The Ancient Faith
WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED?
When Jesus commanded the apostles to “Teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Matt. xxviii:19, there was an implied obligation upon those to whom they were sent, to submit to be baptized by them. Upon whom did this obligation rest? These may and should be baptized; none others may, unless other authority be shown for it. That penitent, believing adults should be baptized is admitted by all parties; we need not, therefore, stop to offer proof of what no one denies. But it is insisted that he who has submitted to the divine injunction himself, should also have his infant children baptized, and thus brought into the church with him. This we respectfully deny; hence the onus of proof rests upon him who so affirms. Our first duty, therefore, is to examine the proofs presented by him, and if these be found satisfactory and conclusive, our duty is clear without further investigation; for we may be assured that the Bible, faithfully translated and construed, will nowhere contradict that which is clearly taught in it.
We know of but three ways by which the practice of infant baptism could be taught in the Divine Volume, First: By the express command of the Lord, or someone speaking by inspiration. Second: By example; i.e., where the Lord or some inspired man, baptized infants, or where it was done in his presence, by his consent or approval. Third: By a passage of Scripture from which the baptism of infants is a necessary inference. A merely possible inference is not sufficient, for while a thing is only possibly true, it is still possible for it to be false. We believe it is very generally admitted that there is no express command for, or example of, infant baptism recorded in the Bible, hence inferential proof is all we may expect from those who advocate the practice. It may be well to see how this is, for a concession so important, from those who advocate the practice in question, will greatly diminish the area of our investigation.
We will hear what they say on the subject.
- DR. MOSES STUART says: “On the subject of infant baptism I have said nothing. The present occasion did not call for it; and I have no wish or intention to enter into the controversy respecting it. I have only to say, that I believe in both the propriety and expediency of the rite thus administered, and therefore accede to it ex animo. Commands, or plain and certain examples, in the New Testament relative to it, I do not find. Nor, with my views of it do I need them.” Stuart on Baptism, pp. 189, 190.
- BISHOP BURNET: “There is no express precept or rule given in the New Testament for the baptism of infants.” Expos. of 39 Articles, in Booth Abridged, p. 116.
- DR. WALL: “Among all the persons that are recorded as baptized by the apostles, there is no express mention of any infant. There is no express mention of any children baptized by them.” Hist. Inf. Bap. in Booth Abridged, p. 116.
- LUTHER: “It cannot be proved by the sacred Scriptures that infant baptism was instituted by Christ, or began by the first Christians after the apostles.” Ut supra.
- BAXTER: “I know of no one word in Scripture, that giveth us the least intimation that every man was baptized without the profession of a saving faith, or that giveth the least encouragement to baptize any upon another’s faith.” Ut supra.
- WILLS: “Christ did many things that were not recorded, and so did the apostles; whereof this was one, for aught we know, the baptizing of infants. Calvin, in his fourth book of Institutes, Chap. xvi, confesseth, that it is nowhere expressly mentioned by the Evangelists, that any one child was by the apostles baptized. To the same purpose are Stophilus, Melancthon, Turinglius quoted.” Inf. Bap. Asserted in Booth Abridged, p. 117.
- PALMER: “There is nothing in the words of the institution, nor in any after accounts of the administration of this rite, respecting the baptism of infants; there is not a single precept for, nor example of, this practice, through the whole New Testament.” Ut supra.
- LIMBORCH: “There is no express command for it in Scripture, nay, all those passages wherein baptism is commanded do immediately relate to adult persons, since they are ordered to be instructed, and faith is prerequisite as a necessary qualification, which are peculiar to adults alone. There is no instance that can be produced, from whence it may indisputably be inferred that any child was baptized by the apostles. The necessity of pedobaptism was never asserted by any council before that of Carthage, held in the year four hundred and eighteen.” Ut supra.
- ERASMUS: “Paul does not seem (in Rom. v:14), to treat about infants. It was not yet the custom for infants to be baptized.” Annotations on Rom. in Booth Abridged, p. 118.
- T. BOSTON: “It is plain that he [Peter, in Acts ii:38] requires their repentance antecedently to baptism, as necessary to qualify them for the right and due reception thereof. And there is no example of baptism recorded in the Scriptures, when any were baptized, but such as appeared to have a saving interest in Christ.” Ut supra.
- BISHOP SANDERSON: “The baptism of infants, and the sprinkling of water in baptism, instead of immersing the whole body, must be exterminated from the church — according to their principle; i.e., that nothing can be lawfully performed, much less required, in the affairs of religion, which is not either commanded by God in the Scripture, or at least recommended by a laudable example.” Ut.supra.
- CELLARIUS: “Infant baptism is neither commanded in the sacred Scripture, nor is confirmed by apostolic examples.” Ut supra.
- DR. KNAPP: “There is, therefore, no express command for infant baptism found in the New Testament, as Morris (p. 215, S. 12) justly concedes. Infant baptism has been often defended on very unsatisfactory a priori grounds, e.g., necessity of it has been contended for, in order that children may obtain by it the faith which is necessary to salvation, etc. It is sufficient to show; (1) That infant baptism was not forbidden by Christ, and is not opposed to his will, and the principles of his religion, but entirely suited to both; (2) That it was probably practiced even in the apostolic church; (3) That it is not without advantages.” Lectures on Christian Theology, p. 494.
- We may close this testimony by the declarations of Henry Ward Beecher, who is quoted in the Louisville Debate, page 173, as saying:* That he had no authority from the Bible for the baptism of infants, and that he *This was published in The Christian Union by Mr. Beecher. wanted none; that he had better authority for it than if even the Bible commanded it; that he had tried it, and knew from actual experience that it was a good thing; he had the same divine authority for it that he had for making an ox-yoke — it worked well — and, therefore, it was from God.”
The foregoing list might be extended much further; but these quotations are deemed sufficient to warrant us in regarding it as a fact, conceded that there is no divine command, nor apostolic precedent for the baptism of infants. It is insisted that the writers of the New Testament were all pedobaptists; if so, is not such profound reticence on the subject a little remarkable, to say the least of it? They record the baptism of vast numbers of believers, just as though infant baptism had then never been heard of; and Luke tells us that when the Samaritans “Believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Acts viii:12. Is it not strange that he should be so specific as to mention the baptism of men and women, and say nothing about the multitudes of dear little children that were baptized? Their baptism could not have been a matter of less importance than that of the men and women, if indeed they were baptized at all. Would any of our pedobaptist friends imitate Luke’s example were they now writing the narrative? Would they not likely say “They were baptized, men, women, and children?” They are specifically mentioned in matters not less worthy of note.
When the covenant of circumcision was instituted in the family of Abraham the Lord said: “He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male child in your generations, he that is born in thy house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.” Gen. xvii:12. Here is a rite applicable to infants, and we find that even the age of the child to be circumcised is specifically given. Numerous examples can be found recorded where this rite was performed according to the law. “Abraham circumcised his son Isaac, being eight days old, as God had commanded him.” Gen.xxi:4. “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” Luke ii:21. Is it not a little strange, if baptism was made obligatory on children, that we cannot as easily find examples of it as of circumcision! When Pharaoh issued his decree for the destruction of the Hebrew children, he said: “When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools, if it be a son, then ye shall kill him.” Ex. 1:16. When Herod determined upon the destruction of the infant Saviour, he “Sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under.” Matt. ii:16. When Jesus miraculously fed the multitudes, the children are not forgotten in the narrative. “They that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.” Matt. xiv:21. Nor are they omitted in the record of the second occurrence. “They that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.” Matt. xv:38. When infants were brought to the master that they might receive His heavenly benediction, He said: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. xix:14. This account is preserved in the records of Mark and Luke also. When Paul and company bade a final adieu to the disciples at the city of Tyre, the historian informs us that “they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.” Acts xxi:5.
Thus we see that infants were deemed worthy of mention in all matters with which they were in any way connected; even in cases where they did nothing but to satisfy the demands of hunger, or were brought out of a city in company with those who were parting with a friend; where no doctrine is involved, no duty enforced, no dispute settled; yet we are asked to believe that they were baptized in obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus, by inspired men, and no record of the fact; when such a record would have prevented bitter contention and strife; much labor in preaching and writing; and would have secured the performance of a duty now bound to be neglected by many millions of devoted followers of the Master for want of the knowledge which such a record would have furnished.
Luke says: “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightiest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.” Luke i:14. Again he says: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” Acts i:1. The sum of these quotations is that Luke had a perfect understanding of all things which Jesus did and taught; and that he wrote in order that Theophilus might know the certainty of the whole matter as believed among the disciples. Certainly, then, we may justly conclude that no important matter was omitted which had not been perfectly taught by someone else. Hence, as he says not a word about infant baptism we may feel tolerably sure that it was not taught or practiced by Jesus, nor believed among the disciples with whom he associated. When he tells us that “Saul made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison” (Acts viii:3), we may justly conclude that infants escaped the fierceness of his wrath, otherwise they would have been mentioned as well as men and women. We are strengthened in this conclusion by the fact already seen that it was his custom to mention them where they were connected with the matter recorded.
Then as he speaks of the baptism of multitudes of believers, at different times and places, and under different circumstances, even mentioning men and women, and yet says nothing of the baptism of a single infant, we conclude that none were baptized, or he would have mentioned the fact somewhere; especially when he must have known that what he was writing would not only furnish an interesting history of past events, but would constitute a rule of action for the government of God’s people as long as time should endure. Paul told Timothy that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. iii:16, 17.
The Scriptures cannot be profitable for the doctrine of infant baptism, for its advocates admit that they say nothing about it. If infant baptism be a duty, the Scriptures furnish no reproof for those who neglect it. If it be a crime to oppose infant baptism, the Scriptures furnish no correction for the error. If infant baptism be right, the Scriptures furnish no instruction to those whose duty it is to perform it. If the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, as they say nothing about infant baptism, it follows that the man of God may attain to perfection without it. If the Scriptures not only furnish, but thoroughly furnish the man of God not only to some, but to all good works, as they are confessedly silent on the subject of infant baptism, it follows that it is not a good work, otherwise the man of God would be thoroughly furnished with instruction concerning the baptism of infants.
While considering the conceded fact that the Scriptures say nothing about the baptism of infants, we will hear another apostle on this subject. Peter says: “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain, unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who hath called us to glory and virtue.” 2 Pet. i:2, 3. Here is a clear intimation that God has given us all things, through the knowledge of His Son revealed in the gospel, which pertain to life and godliness. And as He has given us nothing on the subject of infant baptism, we conclude that it neither pertains to life nor godliness. We are commanded to do all: “Whatsoever we do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Col. iii:17.
We understand this passage to teach that we are to do all things done at all by the authority of the Lord Jesus. How, then, can a man, standing in the presence of God, with his hand lifted toward heaven, say, “In the name or by the authority of the Lord Jesus, I baptize this child,” when he acknowledges that the Word of the Lord furnishes neither command nor example for what he is doing? Could Prof. Stuart baptize a child in the name or by the authority of the Lord Jesus after saying: “Commands, or plain and certain examples, in the New Testament relative to it, I do not find?” Surely, he could not adopt the maxim of the justly celebrated Chillingworth, that THE BIBLE ONLY IS THE RELIGION OF PROTESTANTS. If this maxim is worthy of all acceptation, well may we ask, in the language of Ambrose, ‘Who shall speak where Scripture is silent?”
Dare we baptize an infant in the name of the Lord Jesus if He has not appointed it? When Peter commanded the Pentecostians to be baptized, he did it in the “name of Jesus Christ.” Acts ii:38. He also commanded the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, “to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Acts x:48. And surely, such examples are worthy of our imitation; if so, there is an implied prohibition of administering this sacred rite in any other name or by any other authority. Surely, then, if Dr. Beecher was right when he said, in substance, that he had no higher authority for baptizing an infant than for making an ox-yoke, it had better be left undone. God will not condemn us in the great day of judgment for a failure to do that which He has nowhere commanded; but there may be danger in performing a thing in the sacred name of His Son for which we cannot find authority in the Book by which we are to be judged. The Lord said that the way of holiness should be so plain that “the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” Isa. xxxv:8.
Hence, when Jesus sent chosen men to proclaim the gospel of peace and the approach of the kingdom of heaven, their mission was not confined to the wealthy who had been reared in opulence and learned in all the literature of the age in which they lived, but “the poor had the gospel preached to them.” Matt. xi:5. Yet we are asked to believe that these uneducated poor were to learn the duty of baptizing their children from oral instructions which not once mentioned it, and in a country where they never once saw an example of it. And after the New Testament was written, the primitive Christians are expected to take a copy of it and learn the duty of baptizing their children from a record which furnishes not a command for it or an example of it. Nay, these unlettered fishermen, mechanics, and plowmen are expected to arrive at a knowledge of their duty from a careful examination of the covenants which God made with Abraham, and by identifying them with the New Covenant dedicated with the blood of Jesus.
Those who lived later might also study the Talmud, and familiarize themselves with the writings of Maimonides and other Jewish rabbis and doctors of the law, from whom to learn that the children of proselytes were baptized along with their parents, and infer therefrom that the Lord condescended to borrow the baptism of infants from those who believed Him an impostor and worthy of death. Nor must they stop here, but they must study the writings of Moses until familiar with the antiquated rite of circumcision; and, notwithstanding the many marks of dissimilarity, infer that baptism came in its room, and as male children were circumcised under the law, therefore males and females must be baptized under the gospel of the Son of God. Such are some of the sources from which the unlettered poor are expected to learn the duty of baptizing their children; and we next propose to examine them and see whether or not they furnish just grounds for even inferring infant baptism, though it were possible for all to understand them. And, first, it is assumed that God has had but one church on the earth, and that it has existed at least since the days of Abraham; that the church now is the same church that then was; and that infants were members of the church then, and having never been put out, are members of it now; that all members of the church should be baptized — ergo, infants, being members, should be baptized.
We believe this is a fair statement of the argument, but before we enter upon an examination of its merits we would respectfully call attention to a want of consistency in the pleadings of those who advocate it. The argument is based upon the assumption that infants are members of the church, and as such should be baptized; yet they tell us that they should be baptized in order to bring them into the church. In the ministration of baptism to infants, the Methodist Discipline instructs the administrator to say: “Dearly beloved, forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin, and that our Saviour Christ saith, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this child that which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ’s holy church, and be made a lively member of the same.” Please observe that the minister instructs the congregation to pray that the child to be baptized may be received into the church and made a lively member of it. Then he leads them in the following prayer: “Almighty and everlasting God, who of thy great mercy didst save Noah and his family in the ark from perishing by water; and also didst safely lead the children of Israel, thy people, through the Red Sea, figuring thereby thy holy baptism: we beseech thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt look upon this child: wash him, and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost; that he, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ’s church.” Methodist Discipline, pp. 159, 160.
What can this mean? Clearly, it means nothing less than that the child is baptized to introduce it into the church, and yet the very foundation of the argument stated is that it must be baptized because IN the church already. Mr. Henry, in his Treatise on Baptism, p. 40, says: “The gospel contains not only a doctrine but a covenant; and by baptism we are brought into that covenant.” And again: “Baptism is an ordinance of Christ, whereby the person baptized is solemnly admitted a member of the visible church.” ibid, p. 66. Then page 79, he says: “Baptism is a seal of the covenant of grace, and therefore belongs to those who ARE IN that covenant (at least by profession), and to NONE OTHER. The infants of believing parents ARE IN covenant with God, and therefore have a right to the initiating seal of that covenant.” Again, page 66, he says: “Baptism is an ordinance of the visible church, and pertains, therefore, to those who are visible members of the church. Their covenant right and their church membership entitle them to baptism. Baptism doth not give the title, but recognizes it.”
Other quotations might be given, but these are deemed sufficient to show the want of consistency on the subject referred to. The argument is as changeable as the colors of a chameleon. At one time parents are admonished to dedicate their children to God in baptism, and bring them into covenant and church relation with them; and we are severely reprimanded for denying the dear children the privilege of entering the church with their parents by baptism; and anon the order is reversed, and the little babes are in the church – in covenant relation with God with their parents, and for this very reason should be baptized. Thus, it is that infants must be baptized because not in the church to bring them in; and they must be baptized because they are in it and entitled to its ordinances as members of it. But if all children of believing parents are born members of the church, and on that account are entitled to baptism, then we would be pleased to know what church they enter by baptism, and what means their so-called reception into the church when they are grown and make a profession of religion?
First: We are told that infants of believing parents are born members of the church, and should be baptized because they are in it. Second: “Baptism is for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the church.” What church? Third: They grow up to mature years, attend a protracted meeting, make a profession of religion; the doors are opened for the reception of members, and they join the church. What church? Is there one church into which they enter at birth, another into which they enter by baptism, and still another into which they enter by formal reception after “getting religion?” In a previous chapter, we have seen that there is one church, and only one. Are we to understand that the infant was born a member of it and subsequently re-entered the church of which it was born a member? If so, did it forfeit its previous membership in some way so as to make other admissions necessary? If it did, we would be pleased to know how, and when, or at what age the forfeiture was effected, and whether or not the church formally declared non-fellowship with it.
Again: If there be blessings conferred upon infants by baptism, why are they restricted to the children of believing parents? Are the children of unbelievers to be made responsible for the sins of their parents so as to deprive them of gospel privileges which belong to and are enjoyed by others of their age? Where is the authority for such discrimination? If one infant may be baptized, surely all others may. Indeed, we have observed quite a disposition to a change of position here in modern times. Formerly, debaters were willing to affirm that the children of believing parents were proper subjects of baptism; now they cannot be induced to make such a discrimination, but will affirm only the general proposition that infants are proper subjects. We are rather pleased at this. If infant baptism be a blessing, let all have the benefit of it. But does not such shifting of ground show that there is nothing taught in the gospel in favor it? It occurs to us that if the practice were clearly taught it would be understood, and there would be no need of changing theories concerning it.
Once more: If infants enter the church either by birth or baptism, why are they not fit subjects for and admitted to the Lord’s table? Surely, if they are members of the church, they should be entitled to all the privileges of full membership. Then, why not give them the bread and wine, as emblems of the body and blood of the Lord, which belong to all who are members of the body of which He is the head? Do you tell me that they cannot partake of these emblems discerning the Lord’s body? Then, for this very reason they are not competent for membership in the church where such a duty is enjoined upon them. We know of no reason why they should not be admitted to the Lord’s table, which would not apply to their membership in the church with at least equal force. Does the gospel contain any special reason why they should be excused, as members of the church, from participation in the Lord’s Supper? If not, are they not entitled to it? Nay, are they not bound to eat if members at all? No member of the church can be debarred from the emblematic body and blood of the Lord unless he has made himself unworthy by the commission of crime, such as infants are incapable of committing.
Then, we insist that those who regard infants as members of the church should give them the bread and wine to which all members are entitled, or show the law excusing them. Finally, as infants come into the church, according to the theory, without faith or repentance, it is not easy for us to see how such graces may be demanded of them in mature years. If they may enter the church without faith or repentance, surely they could remain members without them; why should they be treated as aliens or rebels for a want of faith or repentance in adult age, when they entered the church and lived in it for years without either? Indeed, no such qualifications were at all necessary to membership in the Jewish church; and if the church now is but a continuance of the same church which existed then, why should they be required now?
No faith, change of heart, repentance, purity of life, or holiness was essential to membership in the Jewish churches. Every species of crime was perpetrated by those who lived and died in that church. If the same church exists now, and infants are in it because such were in it then, why may not adults be in it without faith, repentance, or anything spiritual, seeing such were in it then. Persons were born members of the church then and continued in it until death, however wicked they may have lived; why not now? But suppose they are not born members of the church, but enter it by baptism, the same results must follow. Many thousands of those who are baptized in infancy become wicked, and remain through life as wicked as men ever get to be, even never making any pretense of Christianity in any way; hence, if they entered the church when baptized, they live and die in it, for we never hear of any such being excluded from the church because they become wicked; and therefore the church is as full of depravity and wickedness as is the dominion of Satan. There is no visible line of separation between the world and the church. Those in the church are just as wicked as those out of it, for we have never been able to see any difference in the ungodly who were baptized in infancy and those who were not. Nor is this the worst; if infants must be baptized because infants were in the Jewish church, then the wickedest man living may be baptized for a similar reason. We suppose there is not a worse man alive than lived in the Jewish church, and if infants may be baptized because infants were in that church, we see not why all other classes similar to those in that church may not be baptized. Will the advocates of the theory accept the results of their logic, and baptize every wicked man, because such were in the Jewish church? If not, the argument based upon infant membership must be abandoned.
In a previous chapter we attempted to show that the church now in existence was organized in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost; we need not, therefore, further examine this subject here, but we may call attention to some facts, not presented there, showing that it cannot be the same organization which existed in the days of Abraham, or in the days of Moses. The Church of Christ differs from the so-called Jewish church in the fact that it was based upon another covenant. There were two classes of promises made by God to Abraham. One pertained to the flesh and temporal interests, and the other to matters spiritual. God said, “I am the Almighty God: walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee: Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant between me and you.” Gen. xvii:1-11.
In this covenant God promises Abraham a numerous fleshly offspring and the land of Canaan, as a permanent inheritance, and instituted circumcision as a token of the covenant thus made. This covenant was renewed with Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, and upon it the Jewish church or commonwealth was organized. That the covenant of circumcision was incorporated into the law of Moses may be seen by the language of the Savior, saying, “If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken.” John vii:23. That the covenant made with Abraham, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob, was renewed with Moses, is shown by the language of Moses himself. He says, “Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel. Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to-day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Deut. xxix:9- 13. Thus we clearly identify the covenant concerning Abraham’s fleshly descendants, the land of Canaan, and the right of circumcision with the covenant made with Moses; and Paul says Jesus “Blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Col. ii:14.
But there was another class of promises spiritual in their nature. When Abraham offered his son, as commanded of God, “And the Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his
enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Gen. xxii:15-18. Now let it be carefully observed that this promise was based upon the express ground of Abraham’s obedience in offering Isaac. “Because thou hast done this thing,” “Because thou hast obeyed my voice.” And Paul quotes the language of this promise as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He says: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Gal. iii:16. That these different sets of promises constituted at least a plurality of covenants, may be seen in the language of Paul concerning the Gentiles before the coming of Christ. He says: “At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise.” Eph..ii:12. Here is a clear intimation that the promises made to Abraham constituted more than one covenant.
Upon the promise made at the offering of Isaac was based the new and better covenant, established upon better promises (Heb. viii:6), which was predicted by the Lord through his prophet, as follows: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. xxxi:3134. That this new covenant was that of which Christ became the mediator is evident from the fact that Paul quotes the language as an argument to show that the old covenant had given place to the new. He says, “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Heb. viii:6-13.
We would respectfully call the reader’s attention to several important thoughts presented in the foregoing quotation. The Lord said He would make a new covenant, hence it was not an old one, made prior to the time He used the language quoted. Paul gives us several reasons why this new covenant was necessary, and he mentions several important points in which it differs from the old covenant.
First: Those to whom the first covenant was given broke it — continued not in it, and hence God ceased to regard them. Second: The first was a faulty covenant, hence it became necessary to have a better covenant, established upon better promises, the provisions of which were not according to the old one. Third: The laws of the old covenant were engraven on stone; those of the new were to be written in the hearts of the people. Fourth: The subjects of the old covenant became such by natural birth, or were purchased with money, and hence could not know the Lord until taught by such as had reached mature years; the subjects of the new covenant have to be born again to enter the kingdom based upon it, and hence have to be all taught to know the Lord before they believe in Him, and become subjects of His government; this being so, there are no infants among them, because they cannot know the Lord, or have his laws written in their hearts. Fifth: Under the old covenant those who violated its laws died without mercy under two or three witnesses (Heb. x:28); under the new covenant God is merciful to the unrighteousness of its subjects. Sixth: Under the old covenant, sins were pardoned only a year at a time. “For in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Heb. x:3, 4. Under the new covenant, one of its chief excellencies is that sins once pardoned are remembered no more.
As this position is fiercely assailed by some, and doubted by others, it may be well for us to give it more than a passing notice. If the sins pardoned under the old covenant were forever pardoned, why was it necessary that this should be mentioned as one of the superior provisions of the new covenant? Wherein is it a better covenant in this respect than the old? Was Paul mistaken when he said: “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin?” Surely the blood of these sacrifices did take them away if they were forever pardoned by them. Paul says: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Heb. ix:14, 15. Why was it necessary that Jesus should die for the redemption of the transgressions which were under the first testament if they were forever pardoned by the offerings made according to its provisions? If we at all comprehend the language of Paul, he meant to teach that Jesus died for the redemption of the transgressions committed under the first testament, that those who were called by it might receive the eternal inheritance promised them. All the offerings made under the law looked to, and were perfected by, the death of Jesus Christ. “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” Heb. x:9-18. Thus, we see that the apostle argues this question at great length, to show this as one of the great points of superiority in the new covenant over the old; and it seems to us that it could not have been made more plain. Then, as it is a new and better covenant, established upon better promises, why should anyone want to get back under the old and faulty covenant, which has been taken out of the way to make room for a better one? But we are told that it was the law given by Moses when the Jews were delivered from Egyptian bondage which was the old covenant which was taken out of the way, and not the covenant made with Abraham. We have seen that the covenant made with Abraham was renewed with Isaac, Jacob, and Moses (see Deut. xxix:9-13); and we have seen that even circumcision belonged to the law of Moses. (See John vii:23.) Surely this was given to Abraham (Gen. xvii:9-14); and we suppose no one, unless a Jew, will contend that it has not been taken out of the way; hence it is unsafe to affirm that a covenant has not been taken out of the way because it was given to Abraham. But it does not matter what covenant it was that was taken out of the way; the one of which Christ is mediator is the one which concerns us, and it is the new covenant; and the prophecy concerning it was made long after, not before the time when the Lord delivered the Jews from Egyptian bondage. Long after that time the Lord said, Behold the days come, (not have passed), when I will make a new covenant (not have made a covenant long years ago); hence it could not have been a covenant made with Abraham, or with anyone else prior to the time God made this declaration by Jeremiah; and it was to be made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — houses which had no existence in the days of Abraham, nor until long years afterward. How, then, could it refer to a covenant made with him? But the Jewish church was only half as large as the Christian church.
While that was confined to the Jews, this is for every creature among all nations who will accept its blessings on the terms proposed. Here, too, is another striking evidence that the new and better covenant, of which Christ is the mediator, was based upon the promise of God to Abraham at the offering of Isaac. “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Gen. xxii:18. As long as the Jewish church existed, the Gentiles were refused the privileges of it. Paul says: “Wherefore remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometime were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Eph. ii:11-16.
Here we find that the law, which stood as a middle wall between Jews and Gentiles for ages, and had kept the latter from any participation in the worship of God with the former, was taken out of the way, by the death of Christ, and one new man or church was made of both Jews and Gentiles, who participated in its privileges upon terms of perfect equality. It is agreed by all parties that the phrase new man here simply means a new church. Under the old dispensation the Gentiles were without Christ, aliens from the Jewish commonwealth, and strangers from the covenants of promise; but, under the new covenant, they enter into, and are members of the one church composed of all nations, to whom the gospel is preached, and for whom Jesus died. Observe it is not an enlarged church, an improved church, or a renewed church, but a NEW church, hence we see not how it can be the same old church which existed in the days of Abraham and Moses. Jesus says: “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment; for that which is put in to fill it up taketh away from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” Matt. ix:16, 17; Mark ii:22; Luke v:36-38. Now it occurs to us that those who seek to retain the old Jewish church are doing just the thing which the Lord here condemned.
They seek to enlarge it so as to include the Gentiles, leaving off its ceremonies, carnal ordinances, and festivals: and fill up the rents with infant baptism and other human traditions, and thus patch up the old garment with a little Christianity and a good supply of the commandments of men, and make a worse system than Judaism itself. If the church of Christ or kingdom of God is the same church which existed in the days of Abraham and Moses, why did those who had been brought up in the Jewish church have still to enter the church established by the authority of the Lord? When Nicodemus recognized the divine character and mission of Jesus, he expected, doubtless, that, as a descendant of Abraham, he would be recognized as a ruler in the kingdom or church of God; but all his claims based upon Jewish birth were met with the solemn announcement that, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John iii:5.
It is not strange that such a declaration should have astonished him, for he had the same notion of the continuance of the Jewish church which pedobaptists seem to have now. As they view it could he not reply, “I have been in the church all my life, and am now a ruler of the Jews — a master of Israel, and you speak to ME of having yet to enter the church or kingdom into which I was born!” Still he is met with the cool reply: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” Verse 7. Was not this equivalent to saying: “I know you were born into the Jewish church, but My kingdom or church is a very different organization. No spiritual qualifications were necessary to membership in that church, but a birth of flesh only, or even purchase with money was sufficient. My church is designed to make men holy; hence, purity of heart and submission to My will are the means of entrance; and, therefore, I tell you that, though a member of the Jewish church, of however great distinction, you must be born of water and of the Spirit, or into My kingdom or church you cannot enter.” Could language more clearly teach that the Jewish church was not the church which Jesus came to establish?
On another occasion Jesus said: “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke vii:28. Though John was born of Jewish parentage, and filled with the Holy Spirit from birth (Luke i:15), a prophet, sent of God (John i:6), than whom there was not a greater, yet he that was least in the kingdom was greater than he. He lived and died out of the kingdom or church for which he prepared materials, because he died before it was established; but had the Jewish church been the one for which he prepared material, there would have been none greater than he in it, for there was none greater born of women, and he was born in it.
When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John, demanding baptism of him, he said: “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Matt. iii:9. Does not this language imply that these Pharisees and Sadducees had set up peculiar claims on account of Abrahamic descent? And truly their claims would have been just, had the theory under consideration been true. If the Jewish and Christian churches were the same, and persons are to be baptized because in the church, surely they were in the Jewish church; were born members of it, and would have been entitled to baptism as such. Was it not, therefore, cruel in John to thus rebuke them; even cruel as we when we refuse to baptize infants because in the church? On one occasion Jesus said to the disciples: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. xviii:3.
Though the disciples of the Lord were selected from those prepared by John whose ministry was confined to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” yet at the time Jesus used the language quoted they were not in the kingdom or church which Jesus came to establish, for the very good reason that it did not then exist. But with what propriety could Jesus have used such language had the Jewish church, in which they had lived all their lives, been the kingdom referred to? “Except ye become converted ye shall not enter a kingdom or church in which you have been all your lives.” My blessed Lord never talked such nonsense.
Other examples might be given, but these are deemed sufficient to show that those who were born and raised in the Jewish church, had nevertheless to enter the church of God or die out of it; and this fact is conclusive proof that they cannot be identical. Similar in some respects they were, but identical they cannot be. But they are both called the church. Yes, but this proves not their identity, for different things are often called by the same name. How many different organizations are there now claiming to be the church? Joshua was called Jesus, so was Christ; yet they were not the same person. Joshua was called a Priest, so was Aaron, yet they were not the same person. Baalam was called a prophet, so were Elisha, Isaiah, John, Jesus, and many others, but still they were not identical; so Stephen speaks of the church in the wilderness, and Paul speaks of the church of God at Corinth, yet this proves not that they spake of the same organization. The Greek word ekklesia, from which we have the word church, means called out; hence, as God called the Jews out of bondage and separated them from the Egyptians, they were called the church in the wilderness; but they were not the church in our sense of this word. While there were some good people among them, yet, in the main, they were wicked, ungrateful, and idolatrous, lacking all the elements of character, which should characterize the spiritual church of God. The word assembly, in Acts xix:34, is from the same word, ekklesia, rendered church, and is used to designate a rabble that would have taken Paul’s life. Hence, the mere occurrence of the word cannot identify the same church.
The word ekklesia is variously rendered church, congregation, assembly, etc.; and we can only learn whether it is applied to a lawless mob, a political assembly, or a religious organization, from the context. Why, then, should the application of this word to the Jewish nation prove it to the church of God? Surely it cannot. But we are referred to the olive-tree, which is claimed to have been a figure of the Jewish church, into which the Gentiles were engrafted; hence it is but the same church under both dispensations. As this is an important argument, let us somewhat carefully examine it. Paul says: “For if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also holy, … And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive-tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive-tree; boast not against the branches.
But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off; and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive-tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive-tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive-tree?” Rom. xi:16-24.
In the first place, we remark that this passage says not a word about when the good olive-tree began, whether in the days of Abraham or on the day of Pentecost. In the next place, the natural and unnatural branches were supported by the root, and alike had to be grafted in. In the next place, those broken off were broken off for unbelief, and those who stood, stood by faith. Infants cannot exercise faith, nor is it probable that they are rejected for unbelief; hence, it cannot apply to them in any sense. And if this good olive-tree represents the church, it is certain that it cannot represent the Jewish church, because its branches stood by faith and were rejected for unbelief. Infants were in the Jewish church, hence the olive-tree could not represent it. The root, which gave support to all the members or branches, represents Christ. Isaiah says: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek.” Isa. xi:10. Paul quotes this language in this same letter to the Romans as fulfilled in Christ. He says: “Isais saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.” Rom. xv:12. The same thought is presented in the figure of the vine and its branches. Jesus says: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches.” John xv:1-5. Jesus, as the promised seed of Abraham in whom all nations were to be blessed, was the root of the good olive-tree or church established on the day of Pentecost among the Jews or natural descendants of Abraham, who very soon went back into Judaism and rejected the Messiah, and were thus broken off for their unbelief, and the Gentiles were brought in, and to-day stand by faith, but the Jews are not yet grafted in again, because they abide still in unbelief.
But as all the members stand by faith, or fall by unbelief, infants are entirely out of the question. It cannot embrace them. But we are referred to the language of James: “After this I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.” Acts xv:16. It is assumed that the tabernacle of David here means the Jewish church. But what may we not prove by assumption? Isaiah says: “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.” Isa. xvi:5. The throne of David was long unoccupied by any descendant of his, and it was predicted that that throne should be re-established in his family. Hence says Peter: “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” Acts ii:30. Thus the tabernacle of David was simply the family of David, from which Christ was raised up to sit upon his throne — Christ was the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh. It had no allusion to such a thing as the church of David. Did David have a church? Mr. Robinson, a celebrated pedobaptist Lexicographer, in defining the Greek word from which we have the word tabernacle in the above quotation, says: “Metaphorically, for the family, or royal line of David, fallen into weakness and decay.” Louisville Debate, p. 78.
It occurs to us that if the Jewish church and the Christian church are the same, the Jews’ religion and the Christian religion are the same. Paul was zealous in the Jews’ religion while persecuting Christians. He says: “My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, knew all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” Acts xxvi:4, 5. And again: “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: and profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” Gal. i:13, 14. Once more: “I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Cor. xv:9. From these quotations it is evident that the Jewish and Christian religions differed very widely. While Paul was a rigid adherent to the Jewish religion, he was a most fanatical persecutor of the Christian religion. Nor will it change the argument to admit that he was mistaken in his views of Christianity, for had he been imbued with the spirit of the Christian religion he could not have given encouragement to the murder of Stephen, and the persecution of Christians, even granting them to have been wicked as he regarded them. The spirit which characterized him as a Jew, is not the spirit of Christianity at all. And while at this point, we would refer the reader to the sermon on the mount, where he may find a most wonderful and striking contrast in the principles of the Jewish and Christian religions. While one was a system of retaliation, sensuality, and revenge, the other is a system of love, mercy, good for evil, and self-denial. Can fruits so very different be the product of the same religion in the same church? Can the same fountain send forth bitter water and sweet? Surely no two organizations could be more different; and yet infant baptism derives its chief support from their supposed identity.
But we propose to show that there was no such thing as infant membership in the church in the days of the apostles. Paul says: “Those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary.” 1 Cor. xii:22. Are infants the more feeble members? If so, for what are they necessary? “That the members should have the same care one for another.” Verse 25. What care has an infant for any one as a member of the church of God? “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Verse 26. All the members sympathize with each other in time of distress; and rejoice in times of honor with the honored ones. They rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Infants cannot do this, and as all did do it, there could have been no infants among them. We are aware that the word all must sometimes be understood in a limited sense, but we are not sure that it may be so understood here. The language seems to individualize the whole body. When one member suffers all the members suffer with it. When one member rejoices all rejoice. When Ananias and Sapphira were put to death, it is said that “Great fear came upon all the church.” Acts v:11. Were the little infants alarmed lest some great calamity should come upon the church? If not, none were in the church at that time, for such was the feeling of the church — all the church. When the difficulty arose concerning circumcision, and Paul and Barnabas placed the matter before the church at Jerusalem, it pleased “the apostles and elders, with the WHOLE CHURCH, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.” Acts xv:22. We know that the church may do things without every member engaging in the work, but in such cases, it could not be said that it pleased the WHOLE church. When it is said that the WHOLE church did a thing, we are inclined to think that every member, great and small, engaged in it. Infants could not take part in such a settlement as the one referred to, and as the whole church did take part in, and sanction what was done, it follows that there were no infants in the church. Paul gives us an instructive lesson on this subject: He says: “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Eph. iv:16. Here we learn that the great business of the church is to edify itself and convert sinners, that it may increase the number of the saved in the body. And in order to do this, every joint must supply some assistance, that the whole body be engaged in the work. The apostle declares that there must be an effectual working in the measure of every part. We not only have the whole body here engaged, but every part is effectually working. Can infants effectually work for the salvation of men and the edification of the church? If not, they have no place in it. Peter says: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. ii:5.
The church is not made of dead, inactive material, but of active, lively members who can work in God’s building. They are spiritual priests, whose business it is to offer spiritual sacrifices — not mere lumps of flesh, without any spirituality connected with them. Can infants be thus actively engaged as lively stones in this great spiritual temple? If not, they have no place in it. There is no function belonging to the body which they can perform, unless it be to weep with them that weep. They do not know the Lord, and hence cannot make spiritual sacrifices to Him, and therefore, have no place in the church of God on the earth. We come now to examine the argument based upon the assumption that baptism came in the room of circumcision, and as infants were circumcised in the Jewish church they must now be baptized. Though in former days this was regarded as the chief argument supporting the practice, it has become about obsolete. Watson, in his “Institutes,” makes it his strongest argument, and so did Rice, Hughey, and other debaters; yet Mr. Ditzler says they were all wrong — that baptism did not come in the room of circumcision, and that the argument drawn from that source must be abandoned. He, though the recognized champion in pedobaptist ranks, makes no argument based upon that hypothesis in support of his practice. Is not this significant? When a practice is to be supported for a time from one stand-point, and when driven from it, positions are shifted, and the same practice supported from other considerations, equally doubtful, we are inclined to regard it as of doubtful authority, and hard to defend, to say the least of it.
But why shall we consume time in the examination of an obsolete argument? Because it still has a place in the standard works and text-books of the various parties who practice infant baptism, and some may still be inclined to regard it as important, for long cherished arguments are usually abandoned reluctantly. But as this argument has its root in the doctrine of the identity of the Jewish and Christian churches, it necessarily falls with that theory. We will, however, present some additional arguments, designed to show that baptism did not come in the room of circumcision.
- Circumcision was confined to the Jews, and those purchased with money by them; baptism is for all nations.
- Circumcision was to be performed on native Jews at eight days old; baptism is for any age capable of believing the gospel.
- Circumcision was confined to males only; baptism is for men and women. If baptism came in the room of circumcision, why baptize females?
- Circumcision applied to those bought with money; baptism has no such application. No Christian man thinks of baptizing a servant, simply because of purchase; but why not, if baptism came in the room of circumcision?
- No faith was required as a qualification for circumcision; but believers only are baptized. When the eunuch demanded baptism of Philip, the answer was: “If thou believest with all thy heart, thou
mayest,” clearly implying that if he did not believe he should not be baptized.
- Circumcision was not an initiatory ordinance, but was for such as were already members of the Jewish family; and if not circumcised he was to be cut off from his people. Gen. xvii:14. Baptism, properly administered, admits or introduces the subject into the kingdom of God (John iii:5); therefore, baptism did not come in the room of circumcision.
- Circumcision showed a man to be a Jew; baptism shows a man to be neither a Jew nor a Gentile, but a Christian only.
- Baptism is administered in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Circumcision was not thus administered.
- Baptism is administered to show the burial and resurrection of Christ. Circumcision was not administered for this purpose, because these events had not transpired when it was instituted, nor for many hundred years afterward.
- Circumcision placed a man under obligations to do the whole law; baptism frees us from bondage, and puts no one under the law of Moses; hence it came not in the room of circumcision.
- Baptism is administered for the remission of sins (Acts ii:38); circumcision had no such object.
- Baptism is for the answer of a good conscience (1 Peter iii:21); circumcision had nothing to do with the conscience, but pertained wholly to the flesh.
- Those baptized went on their way rejoicing (Acts viii:39; xvi:34); we imagine that those who were circumcised were usually taken away crying. Therefore, they were not much alike.
- Circumcision was obedience to the law of Moses (John vii:23); baptism is obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- No one can be a scriptural subject of baptism who is not first taught the gospel; but many were circumcised before they were old enough to be taught anything.
- The gift of the Holy Spirit was promised to those baptized on the day of Pentecost (Acts ii:38); this gift was never promised to any for being circumcised, or, as following it.
This list of distinctions might be extended much further, but these are enough to show, to every reflecting mind, that there is not a shadow of resemblance in baptism to circumcision, and that one came not in the room of the other. But there arose a difficulty in the church in the days of the apostles concerning circumcision, which it seems to us would have been a good time to have settled this whole question. “Certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised
after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.” Acts xv:1-6. Had the apostles only thought of the fact that circumcision had given place to baptism, which had taken its place, they would have answered something after the following style: “Brethren, there need be no difficulty about circumcision, for baptism has come in its place, and hence you need only now be baptized, and have your children baptized, in place of having them circumcised, as under the law.” Would not such an answer have been most natural under the circumstances? Did they so answer? Peter said: “Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Verse 10. But he said not a word about baptism in room of circumcision.
After due deliberation these inspired teachers wrote an answer as follows: “The apostles, and elders, and brethren, send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment; it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication; from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” Verses 23-29. Now, be it observed that this letter was written by the apostles and elders, from the church at Jerusalem, who had duly considered the question of circumcision, and it was approved by the Holy Spirit; and yet it contains not a word about baptism coming in the room of circumcision; and circumcision was the very thing about which the difficulty arose! Would a pedobaptist council now write thus? Would they not more probably write something after the following style: “Brethren, you need not now be circumcised, for baptism has taken its place. If you, therefore, have your children baptized and abstain from circumcision, you shall do well?” Paul labors this question at great length in his letter to the Galatians, who were inclined to go back to the law. He says: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing; for I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you. Whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith; for in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.” Gal. v:14. Is it not strange that, while Paul was making this argument to keep his brethren from being circumcised, he never once thought of the fact that baptism came in the room of circumcision? Had he informed them of this fact it would have settled the question forever. But he could think of every other argument except this, the most important of all. He told them it was a yoke of bondage, from which to keep themselves free; that if circumcised they would have to keep the whole law; that they would lose all their hopes of salvation through Christ; that they would fall from grace; that in Christ circumcision could not avail them anything; all this, but never once said, “Brethren, you need not be circumcised, for baptism has taken its place.” Why did he not think of it? Will the reader think of it? But we insist that baptism did not come in the room of circumcision from another consideration: both were in force, under the same covenant, among the same people, at the same time. We have seen that circumcision was instituted in the family of Abraham for the Jewish nation, and that the covenant to which it belonged was not taken out of the way until the death of Christ; hence it was in force up to the time of His death. John’s ministry was confined to the Jews, and ended before Christ began to preach. See Matt. iv:12-17. Then, John’s ministry began and ended during the existence of the covenant of circumcision; and his baptism and Jewish circumcision were both binding among the same people at the same time – with this difference only: infants were circumcised at eight days old; those only were baptized who had sinned and were willing to confess and forsake their sins. As circumcision and John’s baptism were both in force at the same time, under the same covenant among the same people, how could one be in the place of the other? Again: If baptism came in the room of circumcision, why was it necessary for Jews who had been circumcised to still be baptized?
We have stated that John’s ministry was confined to the Jews who had been circumcised, and yet he baptized vast numbers of them. The Pharisees were the straitest sect of the Jews, and were so zealous for the law of circumcision that they even wanted to bind it upon Gentiles after conversion to Christianity, and yet the “Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” Luke vii:30. It may be that they made their objection to John’s baptism because they had been circumcised; we suppose not; but whether they did or did not, one thing is certain; namely, it was the counsel of God that they should be baptized notwithstanding their circumcision. On the day of Pentecost the gospel was preached to Jews, who were commanded to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and three thousand of them were baptized, though, as Jews, they had all been circumcised. And Paul was a Pharisee, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law touching which he was blameless; yet, under special instructions from the Lord, Ananias commanded him to “be baptized and wash away his sins.” Acts xxii:16. Might he not have expostulated with the man of God thus: “Sir, I am a Jew, and have been circumcised; and as baptism came in the room of circumcision, however, important it may be to a Gentile, it cannot be obligatory on me, as I have complied with the rite in the room of which it came, and for which it is a substitute? Why should I submit to the substitute, having received the original?” Surely, such a plea would have been in harmony with the theory. But, as no such plea was made by any Jew, but every one of them converted to the faith of the gospel had to be baptized notwithstanding his circumcision, we conclude that circumcision passed away with the old covenant, of which it was a part, and that baptism has no connection with it whatever.
Indeed, as circumcision belonged to the old covenant which has passed away, baptism cannot be in the place of circumcision, for it has no place. The covenant in which it had a place being gone, it would be quite as sensible to speak of a man having a place in a house which had been burned to ashes. A place in the house he may have had when it was a house, but when it ceased to exist he could no longer have a place in it. So, when the covenant to which circumcision belonged passed away its place passed away, and it is idle to talk of anything coming in and filling its place. It has no place only in Jewish history. But it is said that circumcision was a seal of the Jewish covenant, and that baptism is the seal of the new covenant, hence one is in the place of the other — i.e., baptism sustains the same relationship to the new covenant which circumcision sustained to the old.
Well, let us examine this theory. And, first, the reader will note the fact that this argument — or, rather, theory — abandons the whole doctrine of church identity based upon an identity of the covenants. Waving this, however, we will examine the theory upon its merits. God said: “And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” Gen. xvii:11. Here we find circumcision called a token, but not a seal of the covenant. Paul says Abraham “received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised.” Rom. iv:11. Here circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of Abraham’s faith, not a seal of the covenant. And circumcision was to Abraham what it was to no other Jew. It was a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had before he was circumcised. How much faith could a Jewish infant have before it was eight days old? Of course, none at all; and hence, circumcision could not seal the righteousness of the faith of those who had no faith. But is baptism the seal of the new covenant? If so, where is the scripture which proves or teaches it? As to the covenant itself, it came nearer being sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ than by baptism; and the subjects are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Paul says: “In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Eph. i:13. And again: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Eph. iv:30. Thus we see that persons converted to God under the new covenant are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and not by baptism; nor is it even once called the seal, or a seal in all the book of God. Hence, if anything sustains the same relation to the new covenant which circumcision did to the old, as taught by pedobaptists, it is the Holy Spirit. Thus, were we to grant that circumcision was the seal of the Jewish covenant — or, rather, were it true — it would only be another evidence that baptism did not come in its place, for baptism is not a seal, nor is it anywhere called one. It comes much nearer performing, under the new covenant, the office which the natural birth did to a Jew under the old. Natural birth introduced a Jew into the Jewish commonwealth, or so-called church, and a birth of water and Spirit introduces men and women into the kingdom or church of God. Hence, there is some analogy between the natural birth of a Jew and the new birth which makes a man a child of God or a Christian, but none whatever between baptism and Jewish circumcision.
But suppose we admit, for a moment, that circumcision was the seal of the Jewish covenant, and that it is still in force, the seal being changed to baptism, then it follows that every Jew who is baptized is twice sealed in the same covenant – once with the sign of circumcision and once in baptism. Hence, if circumcision and baptism may be, and were administered to the same subject under the same covenant, why will not pedobaptists rebaptize those who become dissatisfied with a baptism received in infancy? If the same persons may be twice sealed in the same covenant — once by circumcision, and again by baptism after it became a substitute for the former, then we see not why others may not be twice sealed by baptism upon the same principle. If they may receive the original and then the substitute, why not twice receive the substitute? Those who can, may explain; we cannot.
We close our examination of the covenants with Paul’s allegory. He says: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid and the other by a free woman. But he that was of the bond-woman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise; which things are an allegory; for these are the two covenants; for this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is and is in bondage with her children, but Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travaileth not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath a husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even as it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bond-woman and her son: for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman. So, then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free.” Gal. iv:21-31.
In this allegory, Abraham’s bond-woman Hagar represents the covenant made at Sinai, and his lawful wife Sarah represents the new covenant, of which Jesus Christ is the mediator. Each of these women had a son by Abraham. Hagar’s son was born after the flesh, Sarah’s son Isaac was given her by promise when she was past age. The question arose whether the child of the bond-woman should inherit Abraham’s estate equal with the son of the free. God decided that he should not be heir with the son of the free woman, and ordered the bond-woman and her son to be cast out. Paul uses this circumstance to illustrate the two covenants. As the Sinaitic covenant required no spiritual qualifications for membership but a birth of flesh only, it was fitly represented by the woman whose son was born according to the flesh, and was rejected. But as the new covenant required spiritual qualifications for membership, and conferred spiritual blessings upon the subjects of it through Christ, it was fitly represented by the lawful wife, whose son Isaac was, the child of promise and the seed of Abraham, from whom Christ the mediator of the new covenant should come. And Paul says we, as Isaac was, are the children of promise; not children of the bond-woman, but of the free. As the free woman represented the new covenant and we are children of the free woman, it follows that we are children of the new covenant represented by the free woman, whose children we are. And as God commanded to cast out the bond-woman and her son, which represented the old covenant and its membership, it follows that no one can inherit the spiritual privileges of the new covenant as a subject of the one which has waxed old and been cast out with its membership. Nor will it do to assume that this bond-woman simply represented the covenant made at Sinai, but did not include the covenant made with Abraham, for we have already seen that the covenant made with Abraham was renewed with Isaac, Jacob, and Moses (See Deut. xxix:19); and even the covenant of circumcision originally given to Abraham was incorporated in and became part of the law of Moses. Jesus says: “If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye
angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?” John vii:23. Then, as circumcision, which pedobaptists tell us was the seal of the Abrahamic covenant, became part of the law of Moses or covenant made at Sinai, surely the covenant did also, for the seal would not have been transferred without the covenant to which it belonged. Then, as these were merged into the covenant made at Sinai, which was represented by the bond-woman and her son who were cast out, it follows that that covenant and the Jewish church based upon it, with its membership, are gone, forever gone. “So, then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free,” thank God. We come now to examine the argument based upon Jewish proselyte baptism. It is assumed that the Jews, from the days of Jacob until now, have baptized female proselytes, and both baptized and circumcised male proselytes; and when they baptized parents, they also baptized their children. The theory appears to be somewhat inconsistent, to say the least of it. Both circumcision and baptism practiced at the same time, among the same people, upon the same subjects, under the same covenant, and yet one came in the room of the other! Really, if both were in existence from the days of Jacob until the coming of the Messiah, it would seem that if He did anything with them, He rather consolidated them than substituted one for the other. Among the Jews, it seems that each is in its own place for if both were practiced under the old covenant, each had a place; and as both are practiced now, we suppose they have not changed places yet. But as pedobaptists admit that circumcision has passed away, but contend that baptism has taken its place, we feel a little curious to know what place it filled under the old covenant when circumcision was in its own place. If baptism is the seal under the new covenant, what office did it fill in the old covenant when
circumcision was the seal? Leaving those who advocate the theories to harmonize them at their leisure, we propose to examine the testimony concerning the baptism of Jewish proselytes, and see whether or not it was practiced from the days of Jacob, or even before the days of John the Baptist. And we will first hear what eminent pedobaptists, who have given the subject a careful and thorough examination, say about:
- “Part of John’s office consisted in baptizing as an external rite, then in a particular manner appointed of God, and not used before.” Venema, in Booth Abridged, p. 161.
- When speaking of John the Baptist and his ministry, Gerhardus asks: “Who would have embraced that new and hitherto unusual ceremony, baptism, without sufficient previous information.” Gerhardus, in Booth Abridged, p. 161.
- “Why, then, baptizest thou? Hence, it appears the Jews were not ignorant that there should be some alteration in the rites of religion under the Messiah, which they might easily learn from Jer. xxxi. John most pertinently answers, professing that he was not the author, but only the administrator, of this new rite.” Beza, in Booth Abridged, p. 161.
- “The baptism of proselytes, in our opinion, seems to have been received by the Jews after the time of John the Baptist, being very much influenced by his authority, and greatly admiring him. Certainly, it cannot be proved by any substantial testimony, that it was in use among the Jews before the time of John.” Deylingius, in Booth, p. 162.
- “In fine, we are destitute of any early testimony to the practice of proselyte baptism antecedently to the Christian era. The original institution of admitting Jews to the covenant, and strangers to the same, prescribed no other rite than that of circumcision. No account of any other is found in the Old Testament; none in the Apocrypha, New Testament, Targums of Onkelos, Jonathan, Joseph the Blind, or in the work of any other Targumist, excepting Pseudo-Jonathan, whose work belongs to the seventh or eighth centuries. No evidence is found in Philo, Josephus, or any of the earlier Christian writers. How could an allusion to such a rite have escaped them all if it were as common and as much required by usage as circumcision?” Stuart on Baptism, p. 140. Again, he says: “Be this as it may, or be the origin of proselyte baptism as it may, I cannot see that there is any adequate evidence for believing that it existed contemporarily with the baptism of John and of Jesus. But what has all this to do with the question, What was the ancient mode of baptism? Much; for it is on all hands conceded that, so far as the testimony of the Rabbis can decide such a point, the baptism of proselytes among the Jews was by immersion. It is, therefore, a matter of no little interest, so far as our question is concerned, to inquire whether Christian baptism had its origin from the proselyte baptism of the Jews. This we have done, and have come to this result, viz.: that there is no certainty that such was the case, but that the probability, on the ground of evidence, is strong against it.” Ibid, p. 142.
- “But independently of its supposed scriptural sanction, an attempt has been made to prove this usage in the apostolic age, upon the alleged fact that the Jews then baptized proselytes from heathenism. Now, this alleged fact of the baptism of proselytes is very uncertain, and, even if admitted, would by no means establish the apostolic usage of infant baptism. The baptism of proselytes is first mentioned in the Mishna, a collection of Jewish traditions, completed in the third century [A.D. 219]; and the usage there mentioned (baptism of adults and infants) might have been derived, directly or indirectly, from Christians.” Dr. Blunt, in Louisville Debate, p. 105
With regard to the silence of Josephus on the subject, Dr. Blunt very justly remarks: “But whether this supposed Jewish usage existed at all (among Jews or Christians) in the apostolic age is uncertain.
It is not mentioned by Josephus, even when we might fairly expect that it would have been recorded — as when he relates that the Idumeans were received among the Jewish people by circumcision, without mentioning baptism. Were the usage undoubted, it would only have been an unauthorized addition to the scriptural command, since it was by circumcision only that proselytes were to be added to the Jewish Church. Ex. xii:48.” Ut supra. On this subject Prof. Stuart says: “Nay, there is one passage in Josephus which seems to afford strong ground of suspicion that the rite in question was unknown at a period not long antecedent to the time of the apostles. This author is relating the history of John Hyrcanus, high priest and king of the Jews, a zealous Pharisee, and one who, according to Josephus, was favored with divine revelations. He says that Hyrcanus took certain cities from the Idumeans; ‘And he commanded, after subduing all the Idumeans, that they should remain in their country if they would circumcise themselves and conform to the Jewish customs. Then they, through love of their country, underwent circumcision, and submitted to other modes of living which were Jewish; and from that time they became Jews.’ Ant. xiii:9, 1.” Stuart on Baptism, p. 129.
Now, is it not a little strange that Josephus should mention the circumcision of persons who became Jews, and say not one word about their baptism, when, if the Jews both circumcised and baptized their proselytes, they must have baptized these very persons which he speaks of being circumcised? But we are not done with the testimony of Dr. Blunt yet. He says: “It is, however, very unlikely that the Jews would adopt the usage of baptism from the Christians; and the Mishna being founded on previous collections reaching to the apostolic age, there is just a probability that at the time of our Lord and His apostles the Jewish custom prevailed of baptizing proselytes and their children. Even admitting this, yet before this custom can be alleged in proof or confirmation of apostolic usage, it must be proved that the Jewish custom was adopted by our Lord and His apostles; but of this neither the Scriptures nor the early fathers offered any proof whatever. Besides, it should be considered that the baptism of proselytes widely differs in theory from the Christian doctrine of baptism. The convert to Judaism was baptized, and all his family then born; but if he had children born afterward, they were not baptized, the previous baptism of their parents being deemed sufficient.” Blunt, in Louisville Debate, p. 105. Thus, testify pedobaptists themselves on the whole question of Jewish proselyte baptism; and so far from tracing it back to the days of Jacob, it goes back to sometime in the third century, when even the church, to say nothing of Judaism, was full of heresy and corruption. From that time, it has been practiced as claimed by pedobaptists, but all behind that is doubt and speculation. But Dr. Robinson says: “Purifications of proselytes indeed there were, but there never was any such ceremony as baptism in practice before the time of John. If such a rite had existed, the regular priests, and not John, would have administered it, and there would have been no need of a new and extraordinary appointment from heaven to give being to an old established custom; nor would it have been decent for John, or any other man, to treat native Jews – especially Jesus, who had no paganism to put away — as pagan proselytes were treated. This uninteresting subject hath produced voluminous disputes, which may be fairly cut short by demanding at the outset substantial proof of the fact that the Jews baptized proselytes before the time of John — which can never be done.” Robinson, in Louisville Debate, p. 104. Again, the same author says: “The modest Dr. Benson was pleased to and that he wished to see all these difficulties cleared up, and that he could not answer all that Dr. Wall and Mr. Emlyn had said in support of proselyte baptism; but, with all possible deference to this most excellent critic, it may be truly said he hath, by stating his difficulties, fully answered both these writers; for what they call proselyte baptism was not baptism, and if there was no institution of such a washing as they call baptism in the Old Testament, and no mention of such a thing in the Apocrypha, or in Josephus, or in Philo, what, at this age of the world, signify the conjectures of a Lightfoot, and a Wall, or even an Emlyn?”
On the subject of Jewish washings, which some have been inclined to call baptism, he says: “A fact it is, beyond all contradiction, that this same proselyte washing, which learned men have thought fit to call baptism, is no baptism at all, but, as Dr. Benson truly says, a very different thing, and that in which infants could have no share. It was a person’s washing himself, and not the dipping of one person by another.” Robinson, in Louisville Debate, p. 104. We could well afford to rest the argument with the authors quoted, but at the risk of being tedious we will offer a few thoughts for the consideration of the reader not suggested in the foregoing quotations. These authors concede that the Bible furnishes not a trace of authority for the baptism of proselytes by the Jews, nor any account of a single example of it. Surely, then, divine authority cannot be claimed for it; hence, it can furnish no authority for the baptism of infants, though we were to grant that it had been practiced from the days of Adam. If the practice began with man, without divine sanction, how can it furnish authority for anything? Are we to conclude that the Lord borrowed the idea of baptism from the unauthorized practice of men when He sent John to baptize the people? When Jesus asked the people whether the baptism of John was from heaven or of men, they might have promptly answered that it was of men if it had come from the unauthorized practice of men. And it dare not be assumed that God authorized the practice. Let him that so assumes produce the passage of Holy Writ that proves it. God instituted circumcision, and we can find an account of it, and a record of cases under the law; why can we not do the same as to the baptism of Jewish proselytes? When a stranger would keep the Passover among the Jews, God gave the law for it. “When a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it, and he shall be as one that is born in the land; for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” Ex. xii:48, 49. Is it not strange that the Lord did not say: “Let all his males be circumcised, and his males and females be baptized, and then let him come near and keep it?” Surely, it would have been a good time to make the suggestion. But it is not contended that native Jews were to be baptized, but only proselytes; and here the Lord says one law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger; hence, as the home-born were only circumcised, it follows that nothing more was required of strangers, at least to prepare for eating the Passover, and we suppose when any one could eat the Passover he was in full fellowship. We regard this as settling the question as far as authority is concerned. But if further proof be desirable, it may be found in the official title of John THE Baptist. If others had been baptizing since the days of Jacob, why call John the Baptist? A baptist he might have been, but THE Baptist he could not have been, for the Jewish priests would have been baptists as well as John. Indeed, it would not have required a special appointment from God to authorize John to do that which any Jewish priest could do, and had been doing, for ages. Is it not a little strange that the Lord should give a commission to the apostles to baptize the nations, and yet leave those who are to submit to it to eliminate their duty from Jewish talmuds and targums in place of from His law?
On this subject we wish to give the reader the benefit of a paragraph from the illustrious Booth. He says: “If, therefore, we obtain the useful intelligence about it, so as to help us in settling who are the subjects of our Sovereign’s appointment, it must be by having recourse to the Jewish synagogue. Now, is it not far more probable that Christ intended his own commission for the observance of baptism as the only law of administration, and the practice of His apostles as the only example for His people to follow, than that He should leave either its mode or subjects to be learned from the traditions of an apostate people, or the records of their admired but impious talmuds? Can it be imagined that our Lord should appoint baptism for all his disciples; that He should give them a body of doctrine and a code of law in the New Testament; and, after all, tacitly refer them to the writings of His enemies; those writings which are the register of their own pride, and madness, and shame; writings, too, of which perhaps a great majority of Christians never heard, nor had in their power to read, in order to learn whom He intended to be baptized?” Booth Abridged, p. 166.
All the premises considered, it is quite apparent that there was no such thing as the baptism of Jewish proselytes until long after the introduction of Christianity, from which the practice was borrowed by the Jews. If anyone thinks he can find an example of Jewish proselyte baptism earlier than two hundred years after John began to baptize, let him name the case, tell who he was, where it was done, and by whom. All this we can do as to John’s baptism and Christian baptism from their introduction; why may it not be done with reference to the baptism of Jewish proselytes, if indeed they were baptized at all? As neither command nor example can be produced antedating Christianity, we conclude there was no such practice, and dismiss the subject with the question, upon which the reader may reflect at his leisure, whether it is more likely that the Lord borrowed the idea of baptism from an unauthorized Jewish custom, or whether the Jews borrowed the practice from John and primitive Christians? We congratulate the reader upon his escape from Jewish covenants, talmuds, targums, and antiquated rites and ceremonies, and take much pleasure in introducing him to the New Testament, where we may at least find the word baptism, baptize, baptist, or some word akin to the subject under examination. Baptism is confessedly a New Testament ordinance, and why we should go to Jewish commands, talmuds, targums, anywhere and everywhere save the New Testament, to examine a question of purely New Testament origin, is, to say the least, a little strange.
As we are in the negative of the question, we must go where others lead; but if the practice of infant baptism were clearly taught in the New Testament, it is likely we should be spared the trouble of looking for it elsewhere. As John was the first to baptize the people, it may be well to see whether or not he baptized any infants. The record says: “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. “Matt. iii:5, 6. “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” Mark i:4, 5. “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Luke iii:3. These quotations are deemed sufficient to give us a pretty clear view of John’s baptism, so far as the present inquiry is concerned. They show us, with great clearness, that John’s baptism was for the remission of sins; infants have no sins to be remitted, hence it was not for them. Nor could it have been the guilt of original sin, for the removal of which John baptized the people — i.e., the dear babes, for then it must have been, not for the remission of sins, but for the remission of a sin — Adam’s sin. And the scriptures quoted show that the people were all baptized by John in Jordan, confessing THEIR sins, not Adam’s sin; hence, it was for the remission of the sins of the people that they were baptized. Again: These persons were not only baptized for the remission of sins, but they confessed their sins. This infants could not do, hence there were no infants baptized by John. Paul says: “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him which should come after him; that is, on Christ Jesus.” Acts xix:4. Thus we see that faith in a coming Saviour was enjoined by John upon those he baptized. Infants could not have appreciated such preaching or exercised such faith, therefore they were not subjects of John’s ministry. Finally: John preached the baptism of repentance; that is, it was a baptism which belonged to and grew out of repentance; infants cannot repent, therefore the baptism of repentance was not for them. Collating these items then, we find that John preached — the people heard, believed, repented, confessed their sins, and were baptized by John for the remission of them. Infants were not competent to do these things, hence they were not the subjects of John’s preaching or baptism.
We come now to an examination of the commission given by the Lord, a record of which we have by Matthew in the following words: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. xxviii: 18-20. This is truly an important text and well deserves our most serious consideration. John’s mission was confined to the Jews, and so was that of the twelve and the seventy prior to the death of Jesus; now He claims all authority in heaven and on earth and for the first time authorizes the baptism of the Gentiles. His language, then, must be regarded as the organic law of this divine institution, and not as a merely incidental allusion to the subject. It not only furnishes authority for baptizing all nations, but gives the only formula contained in Holy Writ in which the sacred rite is to be administered. The word teach occurs twice in the passage, and is from different Greek words, a circumstance which has given rise to much speculation on the subject to very little profit. It is insisted that mathetusate, rendered teaching, means to make disciples; and suppose it does. What is a disciple? A student, or learner; and could there be such a thing as a student without teaching? Where there is a student there must be something to study. Hence, the obvious import of the passage is, teach first the elementary principles of the gospel, so that the people may believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of man; then baptize them into the sacred names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; then further teach them how to live the Christian life. Mr. Baxter says: “Go disciple me all nations, baptizing them. As for those who say they are discipled by baptizing, and not before baptizing, they speak not the sense of that text, or that which is true or rational, if they mean it absolutely as so spoken; else why should one be baptized more than another? This is not a mere occasional or historical mention of baptism, but it is the very commission of Christ to His apostles for preaching and baptizing, and purposely expresseth their several works in their several places and order.
Their first task is, by teaching to make disciples, which are by Mark called believers. The second work is, to baptize them, whereto is annexed the promise of their salvation. The third work is to teach them all other things which are afterward to be learned in the school of Christ. To condemn this order is to renounce all rules of order, for where can we expect to find it if not here?” Booth Abridged, p. 202.
BRUGONSIS says: “Christ commanded first to teach the nations that are strangers to God and the truth; afterward, when they have submitted to the truth, to teach them those precepts and rules of life which are worthy of God and the truth. The order here observed, says Jerome, is excellent. He commands the apostles first to teach all nations; then to dip them with the sacrament of faith; and then to show them how they should behave themselves after their faith and baptism. Before baptism, they are to be taught the truth of the gospel, especially matters of faith; after baptism, they are to be instructed in the Christian morals, and what concerns their practice.” Booth Abridged, pp. 203, 204.
These statements made by pedobaptists we will regard as so obviously correct that further comment is unnecessary; we will regard this as the settled meaning of the text and make our deductions accordingly. It is claimed that, as infants compose a part of all nations, they are included in the command to “teach and baptize all nations.” Will those who make the argument stand by the same rule throughout? The veriest infidel that lives is a part of all nations — should he be baptized for that reason? Idiots belong to all nations — should they therefore be baptized? If infants should be baptized because they are a part of all nations, then there is not an atheist or an infidel which may not be baptized for the same reason. The phrase all nations often occurs in the Scriptures, where only a class is embraced in it. The word ethne, rendered nations, occurs about eighty times in the New Testament, where the context clearly shows that infants are not included. There are no less than eight such passages in Matthew’s gospel. We will give a few New Testament examples. “Ye shall be hated of all nations.” Matt. xxiv:9. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.” Ver. 14. “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer.” Mark xi:17. “Made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Rom. xvi:26. “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of her fornication.” Rev. xiv:8. “All nations shall come and worship before thee.” Rev. xv:4. “By thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” Rev. xviii:23. Similar examples may be found in the Old Testament. “I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle.” Zech. xiv:2. Surely, we are not to understand by this that all the infants, idiots, and old women of all nations were to enter the army of Titus to fight against Jerusalem. These quotations need only be carefully read to see that in every instance infants were excluded, though the phrase all nations was used; then why should the same words necessarily include them in the commission? We think they are just as clearly excluded by the context as they are in either of the texts quoted above. “Go teach all nations, baptizing them.” Infants nor idiots are subjects of gospel address, and cannot be taught the gospel; hence, if the Lord required the apostles to teach such the gospel, He simply required of them an impossibility. But worse still: If infants are included in the commission, then it follows that they must all be lost. Mark records the commission thus: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark xvi:16. Infants cannot believe the gospel; hence, if the commission includes them, they must all be damned. The language of Mark is even more comprehensive than that of Matthew. He says teach all nations; Mark says go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Surely, then, if the phrase all nations includes infants, then every creature in all the world would none the less include them; and if so, they cannot believe; and as those who believe not must be damned, we see no chance for the salvation of one of them according to the pedobaptist argument based on the commission.
Again: The language of the commission makes faith a necessary antecedent to baptism. Teach the nations, baptizing them — he that believeth and is baptized. Here the inference is clear that unbelievers are not to be baptized; nay, a want of faith is sufficient to bar any one from the sacred rite; infants cannot believe, and therefore cannot be scripturally baptized under this commission. More of this directly.
But we are now ready to make a little advance in the argument. Having seen that the commission does not authorize infant baptism, we respectfully suggest that it very clearly forbids the practice. When God gave specific directions for doing anything, it was a clear violation of law to do it otherwise. When God commanded Noah to build an ark of gopher wood (Gen. vi:14), it clearly implied a prohibition to make it of cedar wood; and had he made it of cedar, it would have been as clear a violation of God’s law as though he had not made it at all. When God commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole in the midst of the camps of Israel (Num. xxi:9), it implied a prohibition to hang up a brazen pot in the camp. When God commanded a Jew to kill a red heifer, he dare not kill a black one, because it would have been a clear violation of the law. When God commanded a Jew to offer an ewe lamb of the first year, he dare not offer a male or an old sheep. When God commanded the apostles to teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, He clearly implied that they were not to baptize into other names; and were any one to baptize into the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he would be regarded as an impious violator of God’s holy law. Then, when the Lord told the apostles to teach all nations, baptizing them, the taught, the language as clearly implied that they were to baptize none others, as did the command to build the ark of gopher wood imply that he was not to make it of cedar wood. Hence, it is just as clear a violation of the commission to baptize an untaught infant as though the Lord had expressly forbidden it. That we are correct in our interpretation of the commission, may be further seen by an examination of the various baptisms recorded in the Acts. That the Lord made faith an indispensable antecedent to baptism is confirmed by the fact that no case can be shown where any were baptized without it. Believers and believers ONLY were baptized by divine authority. With this thought specially before us, let us examine every case on record, and see whether or not we can find an exception. And as we proceed, we may note any evidence, of any kind, of the baptism of any infant by divine authority, if any such there be.
- The first baptism which occurred under the commission just examined was the Pentecostian converts. Peter preached the gospel to the people; thousands heard, understood, and believed it; were cut to their hearts, and anxiously inquired what to do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized. He would not have addressed infants thus, for they could not repent; nor will it do to assume that some were infants, for the command says every one of you. As many as gladly received his word were baptized; no more, not another one. This is clearly the import of the language, as many as gladly received his word. Infants cannot so receive the word, hence none were baptized. That faith preceded their baptism is evident from the fact that they were pricked in their hearts. This was a result of their faith in what Peter had preached. Infants would have heard Peter any length of time with perfect indifference, because they could not
have understood him.
- The second case of baptism recorded was at Samaria, where Philip preached the gospel to the people, and “when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Acts viii:12. When they believed Philip they were baptized, not until then. Hence, Philip understood faith to be antecedent to baptism, and none but men and women were baptized.
- “Then Simon himself believed also, and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.” Ver. 13. In Simon’s case, the same order is observed — preaching, hearing, faith, then baptism, but not until then. Is not this in harmony with the commission? Preach the gospel; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Preaching, hearing, faith, then baptism is the order ordained of the Lord, and as this order cannot apply to infants, it follows that baptism was not intended for them.
- But we have another example of baptism in this chapter. We find that Philip preached the gospel to a distinguished Ethiopian nobleman, who understood and believed it, and demanded baptism, saying: “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts viii:36, 37. This case most clearly shows that no one was allowed to be baptized who did not believe with the heart in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. When this man demanded baptism, he was told that if he believed he might be baptized, clearly implying that if he did not believe he was not a fit subject for baptism. Who, then, has a right to improve upon the work of Philip and baptize such as do not believe in Jesus Christ at all? Are there two baptisms, one requiring faith to prepare the subject for it, and another which may be administered without faith? Paul says there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.
- The next case recorded is that of Saul of Tarsus, afterward called Paul, an account of which we have in the ninth and twenty- second chapters of the Acts, which we need not stop to examine, as no question important to our search can arise concerning it.
- A case of much more interest and importance to our inquiry, is the introduction of the gospel to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, recorded in the tenth chapter of the Acts. Not to be tedious in unimportant details, it is sufficient to state that Peter visited the house of Cornelius in Caesarea, and preached the gospel to him and his friends who were there assembled. While he spake, the Holy Spirit fell on them who heard the word, and they of the circumcision heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. They were all old enough to talk, to say the least of it. And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. Who solicited Peter to tarry certain days? They who had been baptized; nor is there any evidence that anyone was baptized who did not join in this solicitation.
- The next case recorded is the baptism of Lydia and her household, a record of which we have in Acts xvi:15. The subject of household baptisms has been one out of which more capital has been made by the advocates of infant baptism than perhaps anything else. It is assumed that infants are in every family, and hence were baptized when and where there was a household baptized. To prove that infants were baptized with Lydia’s household, it must beproved. 1. That Lydia was a married woman, or at least had children; 2. That some of these children were infants; 3. That these infant children were with her, though she lived in Thyatira and was then in the city of Philippi, three hundred miles from her home. We grant that it is possible that Lydia was a married woman; but what are the probabilities of the case? As she was three hundred miles from home, on a mercantile mission, is it not likely that if she had a husband he would have made the trip for her? or had she gone without him, is it not likely that he would have taken care of the children at home without burthening her with them? But is it likely that a husband composed a part of her household? Surely not. As the husband is, in the New Testament, regarded as the head of the family, the household would have been ascribed to him rather than to her. Nor is it at all likely that the husband would not have been named in the narrative by the historian had he been present, for the same writer did mention both on other occasions where they were present. See Acts v:1; xviii:2. And there is a fair intimation by Lydia herself that she did not have a husband; at least, if she had, that he was not with her. She says: “If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there.” Ver. 15. As a modest Christian woman, it is not likely that she would have claimed the house in presence of her husband; nor is it likely that she would have invited guests into her house on the sole ground of HER fidelity to the Lord, and say nothing of her husband had he been present. It was a delicate matter for her to invite men into her house to remain with her in the absence of a husband, and, knowing that good men would feel a delicacy in doing so, she put the invitation upon the express ground of her fidelity to the Lord. Virtually, this was saying: “Though I am a long ways from home, where you can know nothing of my character, and my family is made up of such as are in my employment, yet if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there.” The argument prevailed, and she constrained us, says the apostle; and that her family was composed of adults may be seen in the fact that after Paul and Silas had been released from prison they “entered into the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them and departed.” Acts xvi:40. Then, her family was composed of such as were capable of being comforted by the apostles, and there is not the slightest evidence that she even had a child there or at home. But suppose we grant that she had infants, and that they were with her, it would be no evidence that they were baptized, because they were not subjects of gospel address, and hence were not baptized in flagrant violation of the law of the Lord requiring faith before baptism. We have seen that the commission required the gospel to be preached to every creature in all the world, and yet it did not apply to infants, else they must all be damned. The import of it is, preach the gospel to every creature of the classes embraced in the gospel. So, when Lydia and her household were baptized, the clear inference is that, if there were infants or idiots in her house, they were not subjects of baptism and made no part of the household baptized. Nothing is more plainly apparent in the Scriptures than that the word household, and even the phrase all the house, are used in a limited sense — i.e., where a class of persons, and not everyone in the house, was included. It is said “the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice and his vow.” Here it is expressly stated that Elkanah and all his house went to offer sacrifice to the Lord. This is strong language — all his house; but did every one go? “But Hannah went not up, for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him.” 1 Sam. i:21-23. From this quotation it is clear that Elkanah’s wife and child did not go to offer the yearly sacrifice, though it is said all his house went up. Then, were it granted that Lydia’s household had infants in it, and it were said, not only that her household was baptized, but that all of it was baptized, still it would only imply that all for whom baptism was intended were baptized. Thus, we see the utter impossibility of proving infant baptism from household baptisms, even were everything granted that is claimed; but we have seen no evidence of an infant in Lydia’s household to be baptized.
- But we have an account of another family baptism in this chapter. The jailer “was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” It is claimed that this jailer had infants in his family, and, as he and all his were baptized, his infants were baptized also. Is this position warranted by the proof? The record says: “They spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” Ver. 32. The gospel was preached to all that were in his house. Why preach the gospel to senseless babes? But he and all his were baptized. Yes; “And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” Ver. 34. Then the same, all his house, that were baptized were capable of rejoicing and believing in God. We think such should be baptized; but we submit to the unprejudiced judgment of the reader whether infants are capable of doing what is here said to have been done by the jailer and those baptized with him. Can they believe in God? Can they rejoice in the privileges of the gospel? If not, then no infants were among the baptized of this family.
- “And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.” Acts xviii:8. Here the order is in perfect harmony with the commission. The gospel was preached, the Corinthians hearing believed it, and their faith prepared them for baptism, to which they submitted. Of course, there were no infants baptized among them.
- The twelve disciples found at Ephesus by Paul had been baptized with the baptism of John after the organization of the church on the day of Pentecost; hence, their faith was defective. John preached that they should believe on a Saviour to come after him, hence they were believing in a Saviour to come who had already come. Their baptism was defective for these reasons: 1. It was not administered in the name or by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ; 2. It was not into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the baptism then in force required to be administered; 3. John’s baptism had been superseded by another; hence, when Apollos only knew John’s baptism, it was necessary that he be taught the way of the Lord more perfectly — i.e., that John’s baptism had passed away and was not then in force, and hence worthless to those who received it. When these disciples heard these things, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts xix:5. We will not insult the reader by offering an argument to show that there were no infants among these, and that faith preceded their baptism.
We believe we have now examined every case of baptism recorded in the Acts. There are a few incidental allusions to other cases in the epistles which throw no additional light on the subject. Now, will the reader bring himself as near the judgment of the great day as it is possible for mortals to come in this life, and ask himself the question, “Is there a case of infant baptism recorded in all the Book of God? Have we been able to find one?” We have found where believers were baptized by thousands. We have found where men and women were baptized in great numbers, and in families, but nowhere is there a record of the baptism of a single infant. Suppose a modern preacher had written the Acts of the Apostles, and things had been then as now, we imagine the narrative would have run about thus: “As many as gladly received his word were baptized, with their children, and the same day there were added three thousand adults and as many infants.” “They were baptized men, WOMEN, and CHILDREN.” “And he commanded men, WOMEN, and CHILDREN to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” “And when she and the infants of her household were baptized.” “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes and
was baptized, he and all his infant children, straightway.” Recently, I read a scrap from a preacher’s journal of several years ago, running thus: “Baptized 20 adults and 21 children.” “Sept. 3. Sunday, I preached, and then baptized 21 adults and 3 infants.” “On the first Sunday in this month I baptized 34 adults and their children — 48 in all.” This shows us what the record kept — or, rather, made — by Luke would have been had infants been baptized then as they are now. On the contrary, we have found the same order everywhere. As faith comes by hearing, the gospel was first preached that the people might hear, understand, and believe it. Jesus said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” hence, when they believed, if they desired salvation, they were baptized, both men and women; but we may safely affirm that no one without faith in Jesus Christ was ever baptized by divine authority. Paul says: “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” Heb. xi:6. Therefore, when any one is baptized who has no faith, such baptism cannot be pleasing to God. “That which is not of faith is sin.” Rom. xiv:23. Infants cannot exercise faith hence their baptism cannot be of faith, and is, therefore, sin. Hence, we conclude that an infant has never yet been baptized by divine authority anywhere.
Paul says Jesus gave Himself for the church, “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Eph. vi:26, 27. When would the church attain to this state of perfection if the practice of infant baptism was universal, and baptism introduced infants into the church? (And if its advocates could succeed in their efforts it would be universal, and should be universal if right; if wrong, it should not be at all.) All distinction between the church and the world would be obliterated; nay, there would, in this sense, be no world. All would be in the church, good and bad. Drunkards, liars, murders, infidels, atheists, and all other classes would be in the church, having entered it by baptism in infancy; for none thus introduced are ever excluded for crime unless they make a profession of religion in maturer years. Such a church as there would then be!!! Was this the glorious church for which Jesus gave His life, that it might be without spot, wrinkle, blemish, or any such thing? Is this the bride which He is coming to receive, expecting her to be clad in robes of righteousness comparable to fine linen, clean and white? Rev. xix:8.
This theory perfected would make void the commission of Jesus Christ. If infant baptism universally prevailed, there would be no such thing as believer’s baptism. When Jesus says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” infant baptism comes along and takes every subject from Him, leaving not one to grow old enough to believe the gospel and be baptized. Nor is this all; Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost would not apply to such a state of things. Were all baptized in infancy, no one in mature years could be commanded to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Such a command could not apply to infants; and as there would be no unbaptized men and women, there would be none to whom such preaching could apply. Is it not clear, therefore, that the gospel plan of salvation given by Jesus Christ and carried into operation by His inspired apostles did not contemplate the baptism of infants? Baptism, says Peter, is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” 1 Pet. iii:21. It was not to be a mere fleshly washing, but was intended to reach the conscience; but how can it reach the conscience of an infant? It may satisfy the consciences of some misguided parents; but the conscience of the infant subject has nothing to do with it; nor can it be in the least exercised thereby.
One of the most pernicious tendencies of the practice is that it prevents many thousands of conscientious persons from intelligently obeying the Lord for themselves. They are informed by their parents or others that they were baptized in infancy, and they must be content with this statement. If they are more correctly taught in after life, and desire to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, they must abandon the church of their infancy or they cannot obtain the services of an administrator.
Hence, nothing short of an abandonment of their entire system of theology can secure their emancipation from the bondage of a practice unauthorized by inspired precept or example, even as admitted by many wise and good men who practice it. We come now to notice the argument which those who defend infant baptism based upon the history of the practice; and we promise our readers the utmost brevity in its examination, for we have already dignified the subject of this chapter with an undue portion of our space. Indeed, we confess our inability to see the importance which those who make the argument attach to it.
Suppose it were true, and could be so proved by well authenticated history, that infant baptism was practiced even in the days of the apostles, unless it could be shown that it met their approval, it would not authorize the practice. In Paul’s time he tells us that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2 These. ii:7. He also says: “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Acts xx:29, 30. If, therefore, innovations began to spring up even in the days of the apostles, and persons then among the disciples, who had been blessed with the personal instruction of the apostles, would, so soon after Paul’s death, teach perverse doctrine which would draw disciples after them, is it surprising that infant baptism should be introduced in two hundred years? That it did not have the sanction of inspiration in any way, we have already shown by the admissions of as truly great and good men as belong to the pedobaptist ranks; what, then, is gained by proving, what no one denies, that it has been practiced from the days of Origen until now? are we to practice everything which came into the church in those days? If so, we must go to anointing with oil — casting devils out of persons before they are baptized — breathing on them in imitation of the Saviour — consecrating the baptismal water — applying salt and spittle to the tongue — giving honey and milk — anointing the eyes with clay — covering the head, and numerous other things which came into the church about the time infant baptism was introduced. They were practiced from about the close of the second century, on for several hundred years, why not practice them now? Do you say they were without divine authority? We grant it; but many of the wisest and best men who have practiced infant baptism admit the same of it; why not discard them all together; or practice them all, and be at least consistent?
We believe Irenaus is the first witness whose testimony is introduced in support of the practice. He wrote about the year 190, and is quoted by Neander, Vol. 1, p. 311. As Neander was a pedobaptist historian, we will give what he says on the subject in connection with the quotation from Irenaus. He says: “Baptism was administered at first only to adults, as men were accustomed to receive baptism and faith as strictly connected. We have all reason for not deriving infant baptism from apostolic institution, and the recognition of it which followed somewhat later, as an apostolical tradition, serves to confirm this hypothesis. Irenaeus is the first church teacher in whom we find any allusion to infant baptism, and in his mode of expressing himself on the subject, he leads us at the same time to recognize its connection with the essence of the Christian consciousness; he testifies of the profound Christian idea out of which infant baptism arose, and which procured for it at length universal recognition. Irenaus is wishing to show that Christ did not interrupt the progressive development of that human nature which was to be sanctified by Him, but sanctified it in accordance with its natural course of development and in all its several stages. ‘He came to redeem all by Himself; all who through Him are regenerated to God; infants, little children, boys, young men and old. Hence, He passed through every age, and for the infants He became an infant, sanctifying the infants; among the little children He became a little child, sanctifying those who belong to this age, and at the same time presenting to them an example of piety, of well-doing, and of obedience; among the young men He became a young man, that He might set them an example and sanctify them to the Lord.’ ” The reader will observe that Neander says that Irenaeus is the first church teacher in whom we find any allusion to infant baptism, and hence the practice cannot be traced further back than 190 A.D., even granting that Irenaus means baptism by “regenerated to God.” Neander further testifies that baptism was administered at first only to adults, as men were accustomed to conceive baptism and faith as strictly connected. And why should they not be connected when Jesus so connected them, saying: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” and Philip made faith an indispensable condition upon which he would baptize the eunuch — “If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest?” But Neander further says: ‘We have all reason for not deriving infant baptism from apostolic institution.” These are surely strong admissions coming from one whose practice shows they were not suggested by partisan feelings. Again he says: “But immediately after Irenaus, in the last years of the second century, Tertullian appears as a zealous opponent of infant baptism; a proof that the practice had not as yet come to be regarded as an apostolical institution; for otherwise he would hardly have ventured to express himself so strongly against it.” Neander, Vol. 1, p. 312. On the same page Neander quotes Tertullian as follows: “Let them come, while they are growing up; let them come while they are learning, while they are being taught to what it is they are coming; let them become Christians when they are susceptible of the knowledge of Christ. What haste to procure the forgiveness of sin for the age of innocence! We show more prudence in the management of our worldly concerns, than we do in entrusting the divine treasure to those who cannot be entrusted with earthly property. Let them first learn to feel their need of salvation, so it may appear that we have given to those that wanted.”
Dr. Wall has a slightly different translation of this paragraph, as follows: “Therefore, let them come when they are grown up; let them come when they understand; when they are instructed whither it is that they come; let them be made Christians when they can know Christ. What need their guiltless age make such haste to the forgiveness of sins? Men will proceed more warily in worldly things; and he that should not have earthly goods committed to him, yet shall have heavenly. Let them know how to desire this salvation, that you may appear to have given to one that asketh.” Wall’s Hist. Infant Bap., Vol. 1, p. 94.
Neander comments upon this paragraph from Tertullian as follows: “It seems, in fact, according to the principles laid down by him, that he could not conceive of any efficacy whatever residing in baptism, without the conscious participation and individual faith of the person baptized; nor could he see any danger accruing to the age of innocence from delaying it; although this view of the matter was not logically consistent with his own view. “But when, now, on the one hand, the doctrine of the corruption and guilt cleaving to human nature in consequence of the first transgression, was reduced to a more precise and systematic form, and, on the other, from the want of duly distinguishing between what is outward and what is inward baptism (the baptism by water and the baptism by the Spirit), the error became more firmly established that without external baptism no one could be delivered from that inherent guilt, could be saved from the everlasting punishment that threatened him, or raised to eternal life; and when the notion of a magical influence or charm connected with the sacraments continually gained ground, the theory was finally evolved of the unconditional necessity of infant baptism.”
Neander, Vol. 1, p. 313. Thus, we see when and how the theory of infant baptism was finally evolved. Infantile depravity, or the guilt of original sin, was the foundation of it. The fathers drank down the notion that infants inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin, and unless this was washed away in baptism they were lost if they died in infancy; hence, says Neander, was finally evolved the unconditional necessity of infant baptism. They must be damned for Adam’s sin unless baptized. Modern pedobaptists are unwilling to admit this, and seek to derive it from the identity of the Jewish and Christian churches, as we have seen, and yet, strange enough, they base an argument on the history of infant baptism which must develop the true foundation of the practice and destroy every argument made in its support.
But is Neander correct in this statement? As he was a pedobaptist himself, he could have had no motive to misrepresent the facts; nevertheless, it may not be amiss to see whether or not he had authority for what he said. Dr. Wall was one of the most voluminous writers that has ever wielded a pen in defense of infant baptism. He makes a quotation from Justin Martyr, on which he comments as follows: “I recite this only to show that in these times, so very near the apostles, they spoke of original sin affecting all mankind descended of Adam, and understood that, besides the actual sins of each particular person, there is in our nature itself, since the fall, something that needs redemption and forgiveness by the merits of Christ. And that is ordinarily applied to every particular person by baptism.” Wall, Vol. 1, p. 64. When the fathers became well settled in the doctrine of infantile depravity, they very naturally desired a remedy for it, and, knowing that baptism was for the remission of sins, they conceived the idea of baptizing infants for the removal of the guilt of Adam’s sin in them. By the close of the second century it made its appearance, and we have found Tertullian opposing it. In Origen’s day it was more general, and we find him favoring it. He was born about 185 A.D. Allowing him to have been fifty or sixty years old when he wrote, his writings would date near the middle of the third century. We have not much confidence in the authenticity of what is said to have been written by him, yet we will give some of it to the reader, and he can estimate it for himself. Dr. Wall says: “The Greek (which was the original) of all Origen’s works being lost, except a very few, there remain only the Latin translations of them. And when these translations were collected together, a great many spurious ones were added and mixed with them and went under Origen’s name.” Wall’s History, Vol. 1, p. 106. Though Dr. Wall goes on to say that “critics quickly smelt them out and admitted none for his but such as appeared to have been done into Latin either by St. Hierome or Rufinus,” yet he says: “Rufinus altered or left out anything which he thought not orthodox, whereas now, in these translations of Rufinus, the reader is uncertain (as Erasmus angrily says) whether he read Origen or Rufinus.” Pp. 106-08.
The following paragraph is a translation of Rufinus’ Latin of Origen’s Greek by Wall: “Besides all this, let it be considered what is the reason that, whereas the baptism of the church is given for the forgiveness of sins, infants also are by the usage of the church baptized, when, if there were nothing in infants that wanted forgiveness and mercy, the grace of baptism would be needless to them.” Wall, Vol. 1, p. 104
The following paragraph was translated from Origen’s Greek into Latin by St. Hierome, and thence into English by Wall, who exonerates Hierome from any want of fidelity to the original of Origen: “Having occasion given in this place, I will mention a thing that causes frequent inquiries among the brethren. Infants are baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Of what sins? Or when have they sinned? Or how can any reason of the laver in their case hold good, but according to that sense that we mentioned even now: none
is free from pollution, though his life be but of the length of one day upon the earth? And it is for that reason, because by the sacrament of baptism the pollution of our birth is taken away, that infants are baptized.” Wall, Vol. i, pp. 104, 105. This comes to us from Origen through Hierome and Wall, and must, therefore, be received as genuine. In it Origen answers the inquiries of his brethren by plainly stating that it is because the pollution of our birth taken away by baptism that infants are baptized.
But there is another passage translated from Origen’s Greek by Rufinus, to which we must give some attention: “For this also it was that the church had from the apostles a tradition [or order] to give baptism even to infants. For they, to whom the divine mysteries were committed, knew that there is in all persons the natural pollution of sin which must be done away by water and the Spirit.” Wall, Vol. 1, p. 106. As this passage comes to us through Rufinus, an admitted interpolator of Origen’s works, we can have no confidence in its purity; and even Dr. Wall has given us some evidence of overmuch zeal in his cause, by placing in brackets the phrase “or order,” as though order was the synonym of tradition, and thus seeking to make his author say that the church had an order to give baptism to infants. Does tradition amount to an order? Let us see. “Tradition is a very convenient word to excuse and retain those things that were brought into religion without the authority of Scripture, by the ignorance of the times and the tyranny of men.” Turettenus, in Booth Abridged, p. 273. “To convince the world how early tradition might either vary or misrepresent matters, let the tradition not only in, but before St. Irenaeus’ time, concerning the observation of Easter be considered, which goes up as high as St. Polycarps time. If, then, tradition failed so near its fountain, we may easily judge what account we ought to make of it at so great a distance.” Bishop Burnet, in Ibid. “Irenaeus, one of the first fathers, with this passage [John viii:57] supports the tradition, which he saith he had from some that had conversed with St. John, that our Saviour lived to be fifty years old, which he contends for.
See what little credit is to be given to tradition.” Mr. Henry, in Ibid, pp. 3, 4. “As to the Scripture, instead of making that the only rule of faith, they [the Papists] have joined traditions with it; that is to say, the most uncertain thing in the world, the most subject to impostures, and the most mixed with human inventions and weaknesses, tradition is so far from being able to serve for a rule that it ought itself to be corrected according to that maxim of Jesus Christ, In the beginning it was not so. There is, therefore, nothing more improper to be the rule of faith than that pretended tradition which is not established upon any certain foundation, which serves for a pretense to heretics, which is embraced pro and con, which changes according as times and places do, and by the favor of which they may defend the greatest absurdities by merely saying that they are the traditions which the apostles transmitted from their own mouths to their successors.” Mr. Claude, in Ibid, pp. 274, 275.
Thus, we see that, when contending against Papal usurpation, pedobaptists regard tradition as “the most uncertain thing in the world” — serves as a pretext for heretics, by the favor of which they may prove the greatest absurdities, even that Jesus lived to be fifty years old; but when defending infant baptism, and nothing better can be had, tradition does very well, and may be called an order from the apostles to give baptism to infants! With reference to Origen’s remark, Neander says: “Origen, in whose system infant baptism could readily find its place, though not in the same connection as in the system of the North African church, declares it to be an apostolical tradition; an expression, by the way, which cannot be regarded as of much weight in this age when the inclination was so strong to trace every institution which was considered of special importance to the apostles; and when so many walls of separation, hindering the freedom of prospect, had already been set up between this and the apostolic age.” Neander, Vol. 1, p. 314.
These quotations are deemed sufficient to show what estimate is to be placed upon Wall’s substitution of the word order for tradition in the quotation from Origen. He verifies the adage that “drowning men will catch at straws.” As he has nothing better with which to support his practice, we leave him in the enjoyment of his tradition, but insist that he hold it as a tradition, not as an order. Having seen that the history of infant baptism cannot be traced further back than about the close of the second century, we feel no disposition to pursue it into later periods, being content to know that it did not originate in the days of the apostles, or have their sanction; this we have seen as surely as there is truth in the testimony of those who practice it. The reader will please remember that we have found its origin — not in the identity of the Jewish and the Christian churches — not in Jewish circumcision — not in Jewish proselyte baptism — not in the teaching of John the Baptist, Christ, or the apostles — but in the absurd dogma of infantile depravity, or the inherited guilt of Adam’s sin. So testifies Tertullian, so testifies Origen, and all the primitive fathers who give testimony on the subject. My distinguished friend Mr. Ditzler says: “They all believed that infants were depraved, as their writings show. They believed that baptism was regeneration in the sense of washing away original sin; that infants were depraved by original sin, and could not be saved without this washing away of that sin; and, therefore, they baptized infants that they might be saved.
Now, the apostolic fathers speak in this manner, and refer to the baptism of infants.” Louisville Debate, p. 163. This is a frank admission of what is unquestionably true, limiting the words apostolic fathers to such as wrote after the introduction of the practice. But we have later testimony than the so-called apostolic fathers on this subject. In a work, titled DOCTRINAL TRACTS, page 251, we find the following paragraph in a treatise on baptism: “As to the grounds of it: if infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper subjects of baptism; seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved unless this be washed away in baptism. It has been already proved that this original stain cleaves to every child of man; and that hereby they are children of wrath and liable to eternal damnation.” This work was published by Lane & Scott, New York, 1850, BY ORDER OF THE GENERAL CONFERENCE of the Methodist Church.
Hence, the above paragraph comes to us indorsed by the Methodist Church through her General Conference only twenty-three years ago. And it clearly shows that infant baptism, in the judgment of that organization, was based upon the doctrine of original sin, or inherited guilt, by reason of which infants are children of wrath and liable to eternal damnation; and in the ordinary way cannot be saved unless this original sin be washed away by baptism. This tract was published, for about thirty years, by the General Conference as the production of Mr. Wesley’s pen, but Mr. Jackson, the biographer of Mr. Wesley, denies that he wrote it. So far as the weight of its authority goes, it matters little whether Mr. Wesley wrote it or not; it was written by some one of no ordinary power, as the tract itself shows; and the fact that it was published by order of the General Conference gives it more authority than it could derive from Mr. Wesley or any other one man. But we do not regard Mr. Jackson’s denial as quite sufficient to show that it was not written by Mr. Wesley. Of all writers known to us, as a class, biographers are least reliable. It is a well-known fact that they ignore and often cover up the faults and exaggerate the virtues of their heroes; and when we add to this the fact that Mr. Jackson’s partisan feelings would incline him to mould Mr. Wesley’s teaching in accordance with his own views and the interest of his church, we are inclined to accept his denial, under the circumstances, with some degree of caution. What are the circumstances connected with the publication of this tract?
In the advertisement following the title page it is shown that a number of tracts had been published with the Discipline for a time, but in 1812 the General Conference ordered them left out of the Discipline and published in a separate volume. Following this announcement, it is said: “Several new tracts are included in this volume, and Mr. Wesley’s Short Treatise on Baptism is substituted in the place of the extract from Mr. Edwards on that subject.” Here it is stated that the former tract by Mr. Edwards was taken out and this one by Wesley was put in. Did those who made this statement tell the truth, or were they mistaken in what they said? On page 249, we find a footnote, as follows: “That Mr. Wesley, as a clergyman of the Church of England, was originally a high- churchman, in the fullest sense, is well known. When he wrote this treatise, in the year 1756, he seems still to have used some expressions in relation to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which we at this day should not prefer. Some such, in the judgment of the reader, may perhaps be found under this second head. The last sentence, however, contains a guarded corrective. It explains also the sense in which we believe Mr. Wesley intended much of what goes before to be understood.” As no name is attached to this note, we know not who wrote it, but we suppose it was by the publishing committee. Be this as it may, it seems to have been written by someone acquainted with the facts, for it even gives the date when Mr. Wesley wrote the tract. This note, be it remembered, is attached to the tract itself. The whole Methodist Conference, publishers, publishing committee, and everybody else connected with this tract, save Mr. Jackson, were mistaken for thirty years or Mr. Wesley wrote it. No child ever resembled its father more than does the style of this tract resemble the general style of Mr. Wesley’s writings. But if those who practice infant baptism intend to repudiate the doctrine that infants are in danger of being lost unless baptized, we trust they will cease abusing us for opposing their baptism. If those who are unbaptized are in no more danger than those baptized, why abuse us for seeking to prevent that which can do no good? Surely, they do not wish to unjustly prejudice the minds of the people against us by making much ado about nothing. If infants need not baptism, why baptize them? We think they are good enough without baptism. Jesus said: “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Not of such as they will be when they are baptized, but of such as they are without baptism.
But we are referred to the baptism of the Israelites in the cloud and sea as a clear case of the baptism of infants. Paul says: “All our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” 1 Cor. x:1, 2. It is certain that infants were under the cloud and passed through the sea, hence it is insisted that they were in the typical baptism referred to by Paul, and should now be baptized to fill the antitype. Does the fact that they were under the cloud and in the sea prove that they were contemplated by Paul in the baptism referred to? If so, then the flocks and herds of the Hebrews were included also, for it is just as certain that they were under the cloud and in the sea as it is that the infants were there. Shall we baptize our flocks therefore, to fill the antitype? Why not? They were taken along without their volition just as were the infants; hence, if these were baptized, why not those? Paul says that those baptized “did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.”
Verses 3, 4. Thus we see that those contemplated by Paul were capable of receiving spiritual instruction concerning Christ, which Paul calls spiritual meat and drink. Hence, says he, “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land; which the Egyptians essaying to do were drowned.” Heb. xi:29. Is it not clear that Paul did not contemplate infants; but alluded to such as could receive spiritual instruction, and pass through by faith? Infant baptism was never heard of in Paul’s day; hence, when he spake of baptized persons, either in type or antitype, he contemplated only such as were legitimate subjects of the rite.
Suppose we try the commission by the same principle of interpretation applied to the baptism of the Israelites. Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Now, it is just as certain that infants are creatures in the world, as it is that they were under the cloud and passed through the sea – were they contemplated in the commission? If so, what next? “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Infants cannot believe, therefore they must all be damned! Is anyone prepared to accept the conclusion? Surely not; yet it is fairly deducible from the commission by the same rules applied to the baptism of the Israelites to prove infant baptism. Infants are not subjects of gospel address, and were not contemplated in the commission, nor are they subjects of baptism; hence they were not contemplated by Paul.
Baptism is not a mere unmeaning ceremony, but a solemn act of obedience to God. Gentle reader, have you intelligently submitted to His will in the act required of you? Jesus commanded the apostles to teach the nations, baptizing them, the taught — clearly implying that they should baptize none but the taught. We have seen that they, acting under this commission, preached the gospel to the people, and when they believed it, they were baptized, both men and women. Intelligent, believing, penitent men and women who desire salvation should be baptized into the sublime names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. None others should be so baptized, for it would do them no good; and should it unfortunately keep them from obeying God in mature years, it would do them much harm. In vain may we attempt the worship of God by obeying the commandments of men. Be baptized yourself; you cannot obey God for your children; but you can bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and when they are old enough to
understand the Lord’s will, you will have the consolation of seeing them obey it for themselves.
[This if from The Gospel Plan of Salvation (1874). A special thanks to Lindsay England for her hard work in formatting this sermon.]