THE EVILS OF INFANT BAPTISM
By Robert Boyt C. Howell
RECAPITULATION, WITH CONCLUDING ADDRESSES
Recapitulation; addresses to Pedobaptists; to Baptists in Pedobaptist churches; to Baptists.
THE evils of infant baptism have now, in most of their forms, passed successively in review. They have been considered calmly, dispassionately, but faithfully, and as demanded by the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. If I have "nothing extenuated," neither have I "set down aught in malice." Let them be here briefly recapitulated.
Infant baptism is an evil, because its practice is unsupported by the word of God; because its defense leads to most injurious perversions of scripture; because it engrafts Judaism upon the gospel of Christ; because it falsifies the doctrine of universal depravity; because it contradicts the great fundamental principle of justification by faith; because it is in direct conflict with the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration; because it despoils the church of those peculiar qualities which are essential to the church of Christ; because its practice perpetuates the superstitions that originally produced it; because it subverts the scripture doctrine of infant salvation; because it leads its advocates into rebellion against the authority of Christ; because of the connection it assumes with the moral and religious training of children; because it is the grand foundation upon which rests the ration of church and state; because it leads to religious persecutions; because it is contrary to the principles of civil and religious freedom; because it enfeebles the power of the church to combat error; because it injures the credit of religion with reflecting men of the world; because it is the great barrier to Christian union; because it prevents the salutary impression which baptism was designed to make upon the minds both of those who receive it, and of those who witness its administration; and because it retards the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world. These, mainly, are the charges I prefer against infant baptism, and I believe that I have proved each one of them conclusively, if so, it is a great and unmitigated evil. It not only does no good, but it does evil, immense evil, and only evil.
In closing this discussion, may I not, in the first place, address a few words to my Pedobaptist brethren?
Will you not here pause, and with the Bible in your hand, prayerfully re-examine this whole subject? You have probably never, at any time, given it a careful investigation. You found it in your Church, and feeling, very naturally, a prejudice in favor of whatever she approves, and observes, you received and adopted it. You have since practiced the rite under a sort of indefinite impression that, although you do not yourself comprehend with any clearness how, yet it is defensible by the word of God. This, I know, is the position occupied by thousands. You do not design to depart from the gospel. Least of all do you imagine that in this matter you are committing an injury in any way. The enormous evil it brings upon you, upon your children, upon the church, and upon the world, is a great fact to which your attention has not hitherto been called. You have regarded it with favor because it is observed by your church; because great men practice, and defend it; because it is a time-honored institution which has come down to you through a period of fifteen centuries; and because you have thought that "If it does no good, it will do no harm!" But great men, and good men, as great, and as good, as any that have defended, and practiced infant baptism, have also defended, and practiced, all the corruptions of Popery. If on this account you receive infant baptism, you are obliged, for the same reasons, to receive all the corruptions of Popery.
That, too, is a time-honored institution, clothed with the sanction of more than twelve centuries. High position; great learning; venerableness; never can give authority to any thing which is in itself false, and injurious. Ours is neither the age, nor the country, nor is religion the theme, in which such arguments can be respected. Because our: fathers were governed by kings, and emperors, who, as they were taught by great, and good, men, "ruled by divine right," shall we be monarchists? We choose in politics, to exercise our own judgment, and we reject as baseless, all these antiquated pretensions. Shall we be less wise in religion? Here, too, we will look not to men, but to God; not to antiquity, but to divine revelation. Our appeal is, "to the law, and to the testimony. If we speak not according to these, it is because there is no light in us."
Does infant baptism do no harm? I persuade myself that no one who reads these pages, will ever again urge that fallacious plea. Every departure from truth must be an evil, and this is one of the most melancholy of them all. Will you not, my brother, ascertain for yourself, its character, and renouncing it, return cheerfully to the word of God? It is "a perfect rule of faith and practice." If you, and all others, do so, no more will be heard of this injurious and deprecated custom. Even now, in our country at least, it is losing its hold. Among all evangelical Christians it is rapidly waning.
Multitudes of the best members in Pedobaptist churches of all sects, utterly refuse to have their children baptized. Will not you also abandon it? In maintaining this, or any other error, you cannot possibly have any interest. Review prayerfully, and in the light of the divine word, your opinions, and practice in the premises. I am sure you must desire to know the truth, and to obey the truth. It may cost you some labor, and may perchance, demand sacrifices at your hands. But will you shrink from it on these accounts? Let the "love of Christ constrain you" in this work. And may God enlighten, and guide you into the knowledge of his will, and into an humble, holy, and ready obedience in all things.
May I, in the second place, appeal to persons who, although Baptists in principle, are yet members of Pedobaptist churches?
This class of persons is much more numerous than has generally been imagined. Many of them are not themselves fully aware that they approximate our principles. They have derived all their knowledge of them through Pedobaptist channels, and such have been the representations that they suppose us to be almost any thing else than what we really are. It has ever been our lot to be traduced, and exhibited in false lights. Even their minister?this is the most charitable construction?are strangely ignorant of us. Not a few, however, know that they really do hold our opinions. By all those who occupy the contradictory position now indicated, I would gladly be heard. What apology do you offer for practising in your religion, one set of principles while you really believe another? Do you tell me that it is more convenient for you to be a member of a Pedobaptist church; or that your family are members of such a church, and it is not desirable that you should separate from them; or that there is no Baptist church near your residence; or that there are some things among Baptists that you do not like; or that its social relations are not congenial; or that you are not sectarian in your feelings, and wish to evince your liberality? One or another of these, or some like reason for the abandonment of your faith, is, alas, but too often heard! Are any such sufficient to reconcile you to a relation which must result in serious injury, since it violates your own principles, and aids in the perpetuation of the most disastrous of evils? Can you continue to believe one thing, and to profess, and practice another and opposite thing? Such inconsistency speaks little for your Christian conscientiousness. You probably require baptism for yourself. You think every other believer, as a believer, ought to be baptized. But you at the same time, refuse your countenance to those whose opinions and practice agree with your own; and you uphold those who maintain the contrary! By your presence, your influence, and your money, you support what you do not believe, and are convinced Christ does not authorize; and by withdrawing them all, you oppose what you do believe, and are assured your Savior has enjoined! You renounce infant baptism, and you at the same time vigorously uphold it! You believe it is wrong, and an abuse; and you meantime do all in your power to fasten the evil upon the church, and the world! When remonstrance is offered on the subject, you reply that it is not convenient for you to do otherwise; that you cannot separate from your family and friends; that you do not like the Baptists; that you are no sectarian; or that you professed religion among Pedobaptists, and cannot leave them! Can you suppose yourself thus justified in departing from what you believe the law of Christ?
I appeal to your judgment and your heart. I ask you affectionately, but candidly, whether you can reconcile it with your sense of duty, and consistency, longer to continue in your present contradictory position? How can you be happy, or useful, as a Christian, thus daily sacrificing truth, and conscience, to mere worldly considerations? Do you ask what you must do? I answer, be true to Jesus Christ. Be honest with yourself, and with others. Will this require that you change your church relations? And what then? You may feel that it will be a painful sacrifice. It probably may be painful. It may be most difficult. Pride will oppose it. You will be appalled by the odium it will bring upon you. The love you bear to those with whom you are now associated, and who will frown upon you, will plead against it. How can you surmount such barriers? Nothing but the firmest purpose, sustained by the grace of God, can carry you forward. On the other hand, however, you have the most animating encouragements. Christ, who died to save you, demands your fidelity. Truth claims your love and obedience. The honor and advancement of religion, call upon you to act, and to act promptly, vigorously, and effectually. The cause of Christ protests against your present course, and claims your protection. These are sufficient. They will bear you on triumphantly. Do not, I entreat you, refuse to consider this subject. Dare to be consistent. Dare to honor, and to obey, as well as to love our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now, my beloved Baptist brethren, what, in conclusion, shall I say to you? During many a weary century has our venerated church struggled onward, against every opposition. She has been denounced and proscribed by every despotism, national and ecclesiastical, Popish and Protestant. All the powers of earth have been perpetually combined, and have exerted their utmost energies, for fifteen hundred years, to destroy her. She has lived on, "like a spark amid the raging billows of the ocean. God has supported her. God has been our refuge, and strength, a very present help in trouble." "From the time of the first departure from apostolic purity, even down through all the darkest eras of the subsequent apostasy, there has always been a succession of men who, abjuring all communion with Rome, have under different names, and in different countries, kept the word, and the testimony of Jesus."1 Latterly that little band has become a great and mighty army. "The days of our mourning are ended." The time of triumph has come. Your advanced position, your disciplined array, your growing power and resources, furnish significant indications that God is about to introduce, through your instrumentality, that general return to primitive order, which is to herald the final conversion of all nations. This work is to be done, and it must be, for the most part, done by you, since it never can be accomplished by those who adhere to infant baptism. "How can they hope to demolish Popery, while they strive to perpetuate in their own organizations the very key-stone of its strength?" Infant baptism was the chief instrument which "brought it into being, and if continued, will inevitably build it up again, the same in substance, if not in name." Who can reasonably look for ultimate triumph in a conflict with infidelity, by those who cherish among themselves, a traitor that, as fast as they can drive one army from the field, will bring a fresh one into it? This is but the labor of Sisyphus repeated. The stone of victory, rolled almost to the mountain-top, will rebound, and fall back into the abyss. Such efforts, to be successful, must begin at the foundation. The axe must be laid at the root. Infant baptism?that old Upas-tree, which, with its death-distilling branches, ungodly church-membership, state religions, Popery, prelacy, and skepticism, has, for fourteen centuries, shaded and blasted the world?must come down, before the pure light of heaven, and the sweet breath of life, can circulate freely, over the expanse of darkened, and diseased humanity."2 You must not only enlighten and guide the heathen and Mohammedan nations to Christ, but you must also purify Christendom, Papal and Protestant, nor will you find the latter achievement less difficult than the former. How exalted is the mission assigned you from on high!
How gloriously it is to affect the destinies of the world! Yours is a loftier aim than mere patriotism, and philanthropy. You seek the temporal good of nations, and of the whole race. But you stop not here. You labor for the eternal salvation of men. It is yours to convey the news of everlasting life to all the perishing; to furnish every family upon the face of the earth with the word of God in its own language; to send to every neighborhood a preacher of the cross, and to erect there, a temple in which the children of men shall learn the anthems of the blessed above, and become meet to join the General Assembly and Church of the First Born, whose names are written in heaven. Do you properly appreciate your obligations? Up, then, and to your high and holy calling. God himself is with you. He will be your strength. He will honor your "works of faith, and labors of love," with triumphant success.
1 Gill?s Part and Pillar, p.
2 Dr. Ide.
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