THE EVILS OF INFANT BAPTISM
By Robert Boyt C. Howell
INFANT BAPTISM IS AN EVIL BECAUSE IT IS THE GRAND FOUNDATION UPON WHICH REST THE UNION OF CHURCH AND STATE.
Testimony in proof; origin and nature of the union; destructive of true religion.
INFANT baptism is inseparable from the union of church and state. They are essential to each other. This fact will, I presume, be admitted by all. In a late learned work, Dr. Williams, (of England,) remarks:?"Without it [infant baptism] those prophecies can never be fulfilled that predict the conversion of nations to God. National conversions must be Pedobaptistical conversions, because there must be children included in these nations. A national church must therefore be a Pedobaptist church. Indeed, those who aim at a national church must have some principle upon which the whole of its inhabitants may be compressed within its pale. This infant baptism alone renders possible."1 "Dr. Wall justly asserts that all national churches have practiced infant baptism. Nothing is plainer than that where national churches are maintained, infant baptism must be practiced, because the nation is brought into the church in its infancy."2 In Europe, this is in fact, one of the principal arguments in support of infant baptism, that it is the grand foundation upon which rests the union of church and state, and that without it such union cannot be maintained. The following canon law of England is prompted by a conviction of the truth now stated:?"No minister shall refuse or delay to christen any child, that is brought to him upon Sundays, or holy-days, to be christened;" "and if he shall refuse to christen, he shall be suspended by the Bishop of his diocese from his ministry by the space of three months,3 All who belong to the nation must belong to the church. To be in the church, all must be baptized. And to baptize all, they must receive the ordinance in their infancy. Were only those who repent, believe in Christ, and live holy lives, admitted into the church, then indeed would it be as Christ designed, pure, elevated, sanctified, but it never could be national, and particularly would it very seldom contain the kings, and princes, and great men of the earth.
These can find their way into the church by no other medium than infant baptism. But they must be in the church in order to make it a national church. Infant baptism is essential to the union of church and state. Upon what arguments do the friends of a state church rely to prove its lawfulness? The very same by which they defend infant baptism. To this fact I briefly alluded in a former chapter. Judaism in both cases, furnishes the required testimony. The Jewish society before Christ, and the Christian society after Christ, are one and the same church under different dispensations. The Jewish church was national. The Christian church must also be national. Every Hebrew was born in the Jewish church, and to confirm him in his rights and immunities, he was circumcised. In like manner every Christian child is born in the church, and receives baptism.
"If infant baptism is legitimate, a national church, and priesthood, necessarily follow."4 Infant baptism, therefore, as is maintained, both by its friends, and its enemies, is the grand foundation upon which rests the union of church and state. This fact having now been fully determined, we proceed to consider the origin and nature of the union in question. Our Lord Jesus Christ foresaw that his holy religion would meet, in all lands, the condemnation of men in power, and that in its progress it would agitate society to its very foundations. He therefore said to his disciples:
"Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth. I am not come to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in law against her mother-in-law. And a man?s foes shall be they of his own household. (Matthew 10:34-36.) "And ye shall be hated of all nations for my name?s sake. (Matthew 24:9.)
Accordingly, the religion of Christ no sooner began to be preached than it had arrayed against it all the princes, priests, and officials of every government upon earth. Its advocates were pursued, hunted down, persecuted, and destroyed everywhere. Resistance, however, but added to its strength. God was in his truth. His purposes no earthly power can successfully frustrate. The people heard, and believed. Disciples multiplied. Heathenism waned. True religion spread itself into all the ramifications of society, in all places and countries. At this moment peculiar events were transpiring in the Roman empire. Lucinius and Constantine were in conflict for the imperial crown. Politicians are ever sagacious to perceive, and avail themselves, of any element in society which may bear them on triumphantly to their desired end. Lucinius identified himself with the pagans, and rallied to his support all classes who composed the opposition to the religion of Christ. Constantine linked his fortunes with the Christians. Battles were fought. Constantine was victorious. He ascended the throne of the Caesars. Numerous reasons show that of doctrinal religion this emperor knew very little, and of experimental religion nothing. His connection with Christianity originated in a far-seeing policy, and afterwards continued from similar considerations. The result was the adoption of the Christian religion, and its establishment in the place of paganism, which had gone down with Lucinius, as the religion of the empire.
The model upon which the union of church and state now brought into being was framed, was strictly pagan. The union itself was subsequently advocated by the priests as scriptural, upon the ground that Judaism was a national religion, and established by law. This consideration, however, did not at first, if it ever did afterwards, weigh in the mind of the emperor. He very well knew that in every nation, of whatever grade, before that period, and it is still true of them all, the prevailing superstitions were, and are, established by law, as the religion of the state. "Despotic rulers," says Noel, "have ever sought to extort from their subjects all possible advantages for themselves, and to this end to retain them in the most complete servitude. They have chiefly depended on their armies. But the fears and the hopes of superstition, have been too obvious a support not to be largely employed. Well-paid soldiers have been their first instruments of power. Their second has been a well-paid priesthood. Priests have lent to despots in aid of their selfish designs, the portents, and the predictions of superstition. Despots have in return, invested the superstition with splendor, and punished non-conformity with death." "By the aid of the superstition the despot fortified his tyranny; and by the aid of the despotism the priest gave currency to his falsehoods." "Neither party was strong enough to rule alone. But when the priest preached for the despot, and the despot governed for the priest, both the more easily kept their feet upon the necks of the people, and made the universal degradation subservient to their greatness?"5 This was the policy established in Egypt, and Babylon, and Persia, and Greece, and Rome, and all other countries.
All this was well understood by Constantine. He therefore combined in himself, and in his successors, as had been the practice, the highest ecclesiastical with the highest civil power. He governed not only the state, but also the church. He regulated its discipline, assumed to decide all controversies, by judges of his own appointment, and, except those called by himself, interdicted the assembling of any council whatever. Thus the whole form and character given to his church by Jesus Christ were destroyed and lost. It was erected into a great hierarchy. Messiah was dethroned. It was no longer the church of Christ. Such was the union of the church with the state, when that alliance was first brought into being. It was fashioned upon the principles of paganism, and advocated upon those of Judaism. And upon this substantially, has been since modeled the union of church and state in every other country!
The results of this union now demand our calm attention.
Those which immediately arose were most disastrous. Wealth and honors poured into the church; and with them came impiety, spiritual ignorance, ceremonies and superstitions of all kinds. Frequent pilgrimages, for example, were undertaken to Palestine, and to the tombs of the martyrs. Absurd doctrines and idle ceremonies daily multiplied. Dust and earth, brought from Judea, were sold and bought at high prices, as the most powerful remedy against the violence of wicked spirits. The old heathen habiliments, and processions, were brought into Christian worship. And the virtues which had formerly among pagans been ascribed to their temples, their lustrations, and the statues of their gods, were by the baptized now attributed to their churches, their holy water, and the images of their saints.6 To this deplorable condition was the cause of Christ at once reduced by the calamitous union of the church with the state. Another result was to give increased prevalence to infant baptism, as a practice required by this new relation.
The introduction of infants, though in primitive times unknown in the Christian church, was not a new policy in bodies ecclesiastic. The children of the ancient pagans had been ever, by appropriate forms, soon after their birth, solemnly presented to the gods. Infant dedication was therefore continued, and its form of course was now baptism. Policy demanded that Christianity should be as much as possible, and particularly in its ceremonials, conformed to paganism, in order that the masses might be the more readily transferred from one religion to the other. On this subject Mr. Hinton remarks:?"We find it indelibly recorded on the pages of history, that the practice of baptizing infants did not spread extensively till after Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire."7
The last result I shall mention is, that any established religion ceases instantly to be the true religion.
Christianity, as revealed by Messiah, necessarily involves individual inquiry, belief, and profession. An established religion is exactly the opposite, since it demands unexamining conformity. The gospel defers every thing to the conscience:?"Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind," and "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." A state religion disregards the conscience altogether. The gospel requires men to reject every false religion. A state system compels men to embrace, right or wrong, the religion of their country. The gospel invites men to form a voluntary society upon conviction as men. An established religion herds them together by law, as animals, within the enclosure of a national ritual.
The gospel binds every man to search after truth, to receive it, to maintain it, and to promulgate it, in opposition to error, however venerable and popular. All this is by every state religion denounced and prohibited. The union of church and state is therefore, in all cases, inevitably, and necessarily, iniquitous in itself, and full of evil in all its bearings, and relations, social, political, and religious. It is unscriptural, it binds the consciences of men, it suppresses inquiry, it subjects the wise and good to be governed by the ignorant and vicious, it is a horrible engine of persecution, it is an injury to the state as well as to the church, and impedes and prevents the extension of the gospel, and the conversion of the nations. "I am thoroughly convinced that this unChristian connection between the church and the state [which has ever prevailed in Europe] has done more mischief to the gospel than all the ravings of infidelity since the crucifixion. It converts good Christians into bad statesmen, and political knaves into pretended Christians. It is at best, but a foul and adulterous connection, polluting the purity of heaven with the abominations of earth, and hanging the tatters of a political piety upon the cross of an insulted Savior."8
Such is the union of church and state, in its origin, character, and results. Ours is the first Christian country, and the only one, since the reign of Constantine, in the government of which this union has been repudiated and denounced as a monstrous evil. In the sentiments, therefore, which I have here expressed, I expect to have the concurrence of every true-hearted American Christian. But the union of church and state rests for its foundation upon infant baptism, without which it cannot exist. Destroy infant baptism, and you destroy the union of church and state. That unhallowed relation is no longer possible. Is it consistent to repudiate and condemn the connection, and at the same time uphold the platform that supports and perpetuates it? Can you deprecate the result while you continue to defend the cause? He who defends infant baptism defends the union of church and state. For the enormities of every state religion, Catholic and Protestant, infant baptism is, as we have fully shown, justly chargeable. Therefore infant baptism is an enormous evil.
1 In Stovel?s Chr?n Discip.
2 Hinton?s Hist. of Bapt., p. 368.
3 Ch. Can., 68
4 Henry Denne
5 Union of Church and State, pp. 37-39.
6 Noel, Union of Church and State, pp. 37-39
7 Hist. of Bapt., p. 368.
8 Dr. Philip
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