THE EVILS OF INFANT BAPTISM
By Robert Boyt C. Howell
INFANT BAPTISM IS AN EVIL BECAUSE IT SUBVERTS THE TRUE DOCTRINE OF INFANT SALVATION
Doctrine stated; argument in proof; manner in which subverted by infant baptism; authorities; conclusions.
DEATH is a relentless destroyer. He assails, without distinction, all classes and conditions of men. The young and the old alike fall beneath his power. Upon infancy, however, his shafts descend most frequently, and with a deadlier aim. How large the proportion of mankind who are hurried into eternity during the first years of their being! Where is the family that has not mourned infants loved, and lost? Bleeding hearts, and flowing tears, in all lands, tell of sorrows which no words can ever adequately express!
Millions of infant spirits have gone into the unseen world. Each is an immortal intelligence. In that world they all possess the sensibilities common to humanity. With these facts before us, one question of surpassing interest, presses itself upon us all. Of departed infants what is the eternal destiny? Are they happy, or miserable? Parental affection implores, Christian sympathy earnestly solicits, and ministerial faithfulness demands, that these inquiries receive a prompt, intelligible, and scriptural answer. We believe that all infants are saved unconditionally, through the application to them, by the Holy Ghost, of the redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter whether they are in the church or out of the church, whether they are baptized or unbaptized, whether they are the children of believers or unbelievers, of heathens, Mohammedans, or Christians, their everlasting blessedness is equally, and in all cases, secure.
These, and all other such like circumstances, are irrelevant, and never can affect their relations with Christ. Consequently they can have no bearing upon their future destiny. Every child dying in infancy is saved. This is the doctrine of the Baptist denomination. Not of a few only, nor of our churches, and people, of the present day alone. It is the doctrine which has been invariably held by us in all countries, and in every age. It is the doctrine taught by the word of God. Having thus stated our position, I proceed at once, to the proofs of its truth.
Infant salvation is guarantied, in the first place, by the nature of the divine government.
God is infinitely good. His benevolence forbids the infliction of unnecessary suffering upon any of his creatures. Misery is never permitted, but when demanded by justice, as either the consequence, or the penalty of sin. The government of God is designed, not only to benefit his creatures, but also to manifest his glory. Through this medium, as well as through his works, and his word, he reveals his true character to all intelligent beings. Infants have no personal, or individual accountability. For the condemnation of the deliberate and impenitent rejecter of the gospel, and also of the wicked despisers of God, who violate the laws of nature, and of their own conscience, I can perceive ample reasons. In such a case I can readily comprehend how God, as the governor of the universe, will glorify his infinite righteousness. But I cannot see how this could occur in the case of infants. It is infinitely more in accordance with all our conceptions of God, to conclude that in them he will evince his special beneficence. It is, in truth, abhorrent to every feeling of kindness and love, to suppose that he will cast them off, or that he will not receive, and save them. There is no want of fullness in the redemption of Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit is not limited. God is infinitely gracious. What then is to hinder their salvation? Rather, does not every consideration connected with him, with his government, and his glory, seem imperatively to demand the salvation of infants?
But infants are, I remark secondly, redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and must therefore be saved.
Their redemption is thus taught by an apostle:
"Death" [natural death] "reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam?s transgression." In other words, infants, who have not committed actual offenses, as Adam did, have nevertheless all inherited his depravity, and are, therefore, subject to physical suffering and death. "As," however, "by the offense of one [Adam] judgment [sentence] came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus Christ] the free gift [the offer of deliverance from condemnation under a better covenant] came upon all men, [upon as many as were involved in the consequences of Adam?s sin] unto justification of life." (Romans 5:12-19.)
Christ Jesus suspended the execution of the sentence of death under which men had fallen, and introduced another covenant in the place of the first, and so changed the relations of things that to man, though a sinner, destruction is not inevitable. The remedy is found in the satisfaction made to divine justice by Messiah, the promised "seed of the woman." In consideration of his atonement the ground of condemnation is changed. His interposition has placed the whole subject in an entirely new aspect. Previously, if I may so speak, all men were condemned. Their relation to Adam had involved them all in the curse. Subsequently the case was different.
"This is [now] the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19.)
"Ye are condemned," "because ye have not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18.)
Not now it is not so much because of your relation to Adam, disastrous as that relation may be, as because you do not embrace Christ by faith. Hence all the counsels, the warnings, the commands, the invitations, the promises of divine revelation, are addressed to those who are capable of exercising intelligence. And its denunciations are hurled only against willful rebellion, impenitency, and unbelief. What are we here taught concerning infants? They have not the capacity to know any thing of the gospel. They are not impenitent, or rebellious. They have not rejected Christ. They are clearly included in his mediation, since "by his righteousness the free gift came upon all men to justification of life." That free gift must of course have come upon them. They are redeemed by Christ. And again. The relation to us of our Lord Jesus Christ in the work of redemption, is clearly, to man as man. Adam and Christ, are alike, heads of the race,
"The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [Christ] was made a quickening spirit. How be it that is not first which was spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that which was spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Corinthians 15:45-49.)
Both, therefore, according to this apostolic exposition, are heads of mankind as man. The first Adam was the author of sin; the second Adam was the author of deliverance from sin. The same terms are employed to designate those who are involved in ruin by the former, and those to whom deliverance is offered by the mediation of the latter. Both events concern the whole race, of whom some reach maturity of life, embrace Christ by faith, and are saved; others reach maturity, do not receive Christ, and are lost; but great multitudes die in infancy, and do neither good nor evil. These last stand, according to Paul, in as strict a relation to Christ, as they do to Adam, with this difference, that "Where sin abounded, grace does much more abound." In bringing them into this world, divine sovereignty has justly, and without any act of theirs, entailed on them the depravity and corruption of the first Adam. In taking them away from the world, the same divine sovereignty has graciously, and without any act of theirs, conferred on them the salvation of the second Adam. Thus it is that, redeemed by the blood of Christ, they are saved by the infinite grace of God.
But all infants are depraved and sinful. How then can they be saved? To prepare them for happiness, it is evident that the redemption of Christ must be applied by the Holy Spirit, to their purification from sin. Otherwise they would be incapable of eternal life.
Every one is obliged to exclaim with David,
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5.)
Truly may it be said,
"The wicked are estranged from the womb. They go astray as soon as they are born." (Psalm 58:3.)
All are depraved, and depravity necessarily incapacitates those who are under its influence for the enjoyment of happiness. From infants it must therefore, to secure their salvation, be removed, and their nature must be cleansed, and purified. This great work can be done only by the Holy Ghost. The work of God the Spirit is therefore, equally as necessary to their salvation, and ours, as the work of God the Son. None are saved by the abstract redemption of the Son, irrespective of the personal application of that redemption by the Spirit. Since, however, Christ died for all, and consequently for infants; and since the work of the Spirit is necessary to complete the designs of grace thus commenced; his sanctification is given in full measure, to every departing child. In all such instances, his merits and righteousness are thus applied personally, to fit them for the change. The scriptures nowhere teach that this is done through baptism, nor any other ordinance; nor that it is withheld for the want of it. Will not the Holy Ghost "quicken even your mortal body" Romans 8:11.) sleeping in the grave, to prepare you for the resurrection of the last day? "Why then should it he thought a thing incredible," and especially since they are redeemed by Messiah, that he should sanctify the spirits of departing children, and thus "make them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light?"
There are, I observe in the third place, instances of infant salvation on record in the word of God.
Disease had laid his withering hand upon the infant child of David. He fasted, and wept, and prayed for the life of his beloved boy. All was in vain. It pleased the Lord to order otherwise than as he desired. The child died. Now his servants were alarmed on account of their master. They were afraid to communicate to him the melancholy intelligence:
"For they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice. How will he then vex himself if we tell him that the child is dead! But when David saw that his servants whispered, he perceived that the child was dead. Therefore he said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped. Then he came to his own house, and when he required they set bread before him, and he did eat! Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? Thou didst fast and weep for the child while it was yet alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst arise and eat bread! And he said, While the child was yet alive I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious unto me, that the child may live? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him; but he will not return to me." (2 Samuel 12:15-23.)
What is the lesson taught us by this touching incident? David did not certainly console himself with the thought that he, too, should go to the grave whither his child had gone. This consideration could surely, have afforded him no special pleasure. The grave is cold, and silent, and dismal. Nor could it have been a grateful reflection that since God had taken him away, he must submit to the necessity. If these, or any similar feelings governed him, why were they not equally influential, since they were all fully as applicable, in the case of another son, slain in battle? When tidings of that unhappy event reached David, how then did he deport himself? Did he with calm and resigned acquiescence, say to those about him, Wherefore should I lament him? "Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him; but he will not return to me? "On the contrary, he was wholly inconsolable. Overwhelmed by the blow, he turned away from his friends, and trembling with agony, he
"Went up to the chamber over the gate of the city. And as he went, thus he said: O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33.)
Why now this insupportable grief? The reason is obvious. Absalom was of mature age. He was a sinner against God. Besides, therefore, his affliction as a father on account of his death, he could entertain no hope for him in another life. Regarding his infant child the case was different. He had full confidence that he would, when the scenes of this world were over, "go to him" in the paradise above, where they would be associated in eternal glory. Therefore said he, in other words, He is happy now. He is in heaven. I will not grieve on his account. I also shall go ere long. Then I shall join him on high. This hope is most consolatory. It "is stronger than the grave." It is all radiant with joy and brightness. David undoubtingly believed that his child was saved.
Another instance, equally instructive, occurred in the family of Jeroboam. He, too, was a king of Israel, but a vile apostate, and wicked idolater. His child, also, was stricken with a deadly malady. He was greatly beloved, and his distressed father sought earnestly, but in vain, to save his life. The little sufferer sunk into the grave! In the midst of the tumult of sorrow produced by this event, the prophet Abijah, sent of God for the purpose, disclosed to the weeping mother, the designs of God in his removal at a period so early.
"All Israel," said Jehovah, "shall mourn for him, and bury him. He only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave. In him there is found some good thing." (2 Kings 14, et seq.)
This child, therefore, was removed, when so young that nothing of his personal history is recorded, as an act to him, of love, and blessing. But how could this be? Had he lived he would probably have been a king. If children?those of wicked parents, and of idolaters, as well as others are not saved, he was lost. It is surely no blessing to a child, to take him away from the prospects of a kingly throne, and send him to destruction! It is implied in scripture that it was an act of kindness to this child to remove him from all these prospects. Therefore God received him to himself in heaven. And if he was saved, then the children who die in infancy, of other wicked men and idolaters, are also saved.
One other instance on record, of infant salvation, is worthy of our attention. The murder of all the children of Bethlehem and its vicinity, by the jealous Herod, perpetrated in the hope that thereby he might succeed in destroying Messiah, was a horrible tragedy. It was foreseen, and predicted by an ancient prophet, in language full of mingled pathos and encouragement:
"A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping. Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted, because they were not. Thus saith the Lord: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears." "They shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border." (Jeremiah 31:15-17.)
Is the design of this passage difficult to perceive? Does it refer merely to the captivity in Babylon, under which the Hebrews were then suffering? Is the Mother of Israel represented as weeping in her tenderness, only over the woes of her children in a distant land, writhing under the oppressions of their masters? Does God comfort her merely with the assurance that they shall yet return from their bondage, and inhabit, in peace and prosperity, the fields and the cities of Judea? Whatever may have been the primary sense of the prophecy, inspiration itself has given it a still higher, and more exalted meaning. The evangelist Matthew furnishes the interpretation. He says:
"Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men; was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under." "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." (Matthew 2:16-18.)
This cruel act of Herod, therefore, was in the mind of the prophet. Of the children slain by him, consequently, it was more especially said, They shall escape from the enemy; there is hope for them; they shall possess their land! For these reasons their bereaved parents were exhorted to ?" refrain their voice from weeping, and their eyes from tears." But how was it possible to fulfill such promises? These children were all dead! They remained in their graves. Literally, these promises could never be fulfilled. The prophecy must therefore necessarily refer to another life. It evidently teaches the three following facts:?First, that all these slain children should be delivered from the great enemy, eternal death; secondly, that there was hope for them, since they were all redeemed by Christ, that they should enjoy eternal life; and thirdly, that they should possess the heavenly land, of which the earthly Canaan was a type. These are the grounds upon which our Heavenly Father offers comfort to their parents, and exhorts them to subdue their sorrows. Their children had been foully murdered.
The jealousy of the king had, with bloody and relentless violence, torn them from their bosoms. By this means, however, they had gone speedily, and safely, to eternal life. I have selected and laid before you these instances of infant salvation recorded in the word of God, and have drawn them from the children of the good and the pious, such as David; from the children of the idolatrous and wicked, such as Jeroboam; and from the children of all classes, such as were the bereaved parents "in Bethlehem, and all the coasts thereof," in order to prove to you that all infants are saved, without any regard to the character of their parents, or the circumstances under which they were removed from the present life. We have now seen that all children who die in infancy, are saved by the grace of God; that they are saved through the redemption of Jesus Christ; that this redemption is applied to them personally, and directly, by the Holy Ghost; and that we have many instances of their salvation recorded in God?s word; it remains only to be proved that their salvation is unconditional.
They are involved, it is true, on account of their connection with Adam, in the consequences of his fall. But provision has been made for their unconditional deliverance, in the satisfaction of the second Adam. One among the clearest demonstrations of this truth is presented to us in connection with the doctrine of their resurrection in the last day. "Since by man came death," says Paul, "by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die; even so in Christ, shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:21, 22.)
-- raised from the dead. (pantev zwopoihqhsontai.) It is true, then, that in the resurrection of the body, all will be raised. The righteous and the wicked, the Christian and the idolater, the adult and the infant, will alike participate in that glorious event. Here there is no condition but that of humanity. Those who live to the age of personal responsibility, are saved only upon the conditions of repentance, and faith. The wisdom of this provision no one can fail to perceive. They have a conscious being, a personal accountability. Yet it is not for their repentance, and faith; nor by their repentance, and faith, as a procuring cause, that even they are saved. They, too, obtain salvation by the grace of God in Jesus Christ: "For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8, 9.)
But repentance and faith are acts of a mind enlightened, and comparatively mature. They are not demanded of infants. Infants are saved unconditionally.
Thus is the salvation of infants fully, and satisfactorily established. Wherever in the wide world, and whenever, any child dies in infancy, it enters immediately into the joys of eternal life in heaven. It thenceforth dwells forever with the Redeemer. How full of the richest consolation is this glorious truth! In no form more delightful, has Jehovah manifested to us his abundant mercy, and grace. "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift."
With all these facts before us, we turn to hear the expositions on the subject of our Pedobaptist brethren. We are immeasurably pained to find them in utter confusion! Their best conceptions of this subject are entirely inadequate, and unworthy. All their teachings tend evidently to subvert the true scripture doctrine of infant salvation. Most of them claim that infants must be brought into the church, since out of it there is no deliverance; and all of them insist that the merits of Christ?s atonement and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, without which no one can be saved, are communicated to them through baptism. Thus they make the salvation of infants dependent upon conditions, and such conditions as no child can control, but must be performed by parents, friends, and ministers! Infant baptism and infant salvation are, therefore, always found more or less intimately associated in the minds of all classes of pedobaptists. These, I know, are grave charges, but the testimony is at hand by which they are amply sustained.
Before I offer this testimony, however, I will refer to a singular imputation against Baptists, and properly account for its existence. You have many a time, doubtless, heard the declaration that "Baptists believe in the damnation of infants" Some persons with whom you have met, have perhaps told you to your face that they have themselves heard Baptist people, and Baptist ministers, avow the sentiment. Pedobaptists of all classes, repeat everywhere the charge, and declare with indignant eloquence, that "Baptists hold the damnation of infants!" If, as I have professed to do in this chapter, I have properly represented Baptist sentiment on the subject, how could such an accusation against us ever have originated? And when produced and put into circulation, how could it have been kept up for so many ages? The answers are easy. Pedobaptists believe that the baptism of infants is necessary to their salvation.
According to their doctrines, therefore, if they are not baptized they must be damned. Baptists refuse to baptize infants. Pedobaptists instantly proclaim, as a consequence of their own principles, without waiting to hear our opinions on the question of their salvation, that therefore "Baptists hold the damnation of infants!" Nor will they give it up. To this day they insist that it must be so. Since we do not baptize infants, we surely believe that if they die in infancy they are damned! One example will probably be sufficient to establish and illustrate the correctness of this account of the origin of the charge. Archbishop Cranmer, in one of his discourses, speaks of the Baptists in the following language:?"Children, of necessity, must be christened, or else they cannot be purged of their sins, nor yet saved by Christ, and come to life everlasting. Wherefore the Anabaptists that would not have children to be christened, they show themselves that they would not have children to be purged from their sins, and be saved. If they would have children saved, they would not deny them the means whereby Christ purgeth his church from sins, and saveth it, which is baptism.1 " Thus the slander arose, and was continued. The authority for it was derived from Lords Archbishops, "Bishops, and other clergy." It is not, therefore, surprising that it was taken up by the multitude, and repeated without end.
The whole Pedobaptist English mind thus became imbued with the odium, throughout Europe and America, and it remains with them to the present hour. If we needed a defense against these allegations, it might be drawn from another class of our opponents, the Lutherans of all the German states. By them we are, and ever have been, vilified and reproached for holding that "infants are saved without baptism." The Augsburg Confession of Faith contains the following passage:?"They condemn the Anababaptists, who disallow the baptism of infants, and affirm that they may be saved without it."2 The German charge against us is true. We do believe that infants are saved without baptism. But the English charge is false, and they might, if they would, know it to be so. But in respect to us they do not wish to know the truth. It is the object of both parties, not to do us justice, but, if possible, to cover us with reproach, and thus, if they may, retard the progress of our principles. But our principles are those of the gospel. They cannot be always, successfully resisted. They will ultimately find their way to the hearts of men. They must, in the end, gloriously prevail. Persecuted we may be, and perpetually denounced; still we are really, the only Christians whose doctrines on infant salvation are rational, scriptural, or true. We return to the argument.
Roman Catholics, as is well known, universally hold and teach that no child can be saved unless it is baptized, and within "the pale of the church." The Fathers and Standards, of the Lutheran church, and the Episcopal church, all maintain the same doctrine. They insist that "baptism contains the grace which it represents," and by its intrinsic efficacy conveys to the child that grace "ex opere operato." Of these facts the amplest testimony has been given in the preceding chapters. The authorities there adduced need not be repeated. Their truth will, by all intelligent men, be readily admitted. In this country, however, some Lutherans, and Episcopalians, are evangelical. They surely do not receive the absurdities believed by their Fathers! Ask them, if you please. Will they answer you at all? If they do, will it not be in evasive terms? Some of them will perhaps be indignant, and tell you infants may be saved without baptism. Press them for an answer as to the grounds of their salvation.
They will respond thus:?If, in such a case, infants are saved, it is "by the uncovenanted mercies of God." Ah, "The uncovenanted mercies!" It may be so; and it may not! The matter is in their minds, at best, very doubtful! But Methodists, Presbyterians, and others of those classes, surely know better. They believe that all infants are saved, baptized, or not baptized. You can readily try their faith upon that question. One form of the experiment may be seen at almost any time. They scarcely know themselves what they believe on the subject. They will certainly resent the suspicion that they suppose infants may, under any circumstances, be lost. But let an unbaptized child of any of them, be sick,? and in danger of death. The utmost trepidation arises. Appalling fears of some disastrous consequences fill the bosoms of parents, and friends. Alarm reigns. The little sufferer must not continue an hour "unsealed," "uninitiated." The minister is sent for, and the child is baptized at midnight! The baptism quiets every foreboding, and is followed immediately by calmness, and resignation! Why all this apprehension, and haste? What if it should die if die it must?without baptism? Can it suffer possible harm on that account? Ah! disguise it as you may, the old superstition is still in their hearts. They believe?and they thus evince the fact?that there is in baptism, some sort of a mysterious sacramental efficacy, that affects for good, the destiny of the child in another world!
But we will try their opinions by a surer and more tangible standard. What do our Methodist brethren teach on the subject?
The answer is found in the "Doctrinal Tracts," written by Mr. Wesley himself, and published by order of the "General Conference," as an authoritative exposition of Methodism. I invite you to examine the following passages:?"What are the benefits," says Mr. Wesley, "we receive by baptism, is the next point to be considered. And the first of these is the washing away of original sin, by the application of Christ?s death. That we are all born under the guilt of Adam?s sin, and that all sin deserves eternal misery, was the unanimous sense of the ancient church, and is expressed in the ninth article of our own. And the scripture asserts that we were shapen in iniquity, and in sin did our mothers conceive us; that we were all by nature the children of wrath, and dead in trespasses and sins; that in Adam all die; that by one man?s disobedience all were made sinners; that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, which came upon all men, because all had sinned. This plainly includes infants, for they too die; therefore they have sinned; but not by actual sin, therefore by original sin, else what need have they of the death of Christ? Yea, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned actually, according to the similitude of Adam?s transgression. This, which can relate to infants only, is a clear proof that the whole race of mankind are obnoxious both to the guilt and punishment of Adam?s transgression.
But as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." "And the virtue of that free gift, the merits of Christ?s life and death, are applied to us in baptism." Here you have a plain statement. Mr. Wesley proves very clearly, that all infants inherit sin from Adam, and are redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ. But where is the proof that "the merits of his life and death are applied to them in baptism?" None is produced. The scriptures contain none. But still proof is offered, satisfactory to Mr. Wesley. Hear him. "The church declares in the rubric," that "it is certain, by God?s word, that children who are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are saved." "Here", he adds, "it is plainly taught that infants" "can be saved only by the merit of Christ?s death, and that this merit is to be applied in baptism."3 The proof, then, is in the rubric! It is not in the Bible. Christ?s merits can only be applied to infants by baptism! Is not the conclusion strangely absurd that, after having redeemed all children who die in infancy by his blood, Messiah should still be dependent for the application of his merits to them, and without which they cannot be saved, upon the contingency of their baptism! If not baptized, they remain corrupt and sinful, because his merits and righteousness can in no other way be applied to them. Corrupt and sinful beings must be lost. Unbaptized children die corrupt and sinful beings.
Therefore, according to Mr. Wesley, unbaptized children must be lost. In another place the Father of Methodism gives us the following argument: "If infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper subjects of baptism, seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved unless this be washed away in baptism. Infants need to be washed from original sin.
Therefore they are proper subjects for baptism."4 And this is the authorized and established doctrine of the whole Methodist church, English and American, on the subject of infant salvation! It is approved by the people, and published for their instruction and guidance by the General Conference! Our Methodist brethren, therefore, believe that "The virtues of Christ?s free gift?the merits of his life and death?are applied to infants in baptism;" that "Infants can be saved only by the merit of Christ?s death, and this merit is to be applied in baptism;" that "They cannot, in the ordinary way, be saved unless their original sin be washed away in baptism." And what is this but the same old dogma, in substance, held by the Papists, the Lutherans, and the Episcopalians? They all teach that "Baptism represents pardon, sanctification, and salvation, through Jesus Christ; and that it always conveys the grace which it represents." What a revolting subversion we here have of the scripture doctrine of infant salvation!
We will now pay our respects to the doctrines on the subject, of Presbyterians, and other Calvinists.
These doctrines are set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Catechisms. We notice the following passages:?"The visible church" "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, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation."5 It follows, of course, necessarily, that the children of those who do not "profess the true religion"?and such, in their estimation, are the children of ninety-nine hundredths of the whole human race; are not of "the house and family of God;" are not in the church; are not to be baptized, and, for them "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation!" But Calvinists also tell us that they confer "benefits" upon the children they baptize. What are these benefits? The Confession answers:?"Although it be a great sin to contemn, or neglect this ordinance, yet grace, and salvation, are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, [since there may be some unknown extraordinary possibility of salvation] or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated," [since some of the infants thus "sealed," may turn out to be of the "non-elect."] "The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; [all its sanctifying effects may not instantly be imparted] yet notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, [conveyed] and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto [if they be elect] according to the counsel of God?s own will, in his own appointed time."6 The grace promised, is conferred upon the infant by the Holy Ghost, in its baptism!
What is the grace promised? We have the answer in the Catechism. It is "The engrafting into" Christ; "the remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit;" "adoption, and resurrection unto eternal life."7 These constitute "the grace promised," and they are all, according to Presbyterians, and their kindred sects, given to infants in their baptism! Such infants, and only such, are in the church; and out of the church, "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." Thus we have an exposition of Calvinistic doctrines on the subject. They hold baptism to be the medium through which, to the infant who receives it, are conveyed "the merits of Christ?s death;" the blessings of grace and salvation! Again we have precisely the same old Popish teachings maintained by all the other sects of Pedobaptists. We have also, a like falsification of the true scripture doctrine of infant salvation.
Those who study the several Pedobaptist Standards, and other authorities on this subject, must be struck with the fact that they frequently speak of "the ordinary way" of salvation, and of the "ordinary possibility of salvation!" What do they mean by such language? Do they intend to teach their people that there may be some other way of salvation than that which God has revealed in his word? Has not Jehovah himself told them that, apart from Christ Jesus,
"there is none other name given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved?" (Acts 4:2.)
There is but one way of salvation. Infants are saved in the same way that all others of the redeemed are saved, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Am I told that the statements presented from the books may be true as to them, but after all, do not correctly represent the actual faith of the several communities involved? Is it affirmed that they do not, especially among us, credit this doctrine of baptismal efficacy, nor believe that baptism is necessary to the salvation of infants? If not, they do not believe their books! Why, then, do they continue to print and circulate these books, and to declare that they do believe them, heartily? If not, they do not believe their teachers! Why do they still hear, and sustain, and obey them? Say you they do not believe their own avowed baptismal doctrines? Why, then, do they still baptize their children? Why are they so alarmed when their children are in danger of dying without baptism? Why are they so impatient of any argument against infant baptism? Why this ceaseless effort to keep up infant baptism? Why all this, and much more, if they do not believe that their baptism has some sort of connection with the salvation of infants? Individuals among them are doubtless exceptions, but the masses still hold infant baptism as a condition of infant salvation. Their Standards teach it; their fathers believed it; they themselves cherish the same faith, more or less explicitly. 131 We have now seen that the whole Pedobaptist world make the salvation of infants conditional, and consign to destruction all those in whom these conditions are not fulfilled.
One of these conditions is, as we have seen, that they be within "the pale of the church." But where, in the word of God, can the authority be found to sustain this necessity for their church membership? None whatever exists. It is, besides, unreasonable in itself. The church was organized for special purposes, connected with the preservation of the Christian character, the conversion of sinners, and the extension of the gospel among men. Only those, therefore, may enter it who are qualified to enjoy its blessings, and to perform the duties involved. You might as well tell me that it is necessary or beneficial to enlist infants to fight in our armies, as that it is advantageous to baptize them into our churches. Because the church sustains the character indicated, it is invariably required for admission that men give evidence of repentance for sin, faith in Christ, and a voluntary and cheerful obedience to all the demands of the gospel. No other class of persons can either receive good, or do good, in the visible church. The membership of infants can therefore neither benefit them, nor the church. And what advantage can they derive from the ordinances? They were instituted to designate believers, and to strengthen and confirm their faith. They never were enjoined upon infants. They are no more obligatory upon them than are repentance and faith. On such as possess no ability, rests no responsibility. God imposes no duty upon those to whom he has given no capacity to perform it. The church was not designed for infants. It is no place for infants. Their non-performance of obligations resting only upon adults, can never interpose a barrier in the way of their acceptance with God. The supposition that the church membership of infants is a condition of their salvation, is unscriptural, unreasonable, absurd, and not to be credited.
Another condition of the salvation of infants proclaimed by all Pedobaptists, is, as we have seen, their baptism.
This, I remark, is fully as unscriptural, unreasonable, and absurd, as the other. What peculiar power is there in baptism, that with it they will be saved, and without it they will be lost? Is it the medium through which are conveyed to the child "the merits of the life and death of Christ?" Is the cleansing efficacy of the Holy Spirit given in baptism? Impossible! These blessings are never in any case, so conveyed, either to an infant, or to a believer. Grace and salvation are confined to and conferred by no ordinances whatever. They are always given to dying infants, and to believing adults, by the direct action of God the Holy Ghost. The salvation of infants is in no way dependent on their baptism.
But further. The supposition that their salvation is dependent on any such conditions is an impeachment of the righteous justice of God. It is predicated on the supposition that he holds the dying child responsible for proceedings of which it can have no knowledge, and over which it can exercise no possible control. Whether it is baptized or not, depends entirely upon its parents, friends, and ministers. Even if it were obligatory, it would be their duty, not the child?s. But it is the child that is to be saved, or lost. Shall the child be lost, because its parents were unfaithful, or unbelieving, or because the minister did not, or could not do his duty? The conclusion is nothing less than to charge God in the face of heaven, with cruelty, and injustice.
And lastly, the opinion that infant salvation is based on any of the conditions prescribed, and advocated, by pedobaptists, is horrible, on another account. It supposes that only those who are baptized, and in the church, are saved! What becomes of all the unbaptized who die in infancy? They of course must be consigned to eternal death! How countless the multitudes of children who go into the eternal world unbaptized! This is true of many, very many, in Christian lands; and in Pagan, and Mohammedan countries, it is true of all. If Pedobaptist doctrines on this subject be true, untold millions of infants are damned! They could not be saved without "the merits of Christ?s life and death." These are communicated to them only through baptism. They never were baptized. They are lost! But their doctrines are not true. They are, in themselves and in their results, wholly baseless. They are repugnant to every benevolent feeling of the soul. Never did the human mind conceive of sentiments more absurd and revolting.
Infant baptism, as these facts and considerations amply evince, subverts, and falsifies the true scripture doctrine of infant salvation, and thus proves itself an appalling evil, by denying the teachings of the word of God on that subject, and placing it upon fictitious grounds; by requiring that infants shall be in the church in order to be saved; by making baptism the means of removing original sin, and the medium of conveying to them "the merits of Christ?s life and death;" by proclaiming that the purification of the Holy Spirit is obtained for them only through this ordinance; and by keeping out of sight the great truth that all infants are saved unconditionally, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. For all this evil inflicted upon the truth, and for the boundless distress and anguish created by the falsehood, Pedobaptists of all denominations are responsible to God, and to men. Infant baptism has produced it all. They?not the Baptists in?are the men really, who "hold the damnation of infants!" We would, if we could, heal the festering wound they have inflicted. We repudiate the doctrine of infant baptism, and of infant damnation. We denounce all their accompaniments, and consequences. If God is just and good, if reason deserves respect, if the gospel is true, if the merits of Christ are efficacious, if the Holy Spirit is not bound by the control of men, and tied down to forms and ordinances, then all children dying in infancy, irrespective of any relation with the church, and without regard to baptism, or any other ordinance, are saved with an everlasting salvation, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, whose merits and righteousness, to fit them for the glorious change, are personally and effectually applied by the Holy Ghost.
1 Richmond?s English Fathers
vol. 2 etc.
2 Augsburg Confession, Art: 9.
3 Doctrinal Tracts7 p. 246.
4 Ib. p.251.
5 Westminster Confession, ch. 25, sec 2.
6 West. Conf., ch. 28, sects. 5-6.
7 Larger Cat., Quest. 165.
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