THE EVILS OF INFANT BAPTISM
By Robert Boyt C. Howell
INFANT BAPTISM IS AN EVIL BECAUSE IT INJURES THE CREDIT OF RELIGION WITH REFLECTING MEN OF THE WORLD.
It is irrational; it is without authority; it throws suspicion upon all religion; its purposes are sectarian.
THE honor of religion is dear to every true Christian. To cherish and to love it, is both his duty, and his interest. He can never see it tarnished, but with deep pain. The gospel is consistent both with itself, and with reason. It is to be proposed to men of the world. Their salvation depends upon their believing, embracing, and obeying it. They are not always ignorant of its truths. The utmost care should be exercised that they be not repelled from its teachings. They are capable of reasoning on religious subjects. What you attempt to teach them must correspond with the divine word. Otherwise Christianity will, in their minds, be discredited, and your approaches will be resisted. To honor the cause of Christ, therefore, and to gain men to truth and salvation, such must be your faith, and your practice, that none may be able to point to them, and say, this is irrational; this is without authority; this is suspicious in its character; this is a sectarian device. You must be above reproach. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." But infant baptism does not honor, it inevitably injures the credit of religion, with intelligent reflecting men of the world.
1. It does so, in the first place, because it is really in itself irrational.
You bring forward a child to be sprinkled. An intelligent man will naturally inquire your reasons. He asks for the rationale of the practice. Do you tell him that thereby it is cleansed from original sin; or that it receives all the benefits of the death of Christ; or that it is regenerated, and fitted for heaven? He solicits your proofs. You can give him none that deserve the name. With his Bible in his hand, and his eyes open to behold the objects around him, does he believe your teaching? It is impossible. He does not. He cannot. He may not answer you. He may believe you honest, and sincere. But he does not assent. The baptism of a little infant! What sense or reason is there in it? He perceives none. There is none. It commemorates nothing, It signifies nothing. What good does it accomplish? None for the child; none for the parents; none for the church; none for religion; none for the world; none in any respect whatever. What reasonable man can believe that the child, or any other human being, is the better for it, either in this life, or in the next? It in reality confers no privileges, or advantages, temporal, or spiritual. It is, in truth, utterly irrational, and in the estimation of intelligent, thinking, unprejudiced worldly men, must detract painfully from the credit of religion.
2. Infant baptism, in the second place, injures the credit of religion, because it is practiced without any authority whatever.
The Bible contains not one passage in its support. This fact has been before sufficiently demonstrated. No man, however carefully he studies the sacred record, can find one there. And do you place at the very threshold of religion an irrational institution, unauthorized by God, and hurtful to men? And do you demand compliance with it as an essential part of the divine service? What must be the impression thus made upon intelligent men of the world? The credit of religion inevitably suffers.
3. Infant baptism, in the third place, injures the credit of religion by casting suspicion upon the whole subject.
Religion must be set forth and practiced in a plain, candid, open, ingenuous, honest manner. If I find a man equivocating, and double dealing with me on one subject, I suspect he may on another; and if I detect him so acting in several instances, I withdraw my confidence from him entirely. So it is in religion. Men must not be trifled with, nor deceived by its professors, and teachers. But infant baptism is inconsistent both with scripture and reason. Yet, in this country, its advocates vehemently maintain that religion in all its parts, is reasonable, and that they are governed in their whole faith, and obedience, exclusively by the word of God! What must be the effect upon the mind of a discriminating hearer? Will he conclude that these Pedobaptists are sincere, but ignorant? This may be true of many, but cannot be true of all. He will certainly reason in his own heart thus:?This, I know, is irrational, and unauthorized. I know not how many other like things Christians may teach and practice. If one irrational and unauthorized principle be advocated, why not another? And if two, why not twenty? Suspicion is awakened, and men of the world are repelled by it from religion. Thus infant baptism casts suspicion upon the whole of the religion of Christ.
4. Finally, infant baptism, as practiced among us, is a well-arranged sectarian device.
It appeals not to the judgment, but to the feelings; not to reason, but to prejudice in favor of an old and venerable custom. It wears very much the appearance of an essay to take undue advantage of all the parties concerned. You receive the babes into the church! You then have certainly such a hold upon the parents as commits them to that particular denomination of which their cherished loved ones are thus made members. If the children go, the parents will follow them. Thus both are secured. But how? Not by reason; not by the force of religion; but by a mere sectarian fiction! The whole proceeding seems to argue a consciousness that religion will not bear the test of examination! Otherwise why do they impose what implies a profession of it, upon these children, before they are capable of exercising their reason? Why not allow all parties an opportunity to study the Bible before their dogmas are forced upon their acceptance? Why hurry parents and children into the church in violent haste, as if they could not otherwise be saved? Can men of the world, can any class of men, believe that an intelligent, a holy, a reasonable religion, a religion that addresses the judgment and the heart, can be propagated, and honored, by means like these? They cannot. Infant baptism among us is a sectarian device, and as such unworthy of the religion of Christ.
From all these facts and considerations it is most evident that infant baptism injures the credit of religion with reflecting and unprejudiced men of the world, and is therefore a great evil. They must see that it is irrational in itself, that it is wholly without authority from the word of God; they must be led by it to suspect, in all its other departments, the integrity of religion; and they will thus be tempted to regard as compatible with its morals, and honor, any sectarian trap, or management which may swell the numbers of an ecclesiastical party. Need we be surprised, therefore, that among persons of this class, so strong a tendency to skepticism should prevail; that they should feel inclined to repel the gospel of Christ; and that they should so often want confidence in the ministers of religion? Infant baptism is inimical to the honor and prevalence of the gospel of Christ. With regard to it, therefore, we may with emphasis repeat the divine admonition:?"Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare ye the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people."
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