath even as others," until regenerated by the Holy Spirit. As they advance toward maturity, they exhibit the same enmity to God, and the same evil passions, and the same sinful inclinations manifested by others. Some of them become notoriously vile; yet they are not to be excluded; but they retain their membership, into which they were brought in their infancy, and continue in it to the day of their death.

        Now this is directly opposed to Christ's declaration: "My kingdom is not of this world." It is directly opposed to the practice of the apostles. It is directly opposed to the New Testament description of church members. They are there described as a spiritual seed, lively stones, saints, sincere believers. But are baptized infants of this description? Do they possess the qualities which in the New Testament are invariably ascribed to church members? By no means. And yet they are received into what are professedly evangelical churches; and thus the spirituality of Christ's kingdom has been destroyed by infant baptiam." The church of Christ, bought with his blood, and ordained by him to be the fold of his sheep, the home of the renewed, in the world but not of it, has been robbed of its true design, by being converted into a common receptacle for the pure and the impure – a great drag-net, inclosing all alike."

        Infant baptism tends directly to amalgamate the church with the world. It is by means of this, that the church of Rome has spread her baneful influenee over so many nations. This is abundantly evident from the fact, that through the christening of children she has made whole nations nominally Christian, teaching just what all other churches who baptize infants teach, that by their baptism they are made members of the church of Christ. Thus do Protestant Pedobaptista indorse the false teachings of Rome, and give their strength to the Beast, by propping up the main pillar on which Antichrist rests! I proceed to show

2. That the practice of Baptists is in accordance with the teachings of Christ. Baptists regard the kingdom of Christ as a purely spiritnal organization, separate and distinct from the world. Acting upon this conviction, they admit none to baptism and membership, but such as profess their faith in Jesus, and give satisfactory evidenee that they have "passed from death unto life." They recognize no herediiary claims to the covenant of grace. They claim no "holiness" for their off-spring, arising from their natural birth, which entitles them to a place in God's spiritual temple; but regarding them as carnal, depraved and unholy, they constantly feel the importance of urging upon them their own personal obligations to "repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ;" while infant damnation has no place in their creed, for the simple reason that, like infant baptism, its suppoeed antidote, it is not found in the Bible. They aim to show that Christ's "kingdom is not of this world." They receive none but professed converts, and when these walk disorderly, they withdraw themselves from them. They are laboring to reform both Protestant and Papal Christendom on this point, which they regard of vital importance to the best interests of the church and the world. Let their prineiples prevail, and there can be no unhallowed union of Ctiureh and State, no amalgamation of Christ's kingdom with the world; but the Churc:h, with undimmed lustre will shine forth, her glory unobscured, her ordinances uncorrupted, and her membership uncontaminated, and instead of being "the mistress of the State, or the courtesan of the world – as pedobaptism has in too many instances made her – she will appear in all her loveliness as the Bride of Christ!"

        From these remarks it will be seen, that infant baptism is not that harmless, innocent thing which many suppose it to be; but the parent of gigantic evils; the fruitful source of the existence of state churches, and most of the corruptions flowing therefrom; the instigator of all the persecutions which have ever been waged in the name of Christianity; a lying refuge and hiding-place of falsehood to ensnare and ruin souls; in short, the originator and propagator of Popery.

        Infant baptism is an error from beginning to end – corrupt in theory and corrupting in practice; born in superstition, cradled in fear, nursed in ignorance, supported by fraud, and spread by force. With a tyrant hand it has shed the blood of martyrs in torrents in all lands. The introduction of infant baptism was the death-knell of religions liberty in the Christian communities where it was practiced. The first persecutions ever raised in the name of Christianity, were waged by the advocates of infant baptism against those who, adhering to the teachings of Christ and the apostles, denied its validity. The council of Carthage (A. D. 414) passed the following canon: "We will that whosoever denies that little children by baptism are freed from perdition and eternally saved, that they be accursed." The edict of Honorius and Valentinian III. (A. D. 418) forbids rebaptism throughout the Roman empire under the penalty of death. This of course was aimed at those who considered infant baptism as unscriptural, and immersed believers after they had confessed their faith in Christ, even though they had been baptized in infaney. Justinian, in the beginning of the sixth century, ordered new-born infants to be baptized, under a penalty for neglecting it. Under laws like these, enforced as they were in the middle ages with new and most sanguinary edicts in all the states of Europe, what multitudes must have become martyrs, may be conjectured from the fact that at the time of the Reformation Baptist martyrs were counted by tens and even hundreds of thousands.

        Now, as we love the Word of God, the commands and example of Christ, the purity of the Christian Church, and the souls of men, we are bound unceasingly to labor for the extermination of this monster evil, this child of Tradition! In seeking to effect this reform, we shall use no carnal weapons, but simply adhere to the word of God, the precepts of Christ, and the practice of the apostles, and urge all others to do the same.

        You perceive again, that while we differ from most other evangelical bodies merely as to an external ordinance, apparently, here is another great principle involved in that difference. Let me urge all to seek from the Bible a knowledge of the characteristics of those who composed the primitive churches, and see whether they will apply to the constituents of Pedobaptist churches. And if not, then "come out frorn amoug them," and aid those who are laboring to effect a reform which will restore the spirituality of the church, and clothe it with that moral beauty and attractiveness of which pedobaptism has shorn it. If you do this, and are proselyted, you will have proselyted yourselves; and such are the only kind of proselytes Baptists can make.

        In concluding this lecture, I cannot refrain from saying a few words to those who have been baptized in infancy, and are yet conscious that they have never been "born again." I am induced to do this, because I am reminded that my attention was first led to a candid investigation of the subject of baptism, by discovering that, though unconverted, I was a member of the church, – having been made so by my baptism in infancy. This incongruous position you sustain. Though in the world, and of the world, you are also in the church, and of the church! You are not responsible, I am aware, for the inconsistency of the position you occupy. You were brought into it while in unconscious infancy, without your knowledge and consent. But, I inquire, do you not feel that such a relation is perfectly inconsistent with your own ideas of what the Bible teaches? A moment's reflection, I feel confident, if you are really Protestants, will convince you of it. At all events, I urge you, as Protestants, to search the Bible in reference to this matter, with the hope that you may be led, as I was, to see your unfitness for a place in Christ's kingdom, and to seek and obtain salvation through Jesus Christ, and then act consistently, by uniting with those who aim to restore the spirituality of Christ's church, by faithfully adhering to his own declaration; – "My kingdom is not of this world."

 

[1] Ministration of baptism of infants.

[2] Westminster Confession, chap. xxv. sec. 2.

[3] Larger Catechism, question 165.

[4] Discipline of the Presbyterian church in the United States, chap. i. sec. 7.

[5] A.Discourse on the Proper subjects of Christian Baptism, by Rev, Samuel Arnold, p. 10, 11.

[6] Rev. Dr. Woods, Lectures on Infant Baptism, p. 170.

[7] Theology, vol. ii. pp. 493, 494.

[8] Lectures on Infant Baptism, p. 173-175.

[9] Theology, vol. ii. p. 484.

 
 
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