THE EVILS OF INFANT BAPTISM
By Robert Boyt C. Howell
INFANT BAPTISM IS AN EVIL BECAUSE IT RETARDS THE DESIGNS OF CHRIST IN THE CONVERSION OF THE WORLD.
Christ designs to convert the world; it is to be done by the gospel; the work hindered by the conflicts of Christians; consequences; conclusion.
THIS whole world is to be converted to God, As yet most of the nations are in darkness, and the shadow of death. But they shall all ultimately be delivered from their thraldom. Joy, and peace, and salvation, shall at length, reign universally. God himself has taught us this glorious truth. Hear the language of his inspired prophets.
"All kings shall fall down before him. All nations shall serve him." (Psalm 72:11.)
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord?s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it." (Isaiah 2:2.)
"For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9.)
"And the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." (Daniel 7:9.)
These declarations cannot be readily mistaken. If all kings, and nations, shall acknowledge and worship the true God, and flow as a stream unto his house; if the earth shall be full of the knowledge of him, and if all dominions shall serve and obey him; and than this, no less is here assumed; then surely the entire universe will have been converted, and brought fully under the reign of our adorable Redeemer. These are the reasons of our confidence in this result. The Lord Most High has declared that it shall be so, and his infinite wisdom, and power, are pledged for its accomplishment. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but his word shall not pass away unfulfilled. They were "voices in heaven" which were heard by an apostle, saying,
"The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15.)
The round earth, "instead of being a theater on which immortal beings are preparing by crime, for eternal condemnation, shall become a universal temple in which the children of men are learning the anthems of the blessed above."
But how is this amazing moral revolution to be achieved? How are the hearts of all men, now so corrupt, so obdurate, so fixed in sin, to be changed, and brought to love and worship the Savior? There is but one power capable of producing this result. It is the simple unadulterated gospel of Christ. Reason cannot do it. Philosophy cannot do it. Civilization cannot do it. The forms and ceremonies of religion, apart from its vitality, cannot do it. Nothing can do it but the cross of Christ. "This alone has power to bend the stubborn will to obedience, and melt the frozen heart to love." The lost children of men are to be taught that, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." They will receive the message.
They will believe it. They will embrace the Redeemer, and live. Nor will they "henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again." The remedy provided in the gospel is effectual. "It has been tried by the experience of eighteen hundred years, and has never failed in a single instance. Its efficacy has been proved by human beings of all ages," from the youthful penitent "to the sinner a hundred years old. All climates have witnessed its power. From the ice-bound cliffs of Greenland to the banks of the voluptuous Ganges, the simple story of Christ crucified has turned men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Its effect has been the same with men of the most dissimilar conditions." It has alike elevated and purified the degraded and abandoned, "and the dwellers in the palaces of kings. It has been equally sovereign amidst the scattered inhabitants of the forest, and the crowded population of the metropolis. Everywhere, and at all times, it has been, and still is, and ever must be, ?the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.? 1
Such are the designs of our Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel, and such is the power by which they are to be executed. The church, we have before seen, is the appointed instrumentality by which these purposes of grace are to be accomplished. Is she ready for her exalted mission? The nations are in her presence. They are covered with misery and death. In her hands is the power by which they are to be delivered and saved. The command from heaven is sounding in her ears, "Preach the gospel to every creature." Each day that obedience is delayed, hurries thousands down to irrecoverable destruction! What is she doing? Springing forward to the duty? Grappling with the powers of darkness? Hurling back the hosts of iniquity? Proclaiming Jesus Christ the deliverer? Alas, no! She has ingloriously turned away from her mission! She has indeed, herself become worldly, and corrupt. She is engaged almost solely, in theological conflicts with her fellow-disciples! She is quarreling about fictions! She has abandoned the nations to perish in their sins! Infant baptism, like the touch of a torpedo, has benumbed all her powers. What to her are the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world? She is, for the present at least, incapable of their execution!
Infant baptism retards the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world, by placing Baptists and Pedobaptists in conflict with each other. Endless controversies occupy the time, and powers, of the very men who are under infinite obligations to be united in heart, and harmoniously to co-operate in this enterprise of love. Nor is the battle which has been proceeding during so many centuries, relaxing in any degree. It is becoming each day, more and more warm and vigorous. In what is it possible for the contending parties to harmonize? Alas! they cannot agree even upon such a version of the Bible into the languages of the people, as both parties are willing to place in their hands!2 Not only is the living preacher detained from the nations, but the written word is withheld, and confessedly on account of this very question of baptism! The heathen must not, therefore, even have the Bible! Say you that the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world, are not thus retarded?
Infant baptism retards the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world, by diverting from the work the time; the talents, the learning, and the money of the church. These are, to a painful extent, occupied not in endeavoring to destroy sin; not in enlightening the nations by sending them the written and preached word; not in labors to save the souls of men; but in counteracting, and preventing the success of each other! How much larger the number of meeting-houses which must be built, and of pastors, and other ministers, who must be supported, than would otherwise be necessary! All these powers, and labors, and vast sums, might, but for this evil, be appropriated for the extension of the kingdom of Christ.
Infant baptism retards the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world, by detaining large numbers of ministers from the foreign field. Were Baptists and Pedobaptists united, as but for infant baptism, and its concomitants, they would be, a much smaller number would be sufficient for Christendom, and the remainder might "go far hence to the gentiles." What an immense army of heralds of the cross, in such a case, might at once depart! And "the wilderness, and the solitary place, would be glad for them, and the desert would rejoice, and blossom as the rose."
Infant baptism retards the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world, by giving the name of Christians to the abandoned and profligate merchants, and sailors, and soldiers, and others, in foreign lands. These men, wicked as they are, covered with every crime, claim to be Christians! Heathens, and Mohammedans, recognize them as Christians, and as true representatives of the religion of Christ! They really are, for the most part, members of pedobaptist churches, into which they were received in infancy. In these distant and dark lands, a man seldom dwells who is really born again, and even when he does, the natives naturally confound him with the mass of foreigners. Forming their conceptions of Christianity by the moral character of the men before them, nearly all of whom are swearers, drunkards, adulterers, gamblers, and abominably depraved, is it surprising that they look upon Christianity with loathing, and reject it with disdain? How can true religion ever be impressed upon their hearts? A barrier all but impassable, is thus presented in the way of any successful effort abroad. A missionary finds his way among the people, but what can he do? He preaches to them "of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come." They point him to his countrymen, and ask, Have they not been baptized? Are not they Christians? The man of God tells them of a Savior who died for them, and of the Holy Spirit, by whom men are purified.
They answer him by asking, Have not your Christian countrymen, who cheat, defraud, and abuse us, been redeemed by Christ, and purified by the Holy Ghost? They have been baptized! They are Christians. Does he attempt to explain the difference between nominal and real Christians? They do not understand it. Their answer is, You are all alike. We see the practical influence of your religion. We do not want such a religion! They will hear no more. Their hearts are closed against the truth.
Infant baptism retards the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world, by creating everywhere, strifes, and sectarian prejudices. How effectually do these embarrass and obscure the conceptions of men of all classes! How can those who are under their influence, ever see the truth? They give constantly recurring occasions for reproach and alienation. They turn away the hearts of multitudes from Christ, from his religion, and from his people. In this way the moral force of all parties is greatly weakened, and the progress of the gospel proportionally retarded.
Thus it is seen how infant baptism retards the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world, by enfeebling, through her own errors and worldliness, the church herself; by placing Baptists and Pedobaptists in perpetual conflict with each other; by diverting from the work the time, the talents, the learning, and the money of the church; by detaining large numbers of ministers from the foreign field; by giving the name of Christians to the abandoned and profligate in heathen lands; and by creating among men everywhere, perpetual strifes, and the bitterest sectarian prejudices. How lamentable the evil in this respect which infant baptism inflicts upon our world! What multitudes has it left uninstructed, to perish forever! With such an incubus hanging upon the church, diverting her energies, corrupting her principles, and destroying her life, how can the world ever be converted to God? But this impediment will be taken away, this baleful influence which has poisoned Christianity, will be removed, and "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ."
It must now, I think, be evident that infant baptism is the most pernicious heresy that has ever found its way into the church of Christ. Are there still those who think it a small matter? Say you that it cannot be so very iniquitous? You are perhaps willing to admit that, "It does no good." Do you yet claim that it "does no harm?" You are, I trust, undeceived You now see that it is really the source from which have sprung most of the corruptions that afflict the cause of Christ. "And it is the more dangerous from the slow, and insidious manner in which it accomplishes its results. It acts, I confess, silently. It covertly reaches its ends. Its steps are so circuitous, and its progress so imperceptible, that the consequences are not seen till the catastrophe comes. And even then, they are nearly always referred not to the primal cause, but to some one of the intermediate agencies which it has set in motion! Infant baptism has done more, directly and indirectly, than all other corruptions combined, to overthrow truth, to turn men away from vital religion, to pollute Christianity, to enfeeble her power, and to keep back the hour of her final triumph."
2 See the conflicts between the American and American and Foreign Bible Societies.
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