THE EVILS OF INFANT BAPTISM
By Robert Boyt C. Howell
INFANT BAPTISM IS AN EVIL BECAUSE IT LEADS ITS ADVOCATES INTO REBELLION AGAINST THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST.
Christ?s authority paramount; infant baptism contemns it, in regard to the persons to be baptized, the required profession of faith, and the form of baptism; it prevents the obedience of believers.
THE authority of Jesus Christ is everywhere absolute. in his church he is the sole lawgiver, and ruler. His known will is, in all cases, decisive of your duty. His right to govern is unquestionable. He is your Creator and Redeemer, infinitely wise, good, and merciful. You are his people, ignorant, imperfect, and dependent. To enlighten and guide you he has given his most holy word, in which you have instructions on all subjects, and to the utmost extent. This perfect revelation you are obliged to receive as it is, and be governed by it in your heart, and your life. To attempt evasions in any respect; to practice as his what he has not commanded; or to substitute in place of his institutions any of your own; is to come directly into collision with his authority. Infant baptism offends in all these respects. It leads to the violation of divine commandments regarding the persons to be baptized, the preliminary profession of faith, the form of the ordinance, and the obligations to Christian obedience.
1. Infant baptism leads its advocates into rebellion against the authority of Christ in regard to the persons to be baptized.
These are described definitely, in the apostolic commission. When last the voice of Messiah was heard upon earth, it was in the utterance of the command, Go, and make disciples, not among the Jews only, but among all nations. Teach them the gospel, and those who believe it baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This duty imposed upon them is obligatory upon all their successors in the ministry "unto the end of the world." But infant baptism has introduced a condition of things that renders rebellion inevitable. In Pedobaptist countries, such as Italy and Spain, an instance of compliance with the command of Christ has not occurred in a thousand years. In those lands, or among Pedobaptists anywhere, who can "make disciples, and baptize them?" All the people have been baptized in their infancy. There are, it is true, among them many unbelievers; multitudes who are still "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity;" they ought to hear and believe the gospel; but they have all been baptized! They are all in the church! Shall we exhort them as Peter, in his day, did those of the same character, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you?" This would be inappropriate. They have "every one" of them been baptized without repentance! Have any of them?a rare event?been instructed, and obtained faith? May we then say to them, as Philip did to an interesting convert, "If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest be baptized?" No; they have all been baptized without faith!
And if any zealous preacher of righteousness should undertake to baptize one of these baptized infidels, after his conversion, he would subject himself to the disgrace and the civil penalties of being an Anabaptist. The Savior requires that men shall first believe, and then be baptized. But the order he established is now reversed. The impenitent and unbelieving, as well as the holy and faithful, all have long ago been baptized. Thus infant baptism subverts the authority of Christ. It baptizes exclusively UNBELIEVERS, AND BELIEVERS! In proportion as it prevails the apostolic commission is contemned and violated. This remark may be illustrated by referring to a fact in the history of our fathers. In England, until after the restoration of the Stuarts, there was not in the established church, even a liturgy for the baptism of adult persons. During the Commonwealth, the citizens had enjoyed under Cromwell, a liberty of conscience before wholly unknown. With the Bible in their hands, great numbers of the people became Baptists. Their children were of course not baptized. After the return of the monarchy, these were compelled to submit to the ordinance, and for this purpose the liturgy was remodeled, and an "office" inserted, then for the first time, for adults. Dr. Wall narrates these events thus:
"It was by reason of this [the prevalence of the Baptist] opinion in those times, that the Convocation that set presently after the restoration of Charles II., when they made a new book of Common Prayer, found it necessary to add to it an office for the baptism of those who, having been born in those times, had not yet been baptized, whereof there were many that were now grown too old to be baptized as infants, and ought to make profession of their own faith. They gave in the preface to the said book an account of the occasion which made this necessary then, though not formerly, in these words, ?Together with an office for the baptism of such as are of riper years.? Which, although not so necessary when the former book was compiled, yet by the growth of Anabaptism, through the licentiousness [freedom of conscience] of the times, is now become necessary."1 From the period, therefore, that Popery took possession of Britain in the seventh century, up to the reign of the second Charles, no believers, unless in secret, were ever baptized in all that realm! Thus completely and effectually, as to the persons appointed to receive this ordinance, does infant baptism lead to rebellion against the divine law, and subvert the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ!
2. Infant baptism offers an indignity to the authority of Christ by dispensing with the appointed profession of faith as a condition of baptism.
The previous profession of faith in Christ is made by the gospel itself, an indispensable condition of baptism. It can never be disregarded without a violation of the commandment of God. The apostles, and primitive Christians, never departed from this principle in a single instance. So plainly is this fact set forth in the sacred word, and so firmly has it ever been fixed in the public mind, that, as we saw in a previous chapter, it has always been demanded even of infants! Papists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and others, to this day, farcically pretend that little children do believe; and, since they cannot themselves make their own profession of faith, sponsors are appointed to make it for them! But who that thinks at all, does not know that this is all a miserable fiction? It is absurd. It is ridiculous. Infants have no repentance, no faith, no religion. They are baptized without any profession of their own whatever. The law demands of all who are baptized a previous profession of faith. Infants make no such profession. Therefore infant baptism is rebellion against the law, and an indignity to the authority of Jesus Christ.
3. It also perpetuates the change of form, and thus wholly abolishes baptism itself.
As we have but "one Lord,? and "one faith," so we have but "one baptism." There is no other. That "one baptism" is the burial in water, and raising again, by a true minister of the gospel, of a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ, upon a profession of his faith, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. So ably and conclusively, by numerous writers, is this proposition established, that I deem it unnecessary here to enter into the argument. This is the form of Christian baptism. It is its invariable form. Baptism itself is but a form. The form is the thing. Take away the form, and nothing is left. Destroy the form, and you destroy baptism. He who in baptism is not immersed, is really not baptized. The change of its form is the abrogation of baptism. But, except in the Greek church, infants are never immersed. They have water sprinkled, or poured upon them. The form is changed. No one, I presume, imagines that this desecration would ever have become general, had it not been to accommodate infants. "Men and women" who read, and believe the scriptures, who are governed by them, and act for themselves, would never think of submitting to any other than the scripture form. But to immerse infants would be, to say the least, very inconvenient, and not always perhaps entirely safe. Infant baptism has, therefore, perpetuated the change of form, and thus wholly abrogated baptism itself. Infant baptism is thus also in conflict with the authority of Jesus Christ.
4. Infant baptism prevents the obedience to Christ of believers. He commands all believers, as believers, and when they become believers, to be baptized; but many who have been sprinkled in infancy, refuse to obey him; and they refuse upon the ground expressly that they have been sprinkled in infancy. Now infant sprinkling is certainly not baptism. And it prevents true baptism in a variety of ways.
Multitudes among sprinkled Christians will not think, or converse on the subject. They are offended if it is even mentioned in their presence. A sermon they will not hear; a book they will not touch, unless it is designed to confirm them in their errors. If any one venture to present to them the truth, and admonish them to obedience, they will be at no pains to conceal their displeasure, and will probably never forgive him! They live and die unbaptized.
But there are many, very many who read the scriptures for themselves, and who cease to entertain pedobaptist sentiments. They would, if they might, most gladly be baptized. Will their own chosen and loved pastors baptize them? Never! Often have they been besought to do so, but they will not. They are immovable. What! refuse to administer the laws of Christ? How dare they refuse? His commands are upon them. "Teach," says the Redeemer, "and baptize those who believe." But no; they have sprinkled them in their infancy; therefore when they believe they will not baptize them! Infant baptism thus turns the professed ministers of Christ into rebels against him, and brings them, too, into collision with his authority!
In our country, however, there are large numbers who become enlightened, and consequently unhappy on this subject. They feel as if they must obey Christ, but how can they? In Europe, such an act was, for many a century, and in most transatlantic countries is now, a serious offense against the laws of the land. Both administrator and subject would this day, be persecuted, imprisoned, and, if they could not escape, be hurried by suffering possibly to an untimely grave.: But in our own free land there are no such restraints. May not every one here do what he shall think to be his duty? Yes, it is his unquestioned right. But after all, is the exercise of that fight practicable? Few who have no experience in the premises, or whose attention has not been especially called to the subject, can imagine how almost insurmountable are the difficulties such an one finds in his way. He cannot be baptized, as we have seen, in his own church. But he is at liberty to leave that, and join the Baptist church. Dare he venture such an act? Few, unless favored by peculiar circumstances, find themselves possessed of the requisite courage. He reject infant baptism! If he dare essay so bold an act, he is taunted and ridiculed as presuming to be wiser than the thousands of the great and the good who have gone before him.
Reproached! Insulted! Scoffed! He shrinks appalled. He dare reject infant baptism! He is upbraided with a want of respect for his parents and friends, who believed in it, and who had him baptized in his infancy. Will he shame and scandalize those who of all others are dearest to his heart? He reject infant baptism! In this act he will renounce his family, and relatives, who will pursue him ever after with scorn and contempt, as unworthy and degraded. He leave his own church! He loves his church devotedly, and cannot abandon it. He think of forsaking his own, and uniting with another church! If he dare he will be at once denounced as weak-minded, vacillating, and unstable. It will be rung in his ears that not much confidence is to be placed in the religion or intelligence of those "renegades," who are going from one church to another. He join the Baptist church! For that church, above all others, he has been taught to cherish disrespect! He believes its members to be mostly ignorant fanatics, with whom intercourse must always be painful. All this, and only to be baptized! Had he not better give it up at once? These are some of the barriers that infant baptism throws in the way of obedience. They show that what our Lord Jesus Christ said on a memorable occasion, to the multitudes who surrounded him, is still true of all classes--"If any man come to me, and hate not [love less than me] his father and mother, and-wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26, 27.)
I have known many, and from my heart have pitied them, who ?lamented in secret the obstacles in their way. They were always unhappy. Their consciences were perpetually upbraiding them. But they remained in disobedience!
There are persons, however, and I thank God that their numbers are rapidly multiplying, who rise superior to every restraint, and obey our Lord Jesus Christ at whatever hazard. They know, and dare do their duty. To them nothing is so precious as a consciousness that they please God. They are characterized by strong and independent minds, firmness of purpose, deep piety, and a readiness to sacrifice all for Christ. They count not their lives dear to themselves in comparison with the approbation of their adorable Redeemer. These can, and do, burst the bonds of infant baptism. But the thousands remain through life in slavery! They cannot move.
These are some of the forms in which infant baptism develops the evil inherent in its character; it leads directly to rebellion against the authority of Christ in regard to the persons to be baptized, receiving those he has prohibited, and rejecting those he has received; it dispenses with the profession of faith as a condition of baptism, which he has in all cases imperatively demanded; it has perpetuated the change of form in baptism, a form divinely instituted and commanded, and thus abolished baptism altogether; and it prevents those who have been sprinkled in infancy from obeying Christ when they become believers. It is now seen to be most true, that infant baptism is an evil because it brings its advocates into direct rebellion against the authority of our adorable Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1 Hist. Inf. Bap., vol. 2, pp. 321-322.
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