THE EVILS OF INFANT BAPTISM
By Robert Boyt C. Howell
INFANT BAPTISM IS AN EVIL BECAUSE IT FALSIFIES THE DOCTRINE OF UNIVERSAL DEPRAVITY.
Statement of the subject; nature of alleged infant claims; their conflict with the doctrine of depravity; incompatibility of these sentiments.
THE children of those parents "who profess the true religion," are born, it is alleged, in the covenant, and church of our Lord Jesus Christ! On this ground mainly, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and other Calvinists, maintain their right to baptism. A glimmering of the same doctrine runs through the teachings of all the other sects. It is true as Bushel justly remarks:?That "no settled opinions of the grounds, or import of infant baptism has ever been attained to" by them all.1 In this, however, they agree as nearly as they do in any other doctrine regarding that ordinance. It is my purpose in the present chapter, to show that this aspect of the subject develops prominently, another of its evils, since it falsifies the doctrine of universal depravity.
Pedobaptists claim that the infant offspring of believers enjoy hereditary rights to the covenant of grace, and their attendant privileges of baptism, and membership in the visible church. The truth of this statement I shall now certify in such a manner as to render it in, disputable.
"It is an important inquiry," says a distinguished writer upon the Symbols and Rubric of the English church, "to what infants that title belongs. For not all even in the sight of man, can be considered as fit subjects for that holy rite," baptism. "Are the children of infidels fit subjects?" "Baptism administered to them is not warranted by our church."2 Bishop Jewell says?"No person which will profess Christ?s name ought to be restrained or kept back therefrom, no not even the babes of Christians, for as much as they" "do pertain unto the people of God."3 Nowell, Beveridge, and the other British fathers, teach the same doctrine. "We see then," says Mr. Goode, "the necessity of inquiring whether the child [brought to be baptized] is the offspring of parents who are at least professed Christians." "Here is a question not decided by the church." More unscrupulous ministers will baptize any child for whom sponsors can be procured. "But it is at least reasonable to think that our church, administering baptism on the grounds stated by Jewell and Nowell, administers it on the supposition" that the parents are believers. "The faith of the parent is to the infant, as an infant," "mercifully reckoned by God as imputable to the infant, and on the strength of this it is baptized; faith and baptism together, as in the case of adults, perfecting the work of infantine regeneration.4 We have in these passages, the doctrine on the subject of the more evangelical of the English church, and her doctrine in the premises is the doctrine of the Methodist church, and of the Episcopal church in the United States. Dr. A. Clarke therefore confidently says:?"Though infants have not, and cannot have actual faith, yet they are sanctified by being born of religious parents. They are already in some sense, within the limits of the church and covenant of promise."5 The Westminster Confession, however, is definite. Its language is:?"The visible church, which is also Catholic, consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children; and is the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God."6 The Directory is still more explicit. It is there affirmed that the children of believers are "Born within the church, have by their birth inheritance in the covenant, and right to [baptism] the seal of it;" "that they are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized." On this subject Mr. Baxter remarks:?God hath made, and offered to the world a covenant of grace, and in it the pardon of sin to all true penitent believers, and power to become the sons of God, and heirs of heaven. This covenant is extended also to the seed of the faithful to give them the benefits suitable to their age, the parents dedicating them to God, and entering them into the covenant, and so God in Christ will be their God, and number them with his people." Mr. Baxter further says?"As children are made sinners and miserable by their parents without any act of their own, so they are delivered out of it by the free grace of Christ, not through their own faith, but upon conditions performed by their parents."7 And still further. "Of those baptized in infancy, some do betimes receive the secret seeds of grace, which by the blessing of a holy education is stirring in them according to their capacity... so that they never were actual ungodly persons" The late Dr. Miller says:?"The children of professing Christians are already in the church. They are born members. They are baptized because they were members. They receive the seal of the covenant because they are already in the covenant by virtue of their birth."8
From these expositions we learn that, according to our Pedobaptist brethren, the children of believers are born in the covenant of grace, and have, by right of birth, the enjoyment of all its blessings; are born members of the church, and by hereditary descent are entitled to the privileges of membership in the house of God, and to the promises of salvation. These are prerogatives arising exclusively from their hereditary relations. Their parents are holy. Therefore their children are holy. Of all such Dr. Hopkins says:?"The church receive and look upon them as holy. So they are as visibly holy, or as really holy in their view, as their parents are."9
With these doctrines distinctly before us we turn to consider the subject of universal depravity, that we may ascertain to what extent these two principles harmonize with each other.
Depravity, I remark, consists essentially in a state of mind the opposite of that which is required by the law of God. The law commands, and the obligation is imperative upon every human being,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself." (Matthew 22:37.)
The want of this love on the one hand, and the love of the world on the other, places the soul in that moral position known as depravity. By nature, men prefer the world and its sinful gratifications, to the love of God and of their neighbor. The creature usurps in their affections the place of the Creator. The moral powers are perverted, and turned aside from God. This is depravity. And I now remark that it is universal. It attaches to every human being. All are naturally affected by it in the same manner, and to the same extent. In this respect no material original difference exists between the children of the rich and the poor, the free and the bond, the holy and the unholy, the believer and the unbeliever. In subsequent life their characters are often very different. But this arises not from any difference in moral qualities, but in constitutional temperament, in instruction, in discipline, and in associations. These facts are apparent to every intelligent observer. We see in the children of all classes, the same inclination to evil, and the same estrangement from God, more or less strongly developed. But they are fully confirmed by the word of God. "The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life," all by nature pursue in preference to "the things of the Spirit" of God. The children of religious parents are involved in this depravity, to an extent fully as great as the children of others, who occupy with them the same social position.
"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Romans 5:12)
"The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." Galatians 3:10-12.)
Than this what language can be more conclusive? It is therefore undeniably true that all are corrupt; that all are alike depraved.
Our brethren themselves, notwithstanding their doctrine of the holiness of the children of believers, maintain, and emphatically teach universal depravity. The Episcopal church thus expresses herself?"Original sin" is the fault, or corruption of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby every man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil."10 The Methodist church says:?Original sin "is the corruption of the nature of every man that is naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually."11 Calvinism in all its sects speaks thus:?Our first parents by sin "fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was imputed, and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, were conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, whereby we are naturally indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all acts of transgression."12 All other evangelical denominations hold the same principles. They all teach universal depravity. Every man, therefore, descended of Adam, all the posterity of our first parents, are naturally indisposed to good, wholly inclined to evil and that continually.
Let the doctrine of infant baptism, as based upon hereditary claims of the children of believers to the covenant of grace, be now compared with the doctrine of universal depravity. We take them both as set forth by pedobaptists themselves. On the one hand they earnestly teach that the children of believers "are sanctified by being born of religious parents," are "born within the church, and have by their birth inheritance in the covenant," "are federally holy," and for these and like reasons, are baptized. Persons cannot have, at birth, all these endowments, and be at the same time wholly corrupt. Therefore the infant offspring of believers are not naturally depraved. On the other hand, they all earnestly teach that "every one" is wholly depraved. "Every man" descended of Adam, is "defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body," all "are naturally indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil." With this corrupt nature "all that are naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam" are born. The children of believing parents are not excepted, but fully included, since they too "are naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam," and are a part of "all men." Are such corrupt and depraved persons holy? Are they born members of the church? Are they naturally inheritors of all the benefits of the covenant of grace? It is impossible. They cannot at the same time be holy and corrupt, sanctified and depraved, in the gospel covenant and "naturally indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil." Both these propositions cannot be true. The one falsifies the other. But that all are born in sin, and are by nature, depraved, is true. The word of God emphatically declares it. The whole doctrine of hereditary claims to the covenant of grace, therefore, upon which our brethren so confidently predicate infant baptism, falsities the doctrine of universal depravity; his baseless in itself, and upon their own principles; and it is fraught with mischief, "full of deadly evil."
There are at least, I may now add, two other, and collateral disastrous consequences which arise from this aspect of infant baptism, and which must here be briefly noticed. The former is the absurdity that religion is hereditary; and the latter that the children of believers have no need of the regenerating influences of the Spirit of God!
In the first place, if children are "holy," are "in the covenant of grace," are "members of the church" "by being born of religious parents," then these children inherit "by their birth," all the blessings of religion, and of course, become religious by natural generation. The infant children of believers are in the covenant and church of Christ, because their parents are in the covenant and church of Christ. The infant children of unbelievers are not in the covenant and church of Christ, because their parents are not in the covenant and church of Christ. Religion and irreligion therefore are results of natural generation. Paul the apostle declares this whole hypothesis untrue.
"The children of the flesh," he affirms, "are not [therefore] the children of the covenant." (Galatians 3:12-20.)
But Pedobaptists allege, that the children of the flesh of believers, are the heirs of the covenant, and for the very reason that they are the children of the flesh. Which shall we believe? Paul, or our Pedobaptist brethren? The Bible or the Confessions of Faith? We cannot believe both, since, in the plainest terms, they contradict each other.
In the second place, if the infant children of believing parents are "holy," are "in the covenant of grace," are "born in the church," then of course, their nature is pure. The work of the Spirit is not necessary to cleanse their hearts, and fit them for a higher life. They are the children of believing parents, and therefore "sanctified." They are born holy! All this they are carefully taught from childhood. Are they not likely to believe it? If they do, they cannot also believe that they have a depraved and corrupt heart. Consequently they can never feel very deeply, their miserable condition as sinners, nor appreciate highly the grace of God in the gift of a Savior. They are thus, and by their teachers, made ignorant of their own hearts, and deceived in a most vital point. I will not say that they never will be converted. It is evident, however, that their salvation is thus placed in fearful jeopardy.
It is now demonstrated that, by arrogating hereditary claims to the covenant of grace, infant baptism falsifies the doctrine of universal depravity, teaches that religion is propagated by natural generation, and that the children of believing parents have no need of the renewing power of the Holy Spirit of God. Thus infant baptism inculcates a religion that is neither moral nor spiritual, but merely physical. It is therefore a most revolting evil.
1 Christian Nurture, p. 60
2 Goode on Bap., p. 30.
3 Works, p. 216.
4 Goode on: Bap., pp. 31-33.
5 Essays, p. 31.
6 Chap. 25.
7 Works, vol. 15., p. 486, vol. 14., p.261-264.
8 Miller on Bap.
9 Theol., p. 319.
10 Thirty-Nine Art.
11 Discip. Art. Rel., 7.
12 Westmin. Confes., ch. 7.
HOME | CONTENTS | CHAPTER 5
INFANT BAPTISM IS AN EVIL BECAUSE THE DOCTRINES UPON WHICH IT RESTS CONTRADICT THE GREAT FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
Justification by faith; infant baptism; the two contrasted; reciprocal influence in the primitive churches; justification by faith restored at the Reformation; embodied with infant baptism in all the Confessions of Faith; effect upon Protestantism; one or the other must be abandoned.
THE doctrines upon which infant baptism rests, and the great fundamental principle of justification by faith, are in irreconcilable contradiction. They are throughout, the antagonists of each other. To them both no church, nor individual, can consistently adhere. One or the other must, sooner or later, be abandoned. Their opposite characters indicate this result, and the history of the church, primitive, Popish, and Protestant, evinces that it is inevitable. Let the doctrines in question be separately stated, and compared.
The great fundamental principle of justification by faith, is taught in the word of God, in terms perfectly full and explicit. We are, says an apostle, "Justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins," "that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." (Romans 3:24-26.) "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1.)
Justification is the act of God by which he declares a man just and righteous. The justified are accepted, and approved, as if they had never sinned. This is an act of God?s own free and sovereign grace, and therefore necessarily irrespective of any works or worthiness on the part of the justified. It is by faith, not as a meritorious agency to procure justification, but as the medium through which it is bestowed. We are not justified for faith, as if it were of itself a sufficient righteousness, since faith no more than works can constitute such righteousness, but by faith through grace. "It is of faith, that it might be by grace;" faith being characterized by a peculiarity which harmonizes with grace, and which looks not to itself, but to Christ for righteousness and salvation. This, briefly, is justification by faith, as taught in the word of God.
How shall we ascertain the doctrines of infant baptism? They are not made known to us in the Bible. Revelation is silent on that whole subject. We must, of course, rely upon the statements of Protestant Pedobaptists for our authority. With Papists I have at present nothing to do. Dr. Wall is more definite on this topic than any other writer now before me. He says:?"Most of the Pedobaptists go no further than St. Austin does. They hold that God by his Spirit, does, at the time of baptism, seal and apply to the infant that is there dedicated to him, the promises of the covenant of which he is capable, viz.: adoption, pardon of sins, [and] translation from the state of nature to that of grace."1 The doctrines upon which infant baptism rests teach, therefore, that in that ordinance the child receives adoption, pardon, and translation into the state of grace, and of course that he receives justification! Davenant, the Bishop of Salisbury, thus speaks on this subject:?"The justification, regeneration, and adoption of little children baptized, confers upon them a state of salvation."2 Archbishop Usher writes thus:?"The branches of this reconciliation [received by infants in their baptism] are justification, and adoption."3 So teach all the other divines, and all the Protestant Confessions of Faith and Catechisms. Infants are therefore, according to this doctrine, justified before God in baptism.
Let now the great principle of justification by faith and the doctrines of infant baptism be compared. If you are justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, through grace, you are not justified by baptism, either in infancy, or at any other time; and if you are justified by baptism, then you are not justified by faith. This conclusion is perfectly plain. These doctrines are therefore as opposite as darkness and light. They emphatically contradict and falsify each other.
Justification by faith, I have said, is a fundamental doctrine of the gospel. It is vital. It is "the faith once delivered to the saints," No system from which it is excluded, can ever be justly regarded as embodying the religion of Christ. It was taught by the apostles, and early ministers, constantly, forcibly, emphatically. It was cherished by the primitive churches as a priceless truth. How can we account for its abandonment by the professed followers of Jesus Christ? There is, I answer, an inherent tendency in human nature, renewed though it may be, to pass from the substance to the forms of religion. The transition is so easy that it can only be prevented by perpetual vigilance. The influence of this propensity the early churches did not very long escape. Among the first of the corruptions they admitted and embraced, was the undue importance which became attached to religious ceremonials, They gradually exalted the rites above the doctrines of Christianity, while both were perverted and misapplied. Baptism, especially, was imagined to possess great and peculiar virtues. Thus justification through grace by faith, was ultimately displaced by justification through grace by baptism. Popery was the result, the doctrine of which, on this subject, is thus expressed by the Council of Trent: "Justification is ?by means of the sacraments, either originally infused into us, or subsequently increased, or when lost, again restored."4 Thus the Christian world was plunged into darkness, which remained unbroken for a thousand years.
But justification by faith was restored at the Reformation. Noble efforts to give back to men this truth had previously been made by Tindall, and Wicliff, and Huss, and others, but they all fell martyrs to their benevolent designs. Finally arose "the monk of Wittenberg," the iron-nerved Luther. He was previously a blind slave of popery, and in his own esteem "irreproachably holy." His penances, mortifications, and obedience, were exemplary; but of true religion he knew nothing. In his monastery, apparently by accident, he found a copy of the Bible. It was the first he had ever seen. He read it with mingled surprise and delight. He began to be enlightened, but his soul rebelled against its teachings. Referring to his state of mind at this period, he himself says:?"I could not endure the expression, ?The righteous justice of God.? I did not love that just and holy being that punishes sinners." But the study of the Bible, with prayer, was continued daily. At length that striking passage attracted his attention, "The just shall live by faith." It originated a train of thought, and feeling, wholly new. "There is then," it occurred to him, "another life for the just than that possessed by other men, and this life is the fruit of faith!" Thus dawned upon his mind the great doctrine of justification by faith, which led first to his own reconciliation to God, and then to other consequences of infinite moment. In allusion to this event Luther remarks in another place:?"When by the Spirit of God I understood these words, ?The just shall live by faith?; when I learned how the justification of the sinner proceeds from God?s mere mercy, by the way of faith; then I felt myself born again as a new man, and I entered by an opened door into the very paradise of God. From that hour I saw the precious and holy scriptures with new eyes. I went through the whole Bible. I collated a multitude of passages, which taught me what the work of God was, and as I had before heartily hated that expression, ?The righteous justice of God,? I began from this time to value and love it, as the sweetest and most consolatory truth. Truly this text, ?The just shall live by faith,? was to me the very gate of heaven."5
Was Luther now free from those delusions which had so long led men to rely for justification upon works of various kinds, ordinances, penances, and mortifications? It would be very natural to suppose that he was. But he had gained no such freedom. The profoundest ignorance rested in those days, upon the minds of men. Thick darkness, in many respects, still covered his own soul. He dared not quit his secluded cell, and very naturally hesitated to act in opposition to the whole religious world. His fetters were not broken until some years after, when on business of his monastery, he visited Rome. While there he determined, for the sake of the indulgence promised, to ascend in the prescribed manner "la Scala Santa," a sacred staircase preserved in that city, up which our Savior is said to have passed when brought before Pilate. "He began, but had not, dragged his prone body many steps before a voice arrested him in tones of thunder, ?The just shall live by faith.? Startled at these accents of terror, he hurried like a guilty thing, from the spot, and from that hour the doctrine, although mingled with other and contradictory doctrines, took full possession of his soul. He planted himself upon it as upon a rock, and looked serenely back on the wild sea through which he had been struggling. The last rivet in his chain was severed, and he stood up a freeman."6 Justification by faith was thus recalled from the oblivion into which it had been so long driven, and through the instrumentality of the leading mind, became the central principle of the Reformation.
All the denominations that then sprang out of Popery, did not agree as to the details of religion. Hence their separate organizations. But they all concurred in the doctrine of justification by faith, whether Lutheran, Calvinist, or Episcopalian. They each embodied it fully in their separate Confessions, and other standards. And strange as it may appear, they also embodied in the same symbols, that opposite and Contradictory system, infant baptism. Why they did this will more fully appear hereafter. I now speak of facts only. I am not attempting to account for them. Thus they threw together conflicting elements, which, as they had before done, gradually destroyed the blessings which had been gained. To the sublimest truths they united the rankest corruption. To the gospel of Christ they chained the main supports of Popery, ignorance, and worldly conformity. These facts are most readily demonstrated by reference to the standards themselves.
In the first place, I shall show that the Confessions of all the Protestant sects embody the doctrine of justification by faith. The Augsburg Confession is the symbol of Lutheranism. Its fourth article is in the following words:?"They teach also that men cannot be justified before God by their own efforts, merits, or works, but are justified freely through Christ by faith, and are received into favor, and enjoy the remission of sins, through Christ, who by his death presented a satisfaction for sin."7
In full agreement with this is the Westminster Confession, which doctrinally is embraced by all classes of Calvinists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Independents, and others:?"Those whom God effectually calleth he also freely justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting, and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ?s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they resting on him as their righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. Faith thus received, and resting on Christ, and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification."8
The doctrine of the Episcopal Church in all its sects, is contained in the eleventh of the Thirty-Nine Articles, in the following language:?"We are accounted righteous before God only for the merits of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our works or deservings. Therefore that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort."
Of the doctrine of the Methodist church in all its departments, the "Articles of Religion," in the Discipline, is the symbol. Their ninth article speaks thus:?"We are accounted righteous before God only for the merits of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith, and not for any of our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort."
These are the principal Confessions of Faith of all the Protestant sects, and we have now seen their teaching on this subject. If they are to be believed, we are justified before God, not by our own efforts, merits, or worthiness, not by any thing done by us, or in us, not of course by baptism, or by any other act of obedience whatever, but alone through grace by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. How great, how vital, how evangelical, how infinitely, important this truth! Who could have supposed that they would have inserted in each one of these very formularies any principle directly and plainly contradicting that already so fully and elaborately stated? Yet they did so. Infant baptism finds a place there, sustained by all the doctrines with which Popery had surrounded it. For proof in the premises we retrace these several Confessions.
The Augsburg is as follows;
"They teach concerning baptism that it is necessary to salvation, because by baptism the grace of God is offered. Infants are to be baptized, who being brought to God by baptism, are received into his favor."9
The Westminster Confession says:
"Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life."10 "By the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited,11 and conferred."12
The Thirty-Nine Articles teach thus:
"Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and a mark of difference wherein Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth, whereby as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly, are engrafted into the church. The promise of the forgiveness of sins, of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed." "The baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the church, as most agreeable to the institution of Christ."13
"The Methodist Articles of Religion" speak as follows:
"Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized, but is also a sign of regeneration, or the new birth. The baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the church."14
Thus we have the teachings of all these Confessions on baptism. The summary may be embraced in a few words. Lutherans declare that baptism is necessary to salvation, and that by it infants are received into the favor of God, and saved. Presbyterians, with all their kindred sects, maintain that baptism is to the child a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his engrafting into Christ, of regeneration, and of the remission of sins, and that all these are by baptism not only offered to the child, but really exhibited and conferred upon him. And Episcopalians and Methodists affirm that by baptism the new birth, the forgiveness of sins, and adoption, are all to the child, visibly signed and sealed. The child therefore in baptism, is pardoned of his sin, regenerated, is adopted, is received into the church, received into the favor of God, and saved. All this certainly involves justification, or the declaring the person innocent of crime. These Confessions teach, therefore, the justification of the sinner by baptism. Consequently on the doctrine of justification by faith, and the doctrines upon which they rest infant baptism, the Confessions, each and all of them, plainly, palpably, unmistakably contradict themselves. If you are justified, pardoned, and saved through grace by faith, and not by works, merit, or obedience of any kind, then you cannot be justified, pardoned, and saved by baptism. But it may be objected that infants are not capable of faith. Neither therefore, I answer, are they capable of baptism. They are saved by grace through Christ, and without baptism. Is baptism necessary to their salvation? God forbid. Why then baptize them, since the act is without authority, and without benefit? And especially why teach that baptism gives them pardon, regeneration, adoption, and salvation?
Do I deal unjustly with these several sects when I thus represent them as in collision with themselves? Their inconsistencies on this point have been noticed and condemned by others as well as Baptists. Moehler, a Catholic priest, and recently Professor of Divinity in Munich, one of the most eminent Roman Catholic scholars of the age, says:?"At the commencement of the Reformation, Luther and Melancthon evinced on this matter the most decided opposition to the Catholic church; and the internal ground of their opposition lay entirely in their one-sided conception of the justification of man before God. Hereby especially the communication of really sanctifying graces by means of the sacraments was thrown into the background, nay even totally called in question." "The highest point to which they could rise was the one-sided view of the sacraments considered as pledges of the truth of the divine promises for the forgiveness of sins. The sacraments accordingly were to have no other destination than. to make the faithful receiver assured that his debt of sins was remitted, and to console and quiet him." "So mean a conception of the sacraments necessarily led to the view that they operate only through faith in the divine promise of the forgiveness of sins. It was only in course of the disputes with the fanatics, as Luther called them, or with the Sacramentarians, that the reformers of Wittenberg approximated again to the doctrine of the [Papal] church. Already the Confession of Augsburg expresses itself, though indefinitely enough, yet still in a manner to enable Catholics to declare themselves tolerably satisfied with it." "By degrees the Lutherans [and all other Protestants] again adopted the entire notion of the opus operatum, although they continue even down to the present day to protest against it." "Thus in course of time no important difference [in the premises] inherent in the nature of things, could be pointed out" between Catholics and Protestants.15 This testimony from an enemy is true. Still Protestants of all classes, as everywhere else, so among us, in their sermons, and their conversations, from the pulpit, and the press, continue to protest that they do not attribute to baptism any justifying or saving power. And do they not? I have fairly recited the very words of their Confessions of Faith! Do they believe these Confessions? Let us turn to some of their standard writers, and see how they express themselves on this subject.
"The gospel," says Henry, the distinguished Presbyterian commentator, "contains not only a doctrine, but a covenant, and by baptism we are brought into that covenant. Baptism wrests the keys of the heart out of the hand of the strong man armed, that the possession may be surrendered to him whose right it is. The water of baptism is designed for our cleansing from the spots and defilements of the flesh. In baptism our names are engraven upon the breast-plate of the High Priest. This, then, is the efficacy of baptism; it is putting the child?s name into the gospel grant. We are baptized into Christ?s death; that is, God doth in that ordinance seal, confirm, and make over to us, all the benefits of the death of Christ,"16 among which, of course, must be embraced justification. Professor Charles Hodge, one of the Theological Instructors at Princeton, says:?"We are baptized in order that we should die with him, [Christ] i.e., that we should be united to him in his death, and partakers of his benefits. This baptism unto repentance, Matthew in 3:11, is baptism in order to repentance; baptism unto the remission of sins, Mark 1:4, that remission of sins may be obtained."17 Bishop Bedell says:?"This I yield to my Lord of Sarum most willingly, that the justification, and adoption which children have in baptism is not univoce the same with that which adults have. And this I likewise do yield to you, that it is vera solutio reatus, et veraciter, et in rei veritate performed in all the like emphatical forms, etc."18 Bishop Burnet says:?"Here, then, is the inward effect of baptism; it is a death to sin, and a new life in Christ." "We are not only ?baptized into one body,? but also saved by baptism."19 The Episcopal Catechism affirms that the child is by his "baptism, made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven."
These are the expositions of standard writers among Pedobaptists themselves, of all classes, explanatory of the efficacy of baptism as taught in their Confessions. They effectually shield me from the charge of misrepresentation, and at the same time evince that their doctrine is such, in the language of Moehler, as "to enable Catholics to declare themselves tolerably satisfied with it." They inculcate, as do their Confessions, justification by faith, and also justification by baptism. Thus they contradict in one place what they teach in another. But Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Methodists, do not surely believe these baptismal doctrines! Many of them, I admit, earnestly deny it! Gladly would we credit their disavowals. But we take up their standards, catechisms, and writers of authority, and there, word for word, are the passages I have recited, and much, very much more of the same character. They deny that they believe their doctrines, and yet they continue to publish them to the world as expressing truly their faith. From the pulpit and from the press they disclaim and repudiate them; but when called to the. sacred altar, in their vows of office, they solemnly declare before God and men, that they do believe them "ex animo!" What now shall we say? They deny; they affirm; they again deny; and again affirm! The same contradictions which so strikingly mark their Confessions and Catechisms, we find pervading all their teachings, and practice! I lament these facts, but they are so natural to their position, that from them there seems to be, without changing their ecclesiastical relations, no way of escape.
We now turn to consider briefly, the results of the condition of things submitted. They are evil; and evil only. Look over the Protestant Christian world as it exists at the present moment, and you will find that infant baptism is again rapidly expelling, as it did in early times, the doctrine of justification by faith from the churches. Among the Lutherans of Germany, the Calvinists in continental Europe, the Episcopalians in England, and others?I speak of them as communities?the baptism of infants is observed with the utmost carefulness, but justification by faith has no practical influence whatever. It is still in their Confessions, but it has been banished from their pulpits, from their hearts, and from the faith of their people. Justification by faith they receive from the Bible. Infant baptism and its accompanying doctrines, they receive from Popery. The former is of God. The latter is of men. They cannot continue to exist together. All those churches, now regarded as evangelical, will, sooner or later, give up justification by faith, or they will give up infant baptism. What has been will be again. "Coming events cast their shadows before." Justification by faith from one direction, and the doctrines of infant baptism from the other, like opposing currents in the ocean, meet and form a whirlpool, in which no church exposed to its violence can long survive.
We have now seen the doctrine of justification by faith, and the principles of infant baptism, and contrasting them, have found that they are wholly contradictory and irreconcilable; we have seen that it was infant baptism mainly, which expelled the doctrine of justification by faith from the early churches, and brought on Popery, by which the world was shrouded in darkness for a thousand years; we have seen through what providential agency this great doctrine was restored, and how it became the central principle of the Reformation; we have seen that though justification by faith is embodied in all the Protestant Confessions, Catechisms, and other formularies, it is placed in them side by side with infant baptism, and its doctrines, and that, as elsewhere, they reciprocally contradict, refute, and nullify each other; we have seen, in the history of Protestantism, the practical results of uniting these conflicting elements, and have found that they cannot exist together, but that the destruction of this fundamental doctrine is the inevitable result of maintaining infant baptism; and we have seen that the tendency of all the other Protestant sects is in the same direction, and that they also, must ultimately abandon practically, if not professedly, either justification by faith, or infant baptism, with the principles upon which it is maintained, and defended. It is now demonstrated fully, that the doctrines, upon which infant baptism rests, contradict the great fundamental principle of justification by faith. It is therefore, in all its bearings and influences, an alarming and most disastrous evil.
Hist. Inf. Bap., vol.2., p. 148.
2 Letters to Dr. Ward, p. 25.
3 Brief Method, etc.
4 Concil. Trid., Sess. 7, decret. Sacram., apud Moehler, p. 279.
5 D?Aubigne?s Reformation.
7 Cox?s Melancthon
8 West. Conf., ch. 2., sects. 1-2.
9 Aug. Conf., art. 9
10 Conf., ch. 28., sect. 1
11 Used in the technical sense of the Latin exhibere, to apply or convey
12 Conf., ch. 28., sect. 6
13 Thirty-Nine Art. 27
14 Discip., Art. of Relig., 17.
15 Symbolism, pp. 282-285.
16 Treat on Bapt.
17 Comm on Romans 6:8.
18 Letters to Dr Ward, Letter 161.
19 Expos Thirty-Nine Arts., pp. 395, 396.
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