Introductory RemarksPaedobaptist Concessions.
Baptists are often asked for information respecting the history of their distinctive opinions and practices. Inquirers say that statements various and even contradictory are made in their hearing, and they are very desirous of being put on the right track, so that they may be able to correct the erroneous and expose the false. It is the object of this work to endeavour to meet their wishes.
Let us begin with the New Testament. Who can read that blessed book with serious attention without coming to the conclusion that the religion of which it treats is personal and voluntary, and that none are worthy to be called Christians but those who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh? (Phil. iii:3). When Moses addressed the Israelites, and exhorted them to obedience, he included their children in his exhortations, because the children were in the covenant. Judaism, with all its privileges and responsibilities, was hereditary. The rights and duties of the parents became the rights and duties of their offspring, as such. It is not so under the New Dispensation. Men are not born Christians, but they become Christians, when they repent and believe. As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John i:12, 13). Judaism was a national institute: Christianity is an individual blessing. The Jews were a nation, dealt with as such, and separated from other nations Christians are believers, taken out of all nations, and in Christianity there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all (Col. iii:II). Hence, when the Apostles wrote to Christian churches their mode of address was altogether different from that adopted by Moses. They did not say, you and your children, or represent the children as in covenant with God, and therefore entitled to certain rights and bound to the performance of certain duties. The churches to which they sent their epistles were spiritual societiesthat is, associations of individuals professing repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom they had surrendered themselves, as their Prophet, Priest, and King. If those individuals were parents, they were taught to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; but their children were not classed with them, as the children of the Jews were, nor could they be, till they themselves also repented and believed. It is an obvious inference, that no modern society deserves to be called a Christian Church, which is not founded on such principles as have now been explained.
If you were to place a New Testament in the hands of an intelligent, impartial person, who had never heard of our divisions and denominations, what idea would he be likely to form of the spirit and design of Christianity, or of a Christian Church? Would he not see, in every part of the book, appeals to mens understandings and emotions, and such requisitions as could be addressed to those only who were capable of thinking and acting for themselves? Would he not conclude that Christianity has to do with mindthat a Christian must be a man of repentance and faith, and that a church is a voluntary society, formed of such men?
We come to the question of baptism. What is baptism? It is the answer of a good conscience toward God (i Peter iii:21). It is putting on Christ (Gal. iii:27). It is the voluntary act of a believer, an act of obedience and self-dedication. Such is the uniform tenor of the history. So the multitudes went out to John, even all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan (Mark i:5). So the Samaritans, when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, were baptized, both men and women (Acts viii:12). Mark it wellmen and women,no children! So, in later times, the baptized were reminded of their obligations: We are buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life (Rom. vi:4).
The New Testament tells of the baptism of believers, and of churches composed of believers. We read of no other baptism, no other churches. It will not do to say in reply that all who were baptized were not believers, and that all the members of Apostolic churches were not sincere. There were, doubtless, hypocrites then, as there are hypocrites now. Even the Apostles were sometimes deceived. But this does not affect the case. All who were baptized professed to be believers, and were baptized as such. The profession of faith was held to be essential to baptism and to church fellowship. None could profess faith who were incapable of understanding the faith. The act of profession implied approbation, conviction, choice.
This, then, is the starting point. Here is the beginning of the history of baptism. With the New Testament only before us, we find baptism connected with the profession of faith. It is a personal, voluntary act; and such an act only is befitting Christianity.
But in the Christianity of the nineteenth century, or what is called such, there is a service of another kind. It is sprinklingnot immersion; and the subjects are infantsnot believers. How is this? In what manner was it introduced? How and when did it originate?
These questions will be answered hereafter. This section will be closed by placing before the reader a few extracts from P?obaptist writers of the nineteenth century, showing how the learned men of these times regard the subject, from an historical point of view.
NORTH BRITISH REVIEW, Presbyterian (article ascribed to the Rev. Dr. Hanna). Scripture knows nothing of the baptism of infants. There is absolutely not a single trace of it to be found in the New Testament.1
PROFESSOR JACOBI, University of Berlin, Reformed Church. Infant baptism was established neither by Christ nor by the Apostles. In all places where we find the necessity of baptism notified, either in a dogmatic or historical point of view, it is evident that it was only meant for those who were capable of comprehending the word preached, and of being converted to Christ by an act of their own will.2
DR. HAGENBACH, Basle, Reformed Church. The passages from Scripture which are thought to intimate that infant baptism had come into use in the Primitive Church, are doubtful, and prove nothing.3
NEANDER, the Church Historian. Baptism was administered at first only to adults, as men were accustomed to conceive baptism and faith as strictly connected. We have all reason for not deriving infant baptism from Apostolic institution; and the recognition of it which followed somewhat later, as an Apostolical tradition, serves to confirm this hypothesis. . . . In respect to the form of baptism, it was, in conformity with the original institution and the original import of the symbol, performed by immersion, as a sign of entire baptism into the Holy Spirit, of being entirely penetrated by the same.4
PROFESSOR STUART, late of Andover, Congregationalist. There are no commands, or plain and certain examples, in the New Testament relative to infant baptism.5
DR. HODGE, of Princeton, New Jersey, Presbyterian. In no part of the New Testament is any other condition of membership in the Church prescribed than that contained in the answer of Philip to the eunuch who desired baptism. The Church, therefore, is in its essential nature a company of believers.6
DR. WOODS, Congregationalist. We have no express precept or example for infant baptism in all our holy writings.7
DR. CHALMERS, Presbyterian. The original meaning of the word baptism is immersion; and though we regard it as a point of indifference whether the ordinance so named be performed this way or by sprinkling, yet we doubt not that the prevalent style of the administrations in the Apostles days was of an actual submersion of the whole body under water.8
DR. BLOOMFIELD, Episcopalian. There is here (Rom. 6:4) plainly a reference to the ancient mode of baptism by immersion; and I agree with Koppe and Rosenm?ler (two German commentators), that there is reason to regret it should have been abandoned in most Christian churches, especially as it has so evidently a reference to the mystic sense of baptism.9
Rev. W. J. CONYBEARE, M.A., Episcopalian. This passage (Rom. 6:4) cannot be understood unless it be borne in mind that the primitive baptism was by immersion.10
Many more quotations might be given, but these will be sufficient. It will be observed that none of these writers are Baptists. But they do not venture to affirm that infant sprinkling is derived from the New Testament. Learned P?obaptist generally admit that believers only were baptized in Apostolic times.
1 August, 1852.
2 Kittos Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature. Art. Baptism.
3 History of Doctrines, i. 193.
4 History of the Church, i. 310, 311.
5 Haynes Baptist Denomination, p. 31.
8 Lectures on Romans, ch. vi. 4.
9 Critical Digest, in loc.
10 Life and Writings of St. Paul, ii. American Edition.
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved