THE EVILS OF INFANT BAPTISM
By Robert Boyt C. Howell
INFANT BAPTISM IS AN EVIL BECAUSE ITS PRACTICE IS UNSUPPORTED BY THE WORD OF GOD.
Proposition stated; no authority in the Bible for infant baptism; confessions or its advocates; the great Protestant rule in religion; their arguments; it is no baptism; forms of the evil.
PERFECTION on earth, in its absolute form, unhappily no longer exists.
"Man?s first disobedience" brought sin into the world. Evil was its attendant. And since that fatal hour, evil has been connected with all that pertains to our race! It is like the air we breathe, an ever present influence. It corrupts all that is pure, and impairs all that is beautiful. Where are the natural beings whose perfection?s it has not disturbed? What rule of moral action is there, from compliance with which it has not turned men aside? But these are not its most lamentable developments. Evil is found prevailing even in the professed churches of Christ! Nor is its presence in the sanctuary seldom apparent. Scarcely is there a feature in our holy religion, which it has not somewhere, marred or distorted! In no form, however, has it afflicted the cause of truth and salvation more grievously, than in that of infant baptism; a rite generally prevalent, but without divine authority; repulsive in itself, and in its consequences always injurious. This declaration I hold myself bound, in the following pages, to sustain by adequate testimony. At present I solicit your attention to the proposition announced: "Infant baptism is an evil because it is unsupported by the word of God."
It is assumed that infant baptism is unsupported by the word of God. This is the subject of the proposition. If, upon examination, it be found true, the predicate, that it is an evil, follows as a matter of course. The forms and bearing of that evil may then be considered. Is infant baptism supported by the word of God? I aver that it is not. It is nowhere commanded. It is nowhere, in any form, divinely authorized. Examine the holy record, from first to last, and you will discover not a trace of infant baptism. If it is anywhere commanded, or authorized, the passages in which that fact appears, can be produced. Where are they? Let them be forthcoming. We have a right to see, and to examine them, for ourselves. We demand the texts. But this demand has before been often made, and always in vain. They have never been produced. They have not yet been found. They never can be found. They do not exist. The word of God, in all its length and breadth, contains not a syllable of authority for infant baptism, in the form of command, of precept, of permission, of example, or in any other form whatever. In that sacred book not one word in relation to it, is anywhere uttered. He who claims divine authority for infant baptism, must justify himself by adducing it. Until he does so, the least that can be said of it, is that "it is unsupported by the word of God."
The authority demanded, has however often been essayed. Learned, ingenious, and protracted efforts have been attempted by every sect into which Pedobaptist Christendom is divided. But as if God had determined to defend his own truth by the individual conflicts of its adversaries, it has turned out that no two of them have been able to harmonize either as to what may be regarded as testimony in the premises, or the class of infants divinely authorized to be baptized! Each is in collision with every other.
Wall, Hammond, and others of that school, claim that Jewish proselyte baptism is its broad and ample foundation. Owen, Jennings, and many more, repudiate Jewish proselyte baptism, and predicate it upon circumcision as taught in the Abrahamic covenant. Beza, Doddridge, and their associates, teach that children are holy, and are therefore to be baptized. Wesley, and his disciples, teach that they are unholy, and must be baptized to cleanse them from their defilements. Burder, Dwight, and their class, permit no other infants to be baptized but those of Christian parents, all of whom they contend, are born in the church, and are therefore entitled to its ordinances. Baxter, Henry, and those of similar faith, baptize infants to bring them into the covenant and church of the Redeemer. The evangelical divines of the Church of England, and of the Episcopal Church of America, tell us that the doctrine of infant baptism is deduced by analogical reasoning, from statements of scripture applying more expressly, to the case of adult baptism." But those of the opposite character teach that baptism gives to the infant the regeneration of the Holy Ghost, and must therefore be administered. Many others receive and practice it, because, as they say, "It is in consonance with the general spirit of religion!" Each of these theories shows all the others to be wholly destitute of scriptural support. Among the several classes of religionists now indicated, are to be found very many men of the most extensive learning and research. Why are they all thus in hopeless conflict on the subject? The moment one brings forward his scriptural proofs of infant baptism, all the others clearly show them to be utterly false. Could this be the case were the ordinance anywhere enjoined or authorized? Every unprejudiced mind must see that, taken together, the arguments of all classes of Pedobaptists, destroy one another throughout. Like the builders at Babel, no two of them speak the same tongue, although every one protests that he utters the language of the Bible! It is true consequently, for any thing that yet appears to the contrary, that infant baptism is unsupported by the word of God.
But we have testimony in proof of our proposition still stronger if possible, than any which has yet been submitted. Very many of the most learned and pious Pedobaptist Biblical critics, themselves candidly confess that infant baptism is not distinctly enjoined, nor directly taught, in the word of God. Some of these I will now proceed to specify.
Martin Luther, the great father of the Reformation, says:?"It cannot be proved by the scriptures, that infant baptism was instituted by Christ, or begun by the first Christians after the apostles."1 John Calvin testifies thus:?"It is nowhere expressly mentioned by the evangelists, that any child was by the apostles baptized."2 Bishop Burner avers: "There is no express precept, or rule given in the New Testament for the baptism of infants.3 "Strarck says:?"The connection of infant baptism with circumcision deserves no consideration, since there were physical reasons for circumcising in infancy."4 Angusti says:?"The parallel between circumcision and baptism is altogether foreign to the New Testament."5
Bishop Jeremy Taylor thus writes:?"For the argument from circumcision, it is invalid from infinite considerations. Figures and types prove nothing, unless a command go along with them, or some express to signify such to be their purpose."6 Dr. Woods of Andover remarks:?"It is a plain case that there is no express precept respecting infant baptism in our sacred writings. The proof then, that it is a divine institution must be made out in some other way."7 Prof. Stuart says:?"Commands, or plain and certain examples in the New Testament, relative to it [infant baptism] I do not find."8 And finally Dr. Neander declares:?"As baptism was closely united with a conscious entrance on Christian communion, faith and baptism were always connected with one another; and thus it is in the highest degree probable, that baptism was performed only in instances where both could meet together, and that the practice of infant baptism was unknown" to the apostolic age.9 In another work Neander says:
"Baptism was at first, administered 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."10
Multitudes of other similar declarations could, were they necessary, be readily produced, but these are amply sufficient. It is acknowledged that the word of God does not teach infant baptism. This acknowledgment is made candidly, by those who ought to know, since they were among the most learned men, and best Biblical critics the world has ever produced, made against themselves, voluntarily, freely, and of their own accord, and ought therefore to be considered decisive of the question. Infant baptism is not found in any form in the Bible. Every effort to deduce it from the sacred records, no matter how ingeniously conducted, has proved a wretched failure. It is confessed by its advocates that it is not found in the inspired pages. Infant baptism is therefore, unsupported by the word of God.
May I now, in view of all these facts, and considerations, solicit your attention to the great Protestant principle in religion, so familiarly known to all who are in the least conversant with sacred literature??"The word of God is a perfect rule of faith and practice." To this maxim every evangelical denomination professes to bow with entire submission. It avows the scriptures to be not the supreme authority only, but also the sole authority, in all that pertains to religion. It repudiates all tradition. It looks not to the Fathers of the church of whatever period, except in so far as they are sustained by the divine word. It relies exclusively upon the scriptures. If any doctrine or practice be there clearly taught, it must be received heartily, and fully. If otherwise, you dare not admit it. "The word of God is a perfect rule of faith and practice."
For myself, and for my brethren?although we are not Protestants?I declare for this Christian law in religion the sincerest reverence. We receive it fully, and conform to it in every respect. We do this however, not simply because it is wise in principle, and safe in practice, but because it is really an embodiment in another form, of the law of God himself. It comes to us with the sanction not of men only, but of God. The language of Jehovah on the subject is this:
What thing soever I command you, observe to do it. Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." (Deuteronomy 12:3.)
And in another place he says:
"Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2.)
Is not this a plain declaration, in other terms, that, "The word of God is a perfect rule of faith and practice?" Does any one suppose that since these precepts had a more direct reference to the law of Moses, that they are not equally applicable under the gospel? To such it may be replied, that the law was much less perfect than is the gospel. Did our Heavenly Father enforce the obligations of the former with the most jealous particularity, and is he less careful as to our compliance with the demands of the latter? Such an objection is unreasonable. It is. also in direct conflict with apostolic teaching. To this very topic Paul refers, when he says:
"God, who at sundry times, and in diverse manners, spake in times past to the fathers, by the prophets hath in these last days spoken unto us, by his Son." (Hebrews 1:1)
"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels [messengers, in the law] was steadfast, and every transgression, and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and diverse miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost?" (Hebrews 2:1-4.)
"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we refuse him that speaketh from heaven." (Hebrews 12:25.)
Thus it is seen that if the inspired apostle knew where of he affirmed, and reasoned not illogically, it is unquestionably true that the gospel requires to be obeyed, not with less, but with more carefulness, particularity, and fidelity than did the law. To no commandment of the gospel therefore, may you add any thing whatever; neither may you diminish aught from it. You are obliged to obey, and in the manner en joined, all that Jehovah has there revealed for your guidance. It is "the word of God," and that "is a perfect rule of faith and practice."
But we are constantly told that the gospel, unlike the law, is in many respects, indefinite in its instructions, giving only the outlines, and great principles of religion, and leaving the details to be filled up by the wisdom and pious discretion of the followers of Christ. He who has arrived at this conclusion has wholly mistaken the subject. If the word of God is a perfect rule of faith and practice, then the assumption cannot possibly be true. It is unreasonable in itself; it is in conflict with the inspired teachings just recited; and it proceeds on the false assumption that the gospel is less perfect than the law! On the contrary, in the gospel every duty required is distinctly enjoined. No one need mistake its authority, or its nature. That rule is certainly not perfect, to whatever department of life it may pertain, which only sketches general principles, and great outlines, and leaves the details to be supplied by each individual in such manner as may seem to him most proper. The word of God is no such rule. It is perfect. It is disfigured by neither redundancy nor defect. It must be obeyed in all things, without addition, diminution or change. You can never depart from it in any particular, without incurring imminent peril.
It is proper to remark in passing, that our Pedobapist brethren have yet another method of satisfying themselves that infant baptism is scriptural. When, as we have seen, Dr. Woods stated that since, "It is a plain case that there is no express precept concerning infant baptism in our sacred writings," and that consequently, "The proof that it is a divine institution must be made out in some other way," you were perhaps, at a loss to conceive what that "other way" could be. By what process can any ordinance be proved "a divine institution," in regard to which not a word is said "in our sacred writings?" No such thing can be done. Since the Bible is our only authority in all cases, the proof proposed is clearly impossible. We will, however, hear Dr. Woods. He obtains his proof thus:?"It cannot with any good reason, be denied, or doubted, that those Christian writers who have, in different ways, given testimony to the prevalence of infant baptism in the early ages of Christianity, are credible witnesses. Nor can it be denied that they were under the best advantages to know whether the practice commenced in the times of the apostles. On this subject, as they were not liable to mistake, so their testimony is entitled to full credit!"11 This is the method. It is by tradition, vouched by the Fathers, that Protestant Pedobaptists discover that the word of God teaches ordinances which are confessedly not in the word of God! These Protestants will not allow the papists to prove, in the same way, the divine authority for the invocation of saints, prayers for the dead, the use of holy water, and such like institutions," which they can do, readily and fully. They are Popish. But this is Protestant. If, therefore, the Fathers say, this was an apostolic tradition, it was an apostolic tradition! And more; in this matter, these same Fathers were not liable to mistake!" Their authority therefore, though entirely worthless when in favor of the Catholics, is when infant baptism is to be proved scriptural, as good at least, as that of the apostles, since of them no more can be said than that they were not liable to mistake! Who would have supposed that theological professors could have been guilty of reasoning so absurdly? The argument, it would seem, needs not a word of refutation. I would not stop to consider it, if Dr. Woods alone, relied upon such testimonies. But it is a common Pedobaptist resort. I will offer two or three examples.
Dr. Miller deposes thus regarding tradition:?"The history of the Christian church from the apostolic age, furnishes an argument of irresistible force, in favor of the divine authority of infant baptism." He proceeds:?"Can the most incredulous reader who is not fast bound in the fetters of invincible prejudice, hesitate to admit, first, that Augustine, and Pelagius, 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?"12 These men flourished four hundred years after Christ. The word of God says not a word about infant baptism. This however does not disconcert Dr. Miller. Augustine, and Pelagius, say it was an apostolic tradition. And this he says, is "an argument of irresistible force, in favor of the divine authority of infant baptism," and by which every one "not fast bound in the fetters of invincible prejudice," must be convinced. But these Fathers also declared that infant communion was an apostolic tradition.
This Dr. Miller does not regard as of any importance. Their testimony makes infant baptism scriptural; but it has no such effect upon infant communion! Was Dr. Miller dreaming when he uttered this logic? Richard Watson says:?"The antiquity of infant baptism," taken together with the other arguments, establish this practice of the church upon the strongest basis of scripture authority!" In another place he says:?"That a practice which can be traced up to the very first periods of the church, and has been till very modern times, its uncontradicted practice, should have a lower authority than apostolic usage, may be pronounced impossible."13 To these I will add the declaration of Mr. Hodges. He says:?"Were there no other testimony but that of Irenaeus alone, it seems to me, every unbiased and conscientious man must hold himself bound to continue infant baptism, were the scriptures even silent on the subject."14 By these and such like arguments, our Pedobaptist brethren essay to prove infant baptism scriptural, not by the scriptures, but by the Fathers. "It is a plain case," say they, "that there is no express precept respecting infant baptism in our sacred writings;" yet we are assured that the traditions of early times, vouched by the Fathers, "establish the divine authority of infant baptism with irresistible force." The Fathers say it was practiced in the time of the apostles, and "it was impossible that they should be mistaken!" It is not in the scriptures, but it is undeniably scriptural! And these men who so contradict themselves, and abuse common sense, are Protestant?s, who proclaim that "The word of God is a perfect rule of faith and practice," and who clamorously join in the cry, "The Bible, the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants." Yet totally aside from the Bible, and by tradition exclusively, they hold infant baptism. Thus they renounce, in this case at least, their professed Protestant principles, and return to the old and exploded dogmatism of Popery. Their position is utterly inconsistent, and cannot be maintained. They are in truth, compelled either to reject all the traditions, as they do all the teachings of the Fathers, which are not sustained by the word of God, and thus become Baptists; or, as in this instance, they must receive them all irrespective of their biblical character, and thus become avowed Roman Catholics. However this may be, by the confession that the Bible does not in itself teach it, they have surrendered the argument to us, and made the truth still more sure, that Infant baptism is unsupported by the word of God.
How unlike the reasoning of Woods, and Miller, Watson, and the rest, on patristic tradition, is that of their brother pedobaptist, the great Neander! He says: "Not till so late a period as?at least certainly not earlier than?Irenaeus appears a trace of infant baptism. That it first became recognized as an apostolic tradition in the course of the third century is evidence rather against, than for the admission of its apostolic origin, especially since, in the spirit of the age when Christianity appeared, there were many elements which must have been favorable to the introduction of infant baptism." These were "the same elements from which [afterwards] proceeded the notion of the magical effects of outward baptism; the notion of its absolute necessity for salvation; the notion which gave rise to the mythos that the apostles baptized the Old Testament saints in Hades.
How very much must infant baptism have corresponded with such a tendency, if it had been favored by tradition! It might indeed, be alleged on the other hand, that after infant baptism had long been recognized as an apostolical tradition, many other causes hindered its universal introduction, and the same causes might still earlier stand in the way of its spread, although a practice sanctioned by the apostles. But these causes could not have acted in this manner in the apostolic age. In later times we see the opposition between theory and practice, in this respect, actually coming forth. Besides, it is a different thing that a practice which could not altogether deny the marks of its later institution, although at last recognized as of apostolic founding, could not for a length of time, pervade the life of the church; and that a practice really proceeding from apostolic institution, and tradition, notwithstanding the authority that introduced it, and the circumstances in its favor arising from the spirit of the times, should not yet [in the third century] have been generally adopted. And if we wish to ascertain from whom such an institution was originated, we should say certainly, not immediately from Christ himself. Was it from the primitive church in Palestine, from an injunction given by the earlier apostles? But among the Jewish Christians circumcision was held as a seal of the covenant, and hence they had so much less occasion to make use of another dedication for their children. Could it have been Paul who first among heathen Christians introduced this alteration in the use of baptism?
But this would agree least of all with the peculiar Christian characteristics of this apostle. He who says of himself that Christ sent him not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; he who always kept his eye fixed on one thing, justification by faith, and so carefully avoided every thing which could give a handle or support to the notion of a justification by outward things; how could he have set up infant baptism against the circumcision that continued to be practiced by the Jewish Christians? In this case the dispute carried on with the Judaizing party, on the necessity of circumcision, would easily have given an opportunity of introducing this substitute into the controversy, if it had really existed. The evidence arising from silence on this topic has therefore the greater weight."15 Thus this distinguished scholar, and Ecclesiastical Historian, disposes of the question about which others are so confident, whether infant baptism was really an apostolical tradition. He fully proves the whole to be an utter fiction, not less gross than that which insisted that "the apostles baptized the Old Testament saints in Hades."
There is still one other argument however, which is supposed by many, to be sufficient to sustain infant baptism upon a scriptural basis, as a "divine institution." I am told It is not forbidden in the word of God. It may therefore be practiced. Not forbidden, forsooth! Infant baptism not forbidden in the word of God! It may therefore, be practiced! And is this the fashion of your argument? Upon this principle what may you not do? You are obliged to baptize all to whom God has commanded the ordinance to be administered; and you may also baptize all others whose baptism he has not expressly forbidden! What shall I say of a proposition so monstrous? Its folly can be concealed from no one, who will think for a single moment on the subject. Need I enter into its formal refutation? This is surely unnecessary. Yet, since the argument is so easy and plain, it may be as well to prove that infant baptism is in truth, actually prohibited by the word of God.
It is prohibited, in the first place, by the fact that it is unrecognized in the sacred records, as a divine institution. The great Christian axiom which teaches that "The word of God is a perfect rule of faith and practice," is, as we have seen, adopted by every Protestant denomination upon the face of the earth. We have, besides this, seen that it is fully sustained by the teachings of divine revelation, and that no other principle in religion, can be true in theory, or safe in practice. Whatever God has revealed, we are bound to receive in the love of it, and to obey with reverence, and fidelity, without addition, diminution, or change. Infant baptism, we have clearly seen, is not taught in the Bible. Its friends and advocates confess that it does not there appear, and therefore they vainly seek to sustain it by tradition, and the authority of early Christian Fathers. Is all this true? Is the word of God not a perfect rule of faith and practice? Are you, as taught by Moses and Paul, permitted to add any thing to the commandments of God, or to diminish aught from them? Dare you receive any doctrine as an article of faith. Or practice any rite as a Christian ordinance, not taught, and instituted by Jehovah? To these inquires who will venture an affirmative answer? No one, surely. Is infant baptism directly enjoined in the word of God? It confessedly is not. Then it is not by the word of God allowed. It is unlawful. And that which cannot be allowed, because it is not lawful, is clearly prohibited. Thus God has, in his word, clearly prohibited infant baptism.
Infant baptism is prohibited, secondly, by the apostolic commission. This is the "law of baptism" instituted by Jesus Christ himself, and the "only law, as Baxter justly observes, "he ever ordained on the subject." As recorded by Mark, it has the following reading:?"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved." This statue is perfectly simple and perspicuous. It ordains first, that the gospel shall be preached; secondly, that it shall be preached to every creature; thirdly, that all those who believe the gospel shall be baptized; and fourthly, it promises that those who so believe, and are baptized, shall be saved. These are all positive declarations. Every positive necessarily has its negative. And does not every one know that the requirement of the positive is, as a general rule, the prohibition of the negative? When God commands you to do a specified thing, the command embraces that particular thing only; and all that is not embraced is, by the very terms of the order, necessarily excluded. Especially is forbidden whatever is inconsistent with the faithful performance of the duty enjoined. All these are self-evident truths. Let them be applied to the law of baptism as contained in the commission. Only those are permitted to preach who are called of God to the work; they are not allowed to preach, as coming from Christ, any thing but the gospel; and those, and those alone, who believe the gospel, they are required to baptize. The persons to be baptized are minutely described. They are believers. Believers therefore, and believers only, are to be baptized. A law to baptize believers is necessarily confined in its administration to believers. It embraces no others. To baptize any others is a violation of the law. It is unlawful. It is prohibited. Infants are not believers. The baptism of infants supersedes and prevents the baptism of believers, and is therefore inconsistent with a faithful compliance with the law. Every violation of the law is unlawful, and consequently prohibited. Infant baptism is a violation of the law; is therefore unlawful; and consequently by the law itself, clearly prohibited. Infant baptism, thirdly, is prohibited by the very nature and design of baptism. This ordinance was instituted and enjoined as the form in which you publicly profess your faith in Christ, and devote yourself to his service. Paul so teaches when he says, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Episcopalians and Methodists consent to this truth when they concur in the declaration that it "is a sign of profession, and a mark of difference, whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized."16 Presbyterians and Congregationalists, of all classes, regard it as "not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also," of "his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life."17 In this great fact, therefore, all parties are in theory agreed. I now submit the inquiry whether such a profession of faith, and devotion to Christ, as baptism expresses, must not necessarily be a voluntary and intelligent act, on the part of the baptized? To me no fact appears more certain. To those who are incapable of such voluntary and intelligent action, baptism can never be administered. Infants cannot profess their faith, even if they had any faith to profess. They cannot devote themselves to Christ. By the very nature of the ordinance, therefore, since they are incapable of compliance with its demands, they cannot be baptized. Any baptism which is unreasonable and inconsistent, because it does not embrace the design, nor express the sense of the ordinance, is unlawful, and therefore prohibited. Infant baptism is unreasonable and inconsistent, because it does not embrace the design, nor express the sense of the ordinance. It is therefore unlawful. It is prohibited.
It must now, I think, be evident to every unprejudiced mind that infant baptism is by the word of God actually prohibited. It is prohibited by the fact that it is unrecognized in the sacred records, as a divine institution; it is prohibited by the terms of the apostolic commission; and it is prohibited by the very nature and design of baptism.
My proposition is thus fully established. We have seen that "Infant baptism is not supported by the word of God," because it is not found to be instituted, or in any manner authorized in the inspired records; because the different sects who imagine that they find it there, prove the contrary by their mutual refutation of each other; because the most pious and learned among pedobaptists themselves, confess it is not directly taught in the sacred writings; because the great Christian axiom which teaches that the divine word is our sole authority in religion, does not permit us to receive as scriptural what is not recognized in the scriptures; because the attempt to make it a divine institution by the testimony of the Fathers, through the medium of tradition, is a miserable failure; and because it is really and distinctly forbidden in the word of God. Infant. baptism is, in truth, therefore, no baptism at all. God in his word, does not recognize it as baptism. It never can be recognized as baptism by the people of God. It is exclusively an institution of men foisted surreptitiously into the religion of Christ. It is therefore a most appalling evil. Some of the forms and bearings of this evil may now not improperly be considered.
It betrays ministers into most fearful presumption. When an infant is baptized the minister performs the rite professedly, in the name, and by the authority of Jesus Christ! But Jesus Christ never authorized any such thing! On the contrary, he has discountenanced and forbidden it! What then, shall be said of the act? What magistrate in civil society would venture, under pretense of law, to do a thing, and especially in his official capacity, for the sanction of which no law could be produced, and which by existing laws, according to any reasonable interpretation, is plainly prohibited? Such an officer would act most presumptuously. He would violate his trust. In what well-regulated community would his administration long be endured? And shall ministers of religion thus conduct themselves, and that too without compunction, and without rebuke? In this unauthorized and prohibited ceremony of infant baptism, shall they not only meet no discountenance, but on the contrary be sustained, and defended? How can a conscientious servant of Christ occupy a position so revolting, and abhorrent?
But ministers are not alone concerned in this evil. Infant baptism must create in the minds of the people generally, who are under its influence, a want of proper respect for the word of God. The habit of acting without law, and in opposition to law, leads to this result inevitably. This truth is so obvious that no argument is needed in its support. May men do, under pretense of law, the most important acts for which no law can be produced? May they indeed, do all these things, and be sustained in them, even in opposition to law? How long then, will it be to them a matter of any special concern what the law may require? They are not obliged to conform to its demands. They may do what they please with impunity, without regard to law! Do they any longer yield a due respect to the law?
Do they feel for it any special deference? Assuredly they do not. In civil society this is true, and it is pre-eminently true in religion. Infant baptism necessarily destroys respect for the authority of the word of God.
The evil is still more striking in the fact, that it is a bold attempt to perfect that which it is vainly conceived God has left imperfect. It is greatly more criminal to do in the name of Jesus Christ, what he has not commanded, than it is not to do what he has commanded, since when you fall short you thereby confess the difficulty of obedience, but when you go beyond, you impugn his wisdom. In the former case you acknowledge your own deplorable weakness. In the latter, and especially when you claim what he has not authorized or permitted as a part of his religion, you madly charge him with defectiveness, and attempt by additions of your own, to make his government more complete. Why did he not ordain infant baptism? Evidently because he did not design that his religion should embrace any such ordinance. You have discovered that it is necessary, and have therefore added it! You saw that it was demanded to make God?s appointments complete! You know better than Jehovah, what is requisite to give perfection to his religion!
Who, in view of all these facts, can avoid the conclusion that infant baptism is a sin against God? What is sin? Is it not any thought, word, action, omission, or desire contrary to the law of God?18
"Sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4).
Infant baptism is not according to the law of God. It is a violation of the law of God. It is the transgression of the law of God. Therefore infant baptism is a sin against God.
These are some of the forms in which, as an ordinance not instituted, nor sanctioned by Jesus Christ, the evil of infant baptism is developed. Its practice betrays ministers into fearful presumption; it creates a want of respect for the divine law; it charges imperfection upon the institutions of Messiah; and it is a sin against God. Infant baptism is unsupported by the word of God. It is therefore a great and fearful evil.
In conclusion permit me to entreat for these facts and arguments, your patient, unbiased, and prayerful consideration. You fervently desire to glorify God, and in all things to do his will. You have no wish to depart in any respect from the divine law. You would not encumber religion, much less pollute it, with any doctrines, or observances, not sanctioned from on high. You must therefore, remove infant baptism from its place in your theological system. While it remains there, it will continue to produce its natural fruits. Its extirpation only, can relieve you from its inherent evil. Humbly receive, and diligently practice the religion of Christ, guided in all things, exclusively by his most holy word, and infant baptism will be known no more. To the ascertained will of our Heavenly Father meekly submit yourself. Upon this principle alone is it possible for you to "keep the commandments of the Lord your God which he commanded you." "Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." But rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry."
1 Apud Van. Inf. Bapt., part 2, p. 8.
2 Institutes of Religion, Liber. 4, etc.
3 Expos. 39 Arts., Art. 18.
4 Hist Bap., p. 11.
5 Works, vol. 7, p. 329.
6 Liberty of Prophesying, pp. 228-246.
7 Lect. on Inf. Bap., p. 11.
8 Biblical Repository, 1883, p. 385.
9 Planting and Training, p. 101.
10 Church History: vol. 1 p.811, Torrey?s Translation.
11 Apud Hodges on Inf. Bap. p. 39.
12 Inf. Bap, pp. 21,26.
13 Theol. Insts, vol. 8, pp. 382, 397, 399.
14 Inf. Bap., p. 125
15 Church History. On baptism
16 Arts. of Rel., Art. 17.
17 West. Conf., chap. 28, sect. 1
18 Crudin on the Word.
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved