Practice of the Church
Chapter 41: Baptism
Syllabus for Lecturess 63–66
1. Is water Baptism, by God’s appointment, a permanent ordinance in the Church?
Turrettin, Loc. 19. Qu. 12. Hill, bk. v, ch. 6, 1, 2.
2. What are the signification and effects of Baptism? Consider the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Does Baptism represent, as Immersionists say, the burial and resurrection of Christ?
Turrettin, Qu. 19, 1–16. Armstrong on Baptism, pt. 2., ch. 2, pt. 1., chs. 8, 9. Dick, Lect. 89.
3. What formulary of words should accompany baptism? and what their signification? Are any older formalities admissible? or sponsors?
Turrettin, Qu. 17. Dick. Lects. 88, 89. Knapp, 139.
4. Was John’s Baptism the Christian sacrament of the new dispensation? For what signification w as Christ baptized by him?
Turrettin, Qu. 16. Armstrong, pt. 1., ch. 9. Dick, Lect. 88. Calvin’s Inst. bk. 4. ch. 15, 7, 18.
5. State tile classic, and then the scriptural meanings of the words baptw and baptizw and their usage when applied in the Septuagint and New Testament to Levitical washings.
Armstrong, pt. 1., chs. 3, 4, 5. Rice & Campbell’s Debate, Prop 1. Dale’s Classic Bap. Dale’s Judaic Bap. Carson on Bap
6. Show that a change of metering and mode takes place in the word baptizw , in passing from a secular to a sacred use.
Armstrong, pt. 1., ch. I, etc. On whole, Conf. of Faith, ch. 28.
7. What would most probably be the mode of baptism adopted for a universal religion?
Ridgley. Qu. 166.
8. What mode is most appropriate to the symbolical meaning of baptism?
Consult Isa. 52:15, compare Matt. 3:11. Acts 1:5, 2:2, 4; 2:15–18, 2:33; 10:44–48; 11:16, 17. Alexander on Isaiah. Armstrong on Bap., pt. 1., ch 7. Review of Theodosia Ernest.
9. What mode appears most probable from the analogy of the figurative and spiritual baptisms of Matt. 20:2–23; Mark 10:38, 39; Luke 12:50; 1 Cor. 10:2; 1 Pet. 3:21; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5; Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12.
See Armstrong on Bap. pt. 1., chs. 6, 8. Commentaries on Scriptures cited.
10. Argue the mode from John. 3:25, 26.Armstrong on Bap. pt. 1., ch. 2. 9.
11. Discuss the probable mode observed in John’s baptisms in Jordan and at Aenon, the Eunuch’s, Faults, the three thousand’s at Pentecost, Cornelius’, the Philippian jailor’s.
Annstrong, pt. ii, chs. 3, 4. Dr. Leonard Wools on Baptism. Taylor’s Apostolic Baptism. Robinson’s Reasearches in Palestine. Commentaries. Review of Theodosia Ernest.
12. What would be the eccesiastical results of the Immersionist dogma?
Review of Theodosia Ernest.
13. What was the customary mode of baptism in the early Church, subsequent to the apostles?
Bingham’s "Origines Sacra," Art. "Bapt." Taylor’s Apostolic Baptism. Church Histories. Review of Theodosia Ernest, See on whole, Rice and Campbell’s Debate. Fairchild on Baptism. Beecher on Baptism.
Lectures 65, 66:
1. Who are proper subjects of Christian Baptism, and on what terms?
Jo. Edwards. Qualific. for Communion. Mason on the Church, Essay 1. and 5. Neander. cl,. Hist. on the Novation and Donatist Schisms.
2. Meet the objection, that the nature of Baptism renders it necessarily inappropriate to infants, because they cannot believe. Review of Th. Ernest.
Dr L. Woods, Lect. 111, 117, or Woods on Infant Baptism. Fairchild on Baptism. Armstrong on Baptism, pt. iii, ch. 3, Ridgley, Qu. 165 Note. Calv. bk. iv, ch. 16.
3 Argue infant baptism from infant church membership.
Mason on the Church, Essays ii, 4. Woods, Lect. ill, bk. Armstrong, pt. iii, ch. 4, 5. Calvin, bk. iv, ch. 16. Turrettin, Loc. 19., Qu. 20. Ridgley; Qu. 166.
4. What would have been tile natural objections raised by Me Jews to Christianity had it excluded infants?
Mason on the Church, Essay 5.
5. state the argument for infant baptism from the Great Commission Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:47, etc.
Armstrong, pt. iii, chs. 2, 6. Woods, Lect. 113, etc. See on whole, Rev. of Theo. Ernest, chs. 4–6.
6. What weight is to be attached to the prevalence of Proselyte Baptism among the Jews, as evidence for infant baptism?
See Dr. L. Woods’ Lect. 112. Knapp’s Christian Theol. 138. Wall’s Hist. Infant Bap. Jahn’s Archaeology, 325.
7. State the argument for infant baptism from the baptism of houses.
Armstrong, pt. iii, ch. 8. Dr. Woods’ Lect. 114. Taylor’s Apostol, Bap. pp. 28 to 68.
8. Argue infant baptism Dom the tides and treatment addressed to Christian children in the New Testament.
See Armstrong, pt. iii, chp 7. Woods’ Lect. 115, pt. i. Taylor, Apost. Bapt. pp. 100 1 12.
9. What historical evidence can be given for the prevalence of infant baptism from the Apostles’ days downward?
Woods’ Lect. 116. Coleman, Ancient Christianity Exemplified, ch. 19, 6. Bingham’s Opines Sacra’. Wall’s Hist. Ink Bap.
10. Refute the objection dial infant baptism corrupts the spirituality of the Church by introducing unsanctified members.
Woods’ Lect. 117. Mason on die Church, Essays 6 and 7.
11. What the relations of baptized children to the Church, and what the practical benefits thereof?
Drs. Woods’ and Mason, as above. So. Presbn. Rev. April 1859.
Water Baptism Perpetual.
earlier Socinians disputed the perpetual obligation of water baptism, as the Quakers now do of both the sacraments, and on similar grounds. They plead that the new is intended to be a spiritual dispensation; that salvation is always in the New Testament conditioned essentially on the state of heart: that Paul (1 Cor. 1:17) says, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:" and that the water baptism administered by the apostles was only a temporary badge to separate the Church from Jews and Pagans at its outset. Quakers suppose that the only sacraments to be observed in our day are those of the heart, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the feeding on Christ by faith. The answers are: That the Old Testament, with its numerous types and two sacraments, was also a spiritual dispensation, and saving benefits were then, just as much as now, conditioned on the state of the heart; that the commission to baptize men was evidently co–extensive with that to disciple and teach them, as is proved by the accompanying promise of grace; that the commission to baptize lasts at least till all nations are converted, which is not yet accomplished; that it was after the most glorious experiences of the true spiritual baptism, at Pentecost, that the water baptism was most industriously administered; and that Paul only expresses the inferior importance of baptizing to preaching, and his thankfulness at having baptized only three persons at Corinth, in view of the unpleasant fact that that Church was ranking itself in parties according to the ministers who introduced them to membership.
Meaning of Baptism.
The folly and falsehood of baptismal regeneration have been already pointed out in the former lecture. All the arguments there aimed against the opus operatum apply here. The error most probably grew as superstition increased in the primitive Church, out of the unguarded use of the sacramental language by the early fathers, whose doctrine on this point was sounder. We know that baptism, in supposed imitation of Titus 3:5, was currently called regeneration as early as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. It is easy to see how, as men’s ideas of sacred subjects became more gross, this figurative use of the word introduced the real error.
According to the Shorter Catechism (Qu. 94) baptism "doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagements to be the Lord’s." And in the Confession, chapter 28, those benefits of the Covenant of Grace are farther explained to be remission of sins and regeneration. Each part of this definition we can abundantly substantiate from scripture. See Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:5; John. 3:5; Titus 3:5; Col. 2:11, 12, etc.; Acts 2:38; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16, etc.; Rom. 6:3, 4; Cor. 12:13: Matt. 28:19; Rom. 6:11,12.
Derived from Jewish Purifications.
A remarkable attribute of Baptism is the lack of explanations as to its meaning in the New Testament, as well as the absence of surprise at its surmised novelty. Not so with the other sacrament although that was a continuation of the familiar Passover. These things, among others, convince me that Baptism was no novelty to the Jews, either in its form or signification. It was the thing symbolized by the Hebrews’ purifications kaqarismoi . The idea of the purification included both cleansing and consecration; and the formalities represented both the removal of impurity from the person, in order that it might be adapted to the service of a holy God, and the consequent dedication to Him. Now, the main idea of Baptism is purification: and the element applied, the detergent element of nature, symbolizes the two–fold application of Christ’s satisfaction (called His blood) and the Holy Spirit, cleansing from guilt and depravity, and thus also consecrating the cleansed person to the service of a holy God. Here then, we have involved the ideas of regeneration and remission, and also of engrafting and covenanting into Christ’s service. This view will be farther susbtstantiated in treating the words baptismo" etc.
Does Baptism Commemorate Christ’s Burial and Resurrection?
Now the Immersionists, (for what purpose we shall see), have departed from the uniform faith of Christendom, on this point: and while they do not wholly discard the purification, make baptism primarily symbolical of Christ’s burial and resurrection. They teach that, as the supper commemorates His death, so baptism commemorates His burial and rising again. True, the believer, in commemorating His death in the supper, receives also a symbol of the benefits purchased for us therein. So, in commemorating His burial and resurrection, there is a symbolizing of our burial to sin, and living again unto holiness. But the main meaning is, to set forth Christ’s burial and resurrection. Only three texts can be quoted for this view. Rom. 6:3–5; Col. 2:12, and I Cor. 15:29, and especially the first.
Disapproved. No Scripture Proof.
Now our first objection to this view is its lack of all Bible support. He would be a hardy man, who would base any theory on the exposition of a passage so obscure as 1 Cor. 15:29. The most probable explanation is, that the Apostle here refers to the Levitical rule of Num. 19:14–19. Were there no resurrection, a corpse would be like any other clod; and there would be no reason for treating it as a symbol of moral defilement, or for bestowing on it, so religiously, the rites of sepulture. But this exposition presents not a particle of reason for regarding Christian baptism as a commemoration of Christ’s burial. The other two passages are substantially identical: and, under the figure of a death and rising again, they obviously represent a regeneration. Compare especially Col. 2:11, 12; Rom. 6:4. So likewise the figures of circumcision, planting, and crucifixion, all represent the same, regeneration. This the immersionist himself cannot deny. The baptism here spoken of is, then, not directly a water baptism at all: but the spiritual baptism thereby represented Col. 2:11. It is the circumcision "made without hands."Rom. 6:3, 4. It is a baptism not into water, but into death, i. e., a death to carnality. Therefore it is clear the symbolism here points to the grace of regeneration, and not to any supposed grace in Christ’s burial. His burial and resurrection are themselves used here as symbols, to represent regeneration. As justly might the immersionist say that baptism commemorates a crucifixion, a planting, a building, a change of a stone into flesh, a putting off dirty garments; because these are all Scripture figures of regeneration, of which baptism is a figure. Nor is there in these famous passages any reference to the mode of baptism, because first the Apostle’s scope in Rom. 6., forbids it: and second, the same mode of interpretation would compel us to find an analogy in the mode of baptism, to a planting and a crucifixion. See Scott in loco.
No Proper Sacramental Analogy.
But second: by making baptism the commemoration of Christ’s burial, and resurrection, the sacramental analogy (as well as the warrant) is totally lost. This analogy is not in the element to the grace; for in that aspect, there can be no resemblance. Water is not like a tomb, nor like the Holy Spirit, nor like Christ’s atoning righteousness. Nor is bread like a man’s body, nor wine like his blood. The selection of the sacramental element is not founded on a resemblance, but on an analogy. Distinguish. The bread and wine are elements, not because they are like a body and blood, in their qualities: but because there is a parallel in their uses, to nourish and cheer. So the water is an element of a sacrament, because there is a parallel in its uses, to the thing symbolized. The use of water is to cleanse. Where now is any analogy to Christ’s burial? Nor is there even a resemblance in the action, not even when the immersionist’s mode is granted. Water is not like a Hebrew tomb. The temporary demission of a man into the former, to be instantly raised out of it, is not like a burial.
Christ’s Burial not Vital.
Third: If we may judge by the two sacraments of the old dispensation, and by the supper, sacraments (always few) are only adopted by God to be commemorative of the most cardinal transactions of redemption. Christ’s burial was not such. Christ’s burial is nowhere proposed to us as an essential object of faith. His death and the Spirit’s work are. His death and resurrection are; the former already commemorated in the other sacrament. And besides; it would seem strange that the essential work of the Holy Spirit should be commemorated by no sacrament, while that of Christ is commemorated by two! In the old dispensation the altar and the laver stood side by side. And here would be a two–fold covenant, with two seals to one of its promises, and none to the other!
And last: The Immersionist is involved by his theory in intense confusions. In the gospel history, Christ’s death preceded His burial and resurrection: so the commemoration of the death ought to precede. But the Immersionist makes it follow, with peculiar rigidity. Again: the Supper was only practiced either when the death was already accomplished, or immediately at hand; so that its commemorative intent was at once obvious. But the baptism was instituted long before the burial. Did it then point forward to it? Are sacraments types? And this difficulty presses peculiarly on the Immersionist, who makes John’s baptism identical with Christian. What then did John’s baptism signify to Jews, before Christ was either dead or buried, and before these events were foreknown by them?
Baptism in Whose Name?
In Matt. 28:19 the formulary of words to be employed is given by Christ explicitly, ei" tu onoma etc., and this preposition is retained in every case but one. Had our Savior said that baptism should en tw onomati(dative), etc., His meaning would have appeared to be that the rite was applied by the authority of that name, i. e., hebraice, of that person. The one case in which this formulary occurs (Acts 10:48) is probably to be explained in this way; but the uniform observance of the other formulary, in all the other cases (especially see 1 Cor. 1:13and 10:2), indicates clearly that the meaning of the rite is, that it purifies and dedicates us unto the Trinity, bringing us into a covenant relation to Him. Here we see an additional argument for the definition given in 1, of the meaning of baptism, and against the Immersionist idea.
Cases are not unfrequent (e. g., in Acts 8:16; 10:48; 19:5) in which no name is mentioned but that of Christ. But I think we are by no means to inference that the apostles ever omitted any of the formulary enjoined by Christ. Jews would have no objection to a baptism to God the Father. (John’s was such, and exceedingly popular). They were used to them. But Christ Jesus was the stumbling block; and hence when the historian would indicate that a Hebrew had made a thorough submission to the new dispensation, he would think it enough to say that he had assumed Christ’s name. The rest was then easy to believe and was therefore left to be inferred.
The Church of Rome accompanied baptism with a number of superstitious rites, of which she still retains the most, and the Church of England, a part. They were, blessing the water in the font, exorcism, renouncing the Devil, anointing in the form of a cross, anointing the eye lids and ears with spittle, breathing on the candidate, washing the whole body in puris naiuralibus, the baptism proper, tasting salt and honey, putting on the white robe, or at least, taking hold of a white cloth, and an imposition of hands. The last, now separated from baptism, constitutes the sacrament of confirmation. We repudiate all these, for two reasons: that they are unauthorized by Scripture, and, worse than this, that their use is suggestive of positive error and superstition.
The use of sponsors, who are now always other than the proper parents (when any sponsors are used), in the Episcopal and Romanist Churches, has grown from gradual additions. In the early Church the sponsors were always the natural parents of the infant, except in cases of orphanage and slavery: and then they were either the master, or some deacon or deaconess. (See Bingham, p. 523,c.f..) When an adult was in extremis and even speechless, or maniacal, or insensible, if it could be proved that he had desired baptism, he was permitted to receive it, and some one stood sponsor for him. If he recovered, this sponsor was expected to watch over his religious life and instruction. And in the case of Catechumens, the sponsor was at first some clergy man or deaconess, who undertook his religious guidance. It was a universal rule that no one was allowed to be sponsor unless he undertook this bona fide. How perverted is this usage now! Our great objection to the appearance of any one but the natural parents, where there are any, or in other cases, of him who is in Ioco parentis, as sponsors, is this: that no other human has the right to dedicate the child, and no other has the opportunity and authority to train it for God. To take these vows in any other sense is mockery.
Nature of John’s Baptism.
The Reformers strenuously identify John’s baptism with the Christian, arguing that his mission was a sort of dawn of the new dispensation, that it was the baptism of repentance, an evangelical grace, and that it is also stated (Luke 3:3) to be for the remission of sins. But later Calvinists hold, against them and the Immersionists, that it was a baptism for a different purpose, and therefore not the same sacramentally, however it may have resembled as to mode, that of the Christian Church. Their reasons are, that it was not administered in the name of the Trinity, and did not bring the parties into covenant with Christ. 2nd. It was not the initiatory rite into the Church, and did not signify our ingrafting into Christ, for the old dispensation still subsisted, and those who received the rite were already in the Church of that dispensation, whereas Christ’s was not yet opened, and therefore could not receive formal adherents. But, 3d, Paul seems clearly (Acts 19:5) to have repeated Christian baptism on those who already had John’s. Calvin and Turrettin indeed evade this fact by making verse 5 the words of Paul (not of Luke), reciting the fact that these brethren had already (when they heard John) received baptism. But this gloss is proved erroneous, not only by the whole drift of the passage (why had they not received charisma?), by the force of the men and de, but above all by this: that if this verse 5 means John’s baptism, then John baptized in the name of Jesus. But see John. 1:33; Matt. 11:3. John’s baptism was therefore not the sacrament of the new dispensation, but one of those purifications, preparing the way of the Messiah about to come, with which, we believe, the Jewish mind was familiar.
Intent of Christ’s Baptism.
The interesting question arises: With what intent and meaning did Christ submit to it? He could not repent, and needed no remission. We think it clear He could not have taken it in these senses. Says Turrettin: He took it vicariously, doing for His people, all that any one of them owed, to fulfill the law in their stead; and He refers, for support, to the fact that He punctually conformed to all the Levitical ritual,—was circumcised, attended sacrifices, etc. But the cases are not parallel. Christ as a Jew, (according to His humanity), would properly render obedience to all the rules of the dispensation under which He came vicariously; but it is not therefore proper that He should comply with the rules of a dispensation to be wholly founded on Him as Mediator, and which rules were all legislated by Him. This for those, who assert that John’s baptism was the Christian Sacrament. There is no evidence that Christ partook; of His other sacrament. See Luke 22:17. And while His vicarious attitude would make a ceremonial purification from guilt appropriate, it would not make a rite significant of repentance appropriate. Christ did not repent for imputed guilt, which did not stain His character. Nor would the other part of the signification apply to Him: for this imputed guilt was not pardoned to Him: He paid the debt to the full.
It was His Consecration to Priesthood.
There seems then, to be no explanation; except that Christ’s baptism was His priestly inauguration. John, himself an Aaronic priest, might naturally administer it. His age confirms it; compare Luke 3:23, with Num. 4:3. A purification by water was a part of the original consecration of the Aaronic family. See Lev. 8:6; or better, Exod. 30:17–21, etc. The unction Christ received immediately after, by the descent of the Holy Spirit. And last, John’s language confirms it, together with the immediate opening of Christ’s official work.
Real Question as to Mode. Neither Etymology nor Secular Use Defines it.
We now approach the vexed question of the mode of baptism. The difference between us and immersionists is only this whether the entire immersion of the body in water is essential to valid baptism. For we admit any application of water, by an ordained ministry, in the name of the Trinity, to be valid baptism. The question concerning the mode is of course one of meaning and usage of the words descriptive of the ordinance. But this preliminary question arises: of what usage? that of the classic, or of Hellenistic Greek? We answer, chiefly the latter; for the obvious reason that this was the idiom to which the writers of the New Testament were accustomed, especially when speaking Greek on a sacred subject. And this, enlightened immersionists scarcely dispute. Another preliminary question arises: should it be found that the usage of the Greek words, when applied to common and secular washings, gives them one uniform meaning, would that be evidence enough that its meaning was precisely the same, in passing to a sacred ritual, and assuming a technical, sacred sense? I reply, by no means. There is scarcely a word, which has been borrowed from secular into sacred language, which does not undergo a necessary modification of meaning. Is ekklhsia the same word in the Scriptures, which it is in common secular Greek? Presbutero" means an elderly person, an ambassador, a magistrate. Is this the precise meaning of the Church presbyter of the New Testament? He might be a young man. Above all is this change marked in the word for the other sacrament, deipnon. This word in secular, social use, whether in or out of Scripture, means the evening meal; and usually a full one, often a banquet, in which the bodily appetite was liberally fed. The Lord’s Supper is usually not in the evening; it is not a meal; and by its design has no reference to satisfying the stomach, or nourishing the body. See 1 Cor. 11. Indeed, it is impossible to adopt a secular and known word, as the name of this peculiar institution, a Christian Sacrament, without, in the very act of adopting it, super–inducing upon it some shade of meaning different from its secular. Even if the favorite word of the Immersionists, immersion, were adopted, as the established name in English, of the sacrament; it would ipso facto receive an immediate modification of meaning as a sacramental word. Not any immersion whatever would constitute a sacrament. So that this very specific word would then require some specification. Thus we see that the assertion of the Immersionist, that baptizw a purely specific word, and, as a name of a sacrament, admits of no definition as to mode, would be untrue, even if it were perfectly specific in its common secular meaning, both in and out of Scripture. We might grant, then, that the Greek, whenever non–ritual, is nothing but plunge, dip under, and still sustain our cause.
Immersionist Postulate as to Usage of Words.
But we grant no such thing. Let it be borne in mind that the thing the Immersionist must prove is no less than this: that baptizw, etc., never can mean, in secular uses, whether in or out of the Scriptures, anything but dip under, plunge; for nothing less will prove that nothing but dipping wholly under is valid baptism, If the words mean frequently plunging, but sometimes wetting or washing without plunging, their cause is lost. For then it is no longer absolutely specific of mode. Let us then examine first the non–ritual or secular usage of the words, both in Hellenistic (Sept. Josephus) Greek, and in the New Testament. We freely admit that baptw very often means to dip, and baptizw still more often, nay, usually, but not exclusively.
The Root baptw to be Examined.
And first, the trick of Carson is to be exposed, by which he endeavors to evade the examination of the shorter form, baptw, on the plea baptizw and its derivatives are the only ones ever used in relation to the sacrament of baptism. True; but by what process shall we more properly discover the meaning of baptizw than by going to that of its root, baptw, from which it is formed by the simple addition of izw, meaning verbal activity, (the making of anything to be bapt). Well, we find the lexicons all defining baptw, dip, wash, stain. Suidas, plunw, to wash clothes. These definitions are sustained by the well known case, from the classics, of Homer’s lake, bebammenon, tinged with the blood of a dying mouse, which Carson himself gives up. But among the instances from Hellenistic Greek, the more important to our purpose, consult the following: Rev. 19:13, a vesturestained with blood, bebammenon; Luke 16:24; Ex. 12:22; 1 Sam. 14:27; Lev. 4:6, 7; Dan. 4:33. So there are cases of the secular use of the word of baptizw where immersion is not expressed. See the lexicons quoted by Drs. Owen and Rice, in which it is defined, not only to immerse, but also to wash, substantiated by the cases of "the blister baptized with breast milk," in classic Greek, and of the altar, wood and victim of Elijah baptized by pouring on water in Origen. Hence, the common and secular usage is not uniformly in favor of dipping.
baptizwnot always Dip.
But if it were, the question would still be an open one; for it may well be, that when transferred to religious ritual, the word will undergo some such modification as we saw uniformly occurs in all other words transferred thus. We proceed, then, one step nearer, and examine the meaning of the word in the Septuagint and New Testament, when applied to religious rituals, other than the Christian sacrament itself; that is, to Jewish purifications. And here we find that the specific idea of the Jewish religious baptism was not dipping, but an act symbolical of purification, of which the actual mode was, in most cases, by effusion. In 2 Kings 5:14; Naaman baptized himself (ebaptizato) seven times in the Jordan. This may have been dipping, but taking into account the Jewish mode of purification, was more probably by effusion. The Septuagint says: "He that baptizeth himself (of baptizetai) after he toucheth a dead body, if he touch it again, what availed] his washings?" How this baptism was performed, the reader may see in Num. 31:19, 24, and 19:13–20. In Judith 12:7, this chaste maiden is said to have baptized herself at a fountain of water by a vast camp! In Josephus Antiq. Bk. 4, ch. iv., the ashes of the red heifer used in purifying are said to be baptized in spring water.
New Testament Use of the Verb not Always Dip.
In the New Testament there are four instances where the Jewish ritual purifications are described by the term baptize; and in all four cases it was undoubtedly by effusion. Mark 7:4: Luke 11:38; John 2:6; Heb. 9:10; 6:2. (The last may possibly be Christian baptism, though its use in the plural would rather show that it included the Jewish.) Now that all these purifications called here of baptimoi and kaqarismoi were by effusion, we learn, 1. From the Levitical law, which describes various washings and sprinklings, but not one immersion of a man’s person for purification. 2. From well known antique habits still Prevalent in the East, which limited the washings to the hands and feet, and performed them by affusion. Compare 2 Kings 3:11; Exod. 30:21. 3. From comparison of the two passages, Mark 7:4, and Luke 11:38; with John. 2:6. These water pots were too narrow at the mouth, and too small (holding about two bushels) to receive a person’s body, and were such as were borne on the shoulders of female servants. 4. From the great improbability that Jews would usually immerse all over so often, or that they could. 5. From the fact that they are declared to have practiced, not only these baptisms of their persons, but of their utensils and massive couches. Num. 19:17, 18. It is simply preposterous that these should have been immersed as often as ceremonia]ly defiled. Last, the Levitical law, which these Jews professed to observe with such strictness, rendered an immersion impossible anywhere but in a deep running stream, or living pit of a fountain. For if anything ceremonially unclean went into a vessel of standing water, no matter whether large or small, the water was thereby defiled, and the vessel and all other water put into that vessel, and all persons who got into it. See Lev. 11:32to 36.
It is true that Immersionists pretend to quote Talmudists (of whom I, and probably they, know nothing), saying that these purifications were by immersion; and that Solomon’s "sea" was for the priests to swim in. But the Talmud is 700 years A. D., and excessively absurd.
Now, if the religious baptisms of the Jews were not by dipping, but by effusion; if their specific idea was that of religious purification, and not dipping; and if Christian baptism is borrowed from the Jewish, and called by the same name, without explanation, can any one believe that dipping is its specific and essential form? Immersionists acknowledge the justice of our inference, by attempting to dispute all the premises. Hard task!
Dipping Impracticable Sometimes.
A CONSIDERATION of some probable weight may be drawn from the fact that Christianity is intended to be a universal religion. Remember that it is characterized by fewness and simplicity of rites, that it is rather spiritual than ritual, that its purpose was to make those rites the reverse of burdensome, and that the elements of the other sacraments were chosen from articles common, cheap, and near at hand. Now, in many extensive countries, water is too scarce to make it convenient to accumulate enough for an immersion; in other regions all waters are frozen over during half the year. In many cases infirmity of body renders immersion highly inconvenient and even dangerous. It seems not very probable that, under these circumstances, a dispensation so little formalistic as the Christian, would have made immersion essential to the validity of baptism, for a universal Church, amidst all climes and habits.
Grace Symbolized is Always Shed Forth.
An argument of far greater importance is derived from the obviously correct analogy between the act of effusion and the grace signified and sealed in baptism. It is this which Immersionists seek to evade when they endeavor, contrary to Scripture, to make baptism signify and commemorate primarily
Christ’s burial and resurrection. (Hence the importance of refuting that dream). The student will remember, that the selection of the element is founded, not upon the resemblance of its nature (for of this there can be none, between the material and spiritual), but on the analogy of its use to the graces symbolized. Water is the detergent element of nature. The great meaning of baptism is our cleansing from guilt by expiation (blood), and our cleansing from the depravity of heart by the Holy Spirit. Now, in all Bible language, without a single exception, expiation is symbolized as sprinkled, or effused, or put on; and the renewing Spirit, as descending, or poured, or falling. See all the Jewish usages, and the whole tenor of the promises. Lev. 14:7, 51; 16:14; Num. 8:7; 19:18; Heb. 9:1–22, especially last verse; 9:14; 10:22; Lev. 7:14; Exod. 29:16, 21, etc.; Ps. 14:2; Isa. 44:3; Ps. 21:6; Isa. 32:15; Joel 2:28, 29, quoted in Acts 2.
Isaiah, and other Old Testament Instances.
Nor is the force of this analogy a mere surmise of ours. See Isa. 52:15, where it is declared that the Redeemer, by His mediatorial, and especially His suffering work, "shall sprinkle many nations." The immediate reference here doubtless is not to water baptism, but to that which it signifies. But when God chooses in His own Word to call those baptismal graces a sprinkling, surely it gives no little authority to the belief that water baptism is by sprinkling! Immersionists feel this so acutely that they have even availed themselves of the infidel glosses of the German Rationalists, who to get rid of the Messianic features of glorious prophecy, render hz²y" —to cause to start up, "to startle." The only plea they bring for this unscrupulous departure from established usage of the word is, that in all the other places this verb has as its regimen the element sprinkled and not the object. This objection Dr. J. A. Alexander pronounces frivolous, and denies any Hebrew or Arabic support to the substituted translation. Again: In Ezek. 36:25, are promises which, although addressed primarily to the Jews of the Captivity, are evidently evangelical; and there the sprinkling of clean water symbolizes the gospel blessings of regeneration, remission, and spiritual indwelling. The language is so strikingly favorable to us, that it seems hardly an overstraining of it to suppose it a prediction of the very sacrament of baptism. But this we do not claim.
New Testament Examples of Grace by Affusion.
Our argument is greatly strengthened when we proceed to the New Testament. Collate Matt. 3:11; Acts 1:5; 2:2–4; 2:15–18; 2:33; 10:44,45,48; 11:16,17. Here our argument is two–fold. First: that both John and Christ baptize with water, not in water. This language is wholly appropriate to the application of water to the person, wholly inappropriate to the application of the person to the water. No Immersionist would speak of dipping with water. They do indeed reclaim that the preposition is en here translated "with," and should in all fidelity be rendered "in," according to its admitted use in the large majority of New Testament cases. This we utterly deny; first, because in the mouth of a Hebraistic Greek, en being the established equivalent and translation of B] may naturally and frequently mean "with;" but second and chiefly because the parallel locutions of Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Eph. 5:26; Heb. 10:22, identify the en udait etc., with the instrument. And from the same passages we argue farther, that the mode of the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire, is fixed most indisputably by the description of the event in Acts 2:2 and 4. The long promised baptism occurred. And what was it? It was the sitting of tongues of fire on each Apostle, and the "descent," the fall, the "pouring out," the "shedding forth," of the spiritual influences. To make the case still stronger, if possible, when the spiritual effusion on Cornelius and his house occurred, which made Peter feel that he divas justified in authorizing their water baptism, he informs his disapproving brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 11:15, 16) that the "falling of the Holy Spirit on them as on us at the beginning," caused him "to remember" the great promise of a baptism, not with water only, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire. If baptism is never an effusion, how could such a suggestion ever arise?
This reasoning is so cogent, that Immersionists feel the necessity of an evasion. Their Coryphceus, Carson, suggests two. No element, nor mode of applying an element, he says, can properly symbolize the essence of the Holy Spirit. It is immense, immaterial, unique. All men are at all times immersed in it. To suppose any analogy between water effused, and this infinite, spiritual essence, is gross materialism. Very true; yet here is some sort and sense in which a baptism with the Holy Spirit occurred; and if it is gross anthropomorphism to liken His ubiquitous essence to water effused, it is equally so to liken it to water for plunging. If there is no sense in which the analogy between the baptismal element and the influences of the Holy Spirit can be asserted, then it is God’s Word which is in fault; for He has called the outpouring of those influences a baptism. The truth is, that here, just as when God is said to come, to go, to lift up His hand, it is not the divine essence which changes its place, but its sensible influences.
The other evasion is, to say that because this baptism is wholly figurative, and not a proper and literal baptism at all, therefore it can contain no reference whatever to mode. We deny both premise and conclusion: the conclusion, because Immersionists infer mode, with great positiveness, from a merely figurative baptism, in Rom. 6:4; and the premise, because the baptism of Pentecost was in the best sense real, the most real baptism that ever was in the world. It was, indeed, not material: but if its literal reality be denied, then the inspiration of the Apostles is denied, and the whole New Testament Dispensation falls.
This Argument Summed Up.
Our argument, then, is summed up thus: Here was a spiritual transaction, which Christ was pleased to call His baptism, in the peculiar sense. In this baptism the outward element descended upon the persons of the recipients, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, symbolized thereby, are spoken of as falling. Water baptism, which is intended, like the fire, to symbolize the spiritual baptism, should therefore be also applied by effusion.
Argument from Figurative Baptisms.
While we deny that these memorable events formed only a figurative baptism, yet the word baptism is used in Scripture in a sense more properly figurative, and wholly non–sacramental. Immersionists profess to find in all these an allusion to dipping; but we shall show that in every case such allusion is uncertain, or impossible.
Christ’s Baptism in Sorrow.
The first instance is that of Christ’s baptism in His sufferings at His death. Matt. 20:20, 23; Mark 10:38, 39; Luke 12:50. Although Luke refers to a different conversation, yet the allusion to His dying sufferings is undoubtedly the same. Now, it is common to say that these sufferings were called a baptism, because Christ was to be then covered with anguish as with an overwhelming flood. Even granting this, it must be remembered the Scriptures always speak of God’s wrath as being poured out, and however copious the shower, an effusion from above bears a very questionable resemblance to an immersion of the person into a body of liquid beneath. Some (as Dr. Armstrong) find in this figure no reference to the mode of baptism, but suppose that the idea is one of consecration simply. Christ is supposed to call His dying sufferings a baptism, because by them He was inducted into His kingly office. But this is not wholly satisfactory. The true explanation is obviously that of the Greek fathers. As is well known to students of sacred history, the martyr’s sufferings were considered his baptism. And so literal was the notion expressed by this, that the Fathers gravely argue that by martyrdom the unbaptized catechumen, who witnesses a good confession, becomes a baptized Christian, and has no reason whatever to regret his lack of water baptism, supposed by them to be, in other cases, essential. To the question why martyrdom is called by them a baptism, they answer with one voice, because Christ was pleased to call His own martyrdom a baptism, and to apply the same to the pious sufferings of James and John. And they say farther, quoting the same texts, that the reason Christ calls His dying sufferings a baptism is, because they cleansed away sin, as the water of baptism symbolically does. Here, then, is no reference to mode of water baptism, and these Greek fathers, if they in any case press the figure to a signification of mode, speak of Christ’s body as baptized, or stained with His own blood, a baptism by effusion. And the baptism of martyrdom is explained as a baptism of blood and fire.
Israel’s Baptism to Moses.
1 Cor. 10:2 represents the Israelites as baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, in passing the Red sea. Immersionists foolishly attempt to strain a reference to immersion here, by saying that the Israelites were surrounded with water, having the sea as a wall on the either hand, and the cloud overhead. But unfortunately for this far–fetched idea, it is expressly said that Israel went over dry–shod. And the cloud was not over them, but behind them. Nor is there any proof that it was an aqueous cloud lit was fire by night and luminous); and the allegorizing Greek Fathers currently understand it as representing, not the water of baptism, but God’s Holy Spirit. Nor have we any proof that even aqueous vapor can be substituted for the sacramental element. There was an immersion in the case, but it was that of Pharaoh and his hosts. The lost were immersed, the saved were baptized unto Moses! The sense of the passage obviously is, that by this event Israel were dedicated, sew arated unto that religious service of which Moses was the teacher. The word baptize here carries no reference to mode, but has its proper sense of religious separation.
Believer’s Baptism Into Christ.
The same is its meaning in 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5, and 1 Pet. 3:21. When the believer is said to be baptized into (or unto) Christ, or into His one body, and thus to have put on Christ, there can be no allusion to mode, because then it would be the preposterous idea of immersing into Christ, or into His mystical body, instead of into water. The exact idea expressed is that of a consecrating separation. Baptism is here conceived by the Apostle as our separation from the ruined mass of mankind and annexation to the Savior in our mystical union. So in 1 Pet. 3:21, baptism is called a figure like (antitupon) to the salvation of Noah’s family in the ark. This saving was from water, not by water, and it was effected in the ark. Here again there is no modal reference to immersion, for the parties saved were not dipped, and all who were dipped were lost. The baptism of Noah’s family was therefore their separation from a sinful world, effected by the waters of the flood. If baptism in its most naked, spiritual meaning, carries to Hebrews the idea of a religious separation, it is very evident what mode it would suggest, should they permit their minds to advert to mode. Their separations were by sprinklings. The remaining passage (Eph. 4:5) could only have been supposed to teach the essential necessity of observing water baptism in only one mode, by a mind insensible to the elevation sacredness of the passage. It is the glorious spiritual unity between Christians and their Divine Head, resulting from the separating consecration which baptism represents.
Baptism is Purification.
The identification of baptism with the purification of the Jews, in John. 3:25, 26, throws some light upon its mode. The question about purifying, agitated between the Jews and some of the Baptist’s disciples, (25), is evidently the question which they propound to John himself (in Jn. 5:26), viz: What was the meaning of Christ’s baptizing. The whole tenor of John’s answer proves this, for it is all addressed to the explanation of this point: why Christ, baptized by him, and thus seemingly his disciple, should administer a baptism independent of him. Any other explanation leaves an absurd chasm between verses 25and 26. Baptism, then, is kaqarismo" a striking testimony to the correctness of our account of its signification, a matter which we found to bear, in so important a way, upon its mode. But farther: Let anyone consider the Septuagint use of this word, and he cannot easily remain in doubt as to the mode in which a Jew would naturally administer it.
Mode of New Testament Baptism.
My time will not permit me to go into a full discussion of the actual mode indicated by the sacred historian in each case of baptism in the New Testament. Such detail is, indeed, not necessary, inasmuch as you may find the work well done in several of your authors, and especially in Armstrong, Part II, ch. 3, 4. The result of a thorough examination was well stated by a divine of our Church thus: Rule three columns on your blank paper; mark the first, ’Certainly by immersion; the second, ’Probably by immersion; the third, ’Certainly not by immersion.’ Then, after the careful study of the Greek Testament, enter each case where it properly belongs. Under the first head there will be not a single instance; under the second, there may be a few; while the larger number will be under the third. Immersionists, when they read that John was baptizing in Jordan, and again at Tenon, "because there was much water there," conclude that he certainly immersed his penitents. But when we note that the language: may as well be construed ’at’ Jordan, and that the ’many waters’ of Aenon were only a cluster of springs; considering also the unlikeliness of one man’s performing such a multitude of immersions, and the uninspired testimony of the early Church as to the method of our Savior’s baptism, the probabilities are all turned the other way. So, the improbability of sufficient access to water, at Pentecost, and the impossibility of twelve men’s immersing three thousand in one afternoon, make the immersion of the Pentecostal converts out of the question. This is the conclusion of the learned Dr. Edward Robinson, after an inquiry on the spot. In like manner, the Eunuch’s baptism may possibly have been by dipping, but was more probably by effusion; while the cases of Paul, Cornelius, and the jailer, were certainly in the latter mode.
The Dogma Unchurches all.
The odious ecclesiastical consequences of the Immersionist dogma should be pressed; because they form a most potent and just argument against it. All parties are agreed, that baptism is the initiatory rite which gives membership in the visible Church of Christ. The great commission was: Go, and disciple all nations, baptizing them into the Trinity. Baptism recognizes and constitutes the outward discipleship. Least of all, can any Immersionist dispute this ground. Now, if all other forms of baptism than immersion are not only irregular, but null and void, all unimmersed persons are out of the visible Church. But if each and every member of a pedobaptist visible Church is thus unchurched: of course the whole body is unchurched. All pedobaptist societies, then, are guilty of an intrusive errors when they pretend to the character of a visible Church of Christ. Consequently, they can have no ministry; and this for several reasons. Surely no valid office can exist in an association whose claim to be an ecclesiastical commonwealth is utterly invalid. When the temple is non existent, there can be no actual pillars to that temple. How can an unauthorized herd of unbaptized persons, to whom Christ concedes no church authority, confer any valid office? Again: it is preposterous that a man should receive and hold office in a commonwealth where he himself has no citizenship; but this unimmersed pedobaptist minister so called, is no member of any visible Church. There are no real ministers in the world, except the Immersionist preachers
The pretensions of all others, therefore, to act as ministers, and to administer the sacraments, are sinful intrusions. It is hard to see how any intelligent and conscientious Immersionist can do any act, which countenances or sanctions this profane intrusion. They should not allow any weak inclinations of fraternity and peace to sway their consciences in this point of high principle. They are bound, then, not only to practice close communion, but to refuse all ministerial recognition and communion to these intruders. The sacraments cannot go beyond the pale of the visible Church. Hence, the same stern denunciations ought to be hurled at the Lord’s Supper in pedobaptist societies, and at all their prayers and preachings in public, as at the iniquity of "baby sprinkling." The enlightened Immersionist should treat all these societies, just as he does that ’Synagogue of Satan,’ the Papal Church: there may be many good, misguided believers in them; but no church character, ministry, nor sacraments whatever.
But let the student now look at the enormity of this conclusion. Here are bodies of ministers adorned by the Lord with as many gifts and graces as any Immersionists; actually doing the largest part of all that is done on earth, to win the world to its divine Master. Here are four fifths of Protestant Christendom, exhibiting as many of the solid fruits of grace as any body of men in the world, doing nearly all that is done for man’s redemption, and sending up to heaven a constant harvest of ransomed souls. Yet are they not churches or ministers, at all: Why? Only because they have not used quite enough water in the outward form of an ordinance! What greater outrage on common sense, Christian charity, and the spirituality of Christ’s visible Church was ever committed by the bigotry of prelacy or popery? The just mind replies to such a dogma, not only with a firm negative, but with the righteous indignation of an incredulus odi. When we remember, that this extreme high churchism is enacted by a sect, which calls itself eminently spiritual, free and Protestant, the solecism becomes more repulsive. Only a part of the Immersionists have the nerve to assert this consequence. But their dogma involves it; and it is justly pressed on all.
Church history as it is popularly taught tells us that in the second and third centuries the commonest mode of baptism was by a trine immersion, accompanied with a number of superstitious rites, of crossing, anointing, laying on hands, tasting honey and salt, clothing in a white garment, exorcism, etc. There are several reasons why we do not consider this testimony of any importance.
First, the New Testament mode was evidently different, in most cases at least; and we do not feel bound by mere human authority (even though within a hundred and fifty years of the Apostles; a lapse of time within which great apostasies have often been matured). Second, we do not see how Immersionists can consistently claim this patristic precedent for dipping, as of authority, and refuse authority to all their other precedents for the human fooleries which so uniformly attended their baptisms. And farther, the many other corruptions of doctrine and government which were at the same time spread in the Church, prove the fathers to be wretched examples of the New Testament religion. Third, the usage was not as uniformly by immersion, as the antiquaries usually say. Thus, Cyprian teaches us (among many others) that clinic baptism was usually by pouring or sprinkling, in the third century; yet it was never regarded as therefore less valid; and that father speaks, with a tone nigh akin to contempt of the notion that its virtue was any less, because less water was used. Again, Dr. Robinson teaches us, that the early baptisms could not have uniformly been by immersion; because some baptismal urns of stone are still preserved, entirely too small to receive the applicant’s whole person. And several monumental remains of great authenticity and antiquity show us baptisms actually by effusion, as that of the Emperor Constantine. Again, Mr. Taylor, in his Apostolic baptism, shows us very strong reasons to believe that the immersion of the whole body was not the sacrament of baptism, but a human addition and preliminary thereto. For instance, the connection of deaconesses with the baptizing of women, mentioned by not a few, is thus explained: That an immersion and actual washing in in puris naturalibus, being supposed essential before baptism; the young women to be baptized were taken into the part of the baptistery where the pool was, and there, with closed doors, washed by the deaconesses; for no male clergyman could assist here, compatibly with decency. And that after this, the candidates, dressed in their white garments, were presented to the presbyter, at the door of the Church, and received the actual baptism, by effusion, from him. This view of the distinction between the washing and the sacrament is also supported by what modern travelers observe, concerning the rite among some of the old, petrified, Oriential Churches.
These remarks are designed not for a full discussion: but to suggest the topics for your examination.
In conclusion of the subject of the Mode of Baptism, let us review the positions successively established in a somewhat complicated discussion.
1. Having pointed out the superior importance of Hebraistic Greek usage, over the Classic, in determining this question, we separate the usage of the family of words expressing baptism into two questions; their meaning when expressive of common, secular washings, in either Classic or Hebraistic Greek, and their meaning when expressive of religious, or ritual washings.
2. We show that all common words applied to describe religious rituals, ipso facto, undergo some modification of signification. And hence, even if it could be shown that the family of words always mean nothing but dip, in common secular washings, it would not be therefore proved of baptism. But
3. The family of words do not always mean exclusive dipping, either in Classic or Hebraistic Greek, when expressive of common washings.
4. Nor do they mean exclusive dipping, when applied to describe religious rituals other than the sacrament of Baptism, either in the Old Testament Greek, or in Josephus, or in the New Testament.
5. Nor, to come still nearer, is its proper sacramental meaning in the New Testament exclusive dipping; as we prove, by its symbolical meaning: From analogy of figurative baptisms: From the actual attendant circumstances of the instances of the sacrament in the New Testament; And from the absurd consequences of the dogma. I commend Fairchild on Baptism, as a manual of this discussion remarkably compact, perspicuous, and comprehensive. I regard it as eminently adapted to circulation among our pastoral charges.
Believing Adults to be Baptized.
ALL adults who make an intelligent and credible profession of faith on Jesus Christ are to be baptized on their own application; and no other adults. The evidence of the last assertion is in Acts 2:41, 47; 10:47, with 11:15, 16, and 8:12, 37 The genuineness of the last text is indeed grievously questioned by the critical editors, except Knapp; but even if spurious, its early and general introduction gives us an information of the clear conviction of the Church on this subject. Last: the truths signified by baptism, are such that it is obviously inappropriate to all adults but those who are true believers, in the judgment of charity.
What Children May be Baptized?
We add that baptism is also to be administered to "the infants of one or both believing parents." (Conf. 28, 4). The great question here raised will be the main subject of this and a subsequent lecture. But a related question is still controversial among Pedobaptists themselves, whether one or both of the parents must be believers, or only decent baptized members of the Church. Papists baptize the children of all baptized persons, and Episcopalians, Methodists, and not a few of the Presbyterian family of Churches, baptize those of all decent baptized persons. They plead the Church membership of the parents, the example of the Jewish Church as to circumcision, and a kindly, liberal policy as to parents and infants. We object: first the express language of our Standards, Conf. of Faith 28:4; Larger Cat. Qu. 166. "Infants of one or both believing parents,""professing faith in Christ, and obedience to Him." Second: The language of 1 Cor. 7:14, where it is not the baptized, but the "believing" parent, who sanctifies the unbelieving. Third: Those baptized, but unbelieving parents are Church members, subject to its guardianship and discipline; but they are not full members. They are ecclesiastical minors, cut off by their own guilty lack of spiritual qualification from all the spiritual privileges, and sealing ordinances. Fourth: chiefly because it is preposterous that those who make no consecration of their own souls to Christ, and do not pretend to govern themselves by His laws, should profess to consecrate the souls of their children, and rear them to God. If then, it be urged that the children ought not to be deprived of their ecclesiastical privilege, because of the impenitence of the parents; I reply. Perfectly true: There is a great and cruel wrong committed on the little ones. But it is their own parents who commit it; not the Church authorities. They cannot repair that wrong, by giving them the shell of a sacrament which their parents’ unbelief makes perfectly empty. This is no remedy; and it only violates Scripture, and introduces disorder. This will be greatly strengthened, when we show that Infant Baptism is a sacrament to the parents also.
Under the old Covenant the children of all circumcised persons were circumcised? True. But St. Paul has changed it because, as we surmise, ours is a more spiritual dispensation, no State–Church Separation exists from the world: and all unbelievers are spiritually "aliens."
Under the Jewish Church the children of mixed marriages were out of the Church, until they came in through the gate of proselytism. Neh. 13:23–28. But under the New Testament, if one parent is a credible believer, the child is within the Covenant. Our grounds are 1 Cor. 7:14, and the circumcision and baptism of Timothy. Acts 16:3.
Immersionists Object; Infants Cannot Believe.
Before we proceed to the main point of debate, it will be well to remove out of the way the objection on which Immersionists place the main reliance. They urge that since infants cannot exercise the graces signified and sealed in baptism, (See Catechism, Qu. 94), it is useless and preposterous to administer it to babies. Take, say they, Mark 16:15, 16, as a specimen of the many passages in which it is categorically said, or clearly implied, that one must believe, before it is proper to baptize him. Hence the administration of the rite to infants is a practical falsehood, and if unauthorized by God, even profane. What, they ask, can all your inferential arguments for infant Church membership be worth, when the express words of Scripture prove that infants cannot have the necessary qualifications for baptism?
We reply, this plausible statement proceeds on the usual fallacy of taking the speaker’s words in a sense in which he did not mean them to be applied. In Mark 16:16, for instance, Christ was not speaking either of the terms of infant salvation, or of the terms on which they could become Church members. Let the reader remember that the temporary commission to the apostles and seventy (Matt. 10:5) had already made them familiar with the fact that Christ’s dispensation was to be preached to Jews. But now, in Mark 16:15, it is extended "to all the world," and to "every creature." These were the features of the new commission prominent to our Savior’s mind, and the disciples’ attention. The terms on which Jewish families should be admitted were already familiar. The question was, how shale those be admitted who are now aliens? Why; on their faith. The evidence that infants were not here intended to be excluded from baptism by our Savior’s scope is absolutely demonstrative: for the Immersionist interpretation would equally make the passage prove that infants can neither be baptized, nor be saved, because they are incapable of faith; and it would equally make it prove that the salvation of infants is dependent on their baptism! We may find many other illustrations of the absurdity of such interpretations; as, for instance, in 2 Thess. 3:10:" If any one (ei" ti") will not work, neither shall he eat." A similar reasoning would prove that infants should be starved.
Infants Can be in the Covenant, so May Have its seals.
Further: it does not follow that because infants cannot exercise intelligent graces, therefore there is no sense nor reason in administering to them sacraments significant thereof. Infants are capable of redemption. Glorious truth! Why, then, should it appear a thing incredible that they should partake of the sacraments of redemption? Baptism signifies God’s covenant with souls, as well as their covenant with Him. Can there be no meaning in a pledge of God’s covenant favor applied to an infant, because the infant does not yet apprehend it? No sense at all; because it has no sense to him? Strange reasoning! But human suppositions are a bad test of what God may or may not think reasonable. To the Word and the Testimony! There we find two cases in which religious ordinances were applied to "unconscious babies."In Matt.19:14, Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16, our Savior took up little children (brefh) into His arms, and blessed them, because they were (church members. Did they comprehend the blessing? The other case is that of circumcision, and it is peculiarly strong, because it was emblematic of the same spiritual exercises and graces, now signified by baptism. See Rom. 2:28, 29; 4:11; Col. 2:11; Deut. 30:6; 9:16; Phil, 3:3. Yet circumcision was, by God’s command, applied to all the infant males of God’s people! Let the Immersionist, therefore, go and turn all the confident denunciation of "baby sprinkling," against this parallel ordinance of God. We entrench ourselves behind it.
The Sacrament Embraces the Parents.
So far as the child himself is concerned, there is no absurdity in giving him the seal in advance of his fulfillment of the conditions. Are not seals often appended to promissory covenants? Yea! every covenant is in its nature promissory, including something to be done, as a condition of the bestowment. This is so of adult baptism. But, they say, the adult can be a party; infants not. I answer: parents are, and the efficacy of the parental relation, properly sanctified, is regular enough to justify this arrangement. Where, then, is the practical objection, so far as the infant’s own subsequent edification is concerned, of his receiving the seal beforehand, so that he may ever after have the knowledge of that fact, with all its solemn meaning, and see it reenacted in every infant baptism he afterward witnesses? But, above all, remember that the infant is not the only party, on man’s side, to the sacrament. Infant baptism is a sacrament to the. parent, as well as the child. It consecrates the relation of filiation, or parentage, and thus touches both the parties to the relation equally. The parent has momentous duties to perform, for God’s glory; and momentous religious responsibilities, as to the soul of the child, which duties are also represented and pledged in this sacrament, as well as God’s promised aid and blessing in their performance. Infant baptism is a sacrament to the parent as much as to the child. Now, whatever of warning, instruction, comfort, edification, the sacrament was intended to convey to the parent, to fit him better for his charge as the educator of the child for eternity: when should the parent receive that equipment? When does the moral education of the infant’s soul begin? It begins just so soon as the formation of habit begins; so soon as petulance, anger, selfishness, can be exhibited by an infant; so soon as it can apprehend the light of a mother’s smile beaming upon it as it hangs upon her breast; as soon as it can know to tremble at her frown. Here, then, is the great practical reason, which makes God’s wisdom clear even to man’s reason, in instituting the seal of Church membership at the dawn of life.
Argument from Infant Membership in Old Testament and New. Major Premise.
We proceed now to advance the positive evidences for infant baptism. Of these, the most solid and comprehensive is that from infant Church membership in the New Testament Church. The major premise of our argument is, that baptism is, in all cases, the proper rite by which to recognize membership in the visible Church. The minor premise is, the infants of believing parents are members of the visible Church of Christ. Hence, the conclusion: such infants are proper subjects of baptism.
On the major premise there will probably be little dispute between us and Immersionists. In the great commission, we are taught that discipleship is formally constituted by baptism (Matt. 28:19. In Acts 2:41, language is used which plainly shows that the baptism of the three thousand was equivalent to their being added to the Church. In 1 Cor. 12:13, the spiritual engrafting of true believers by the Holy Spirit into. the spiritual body of Christ, the invisible Church, is called a baptism; in evident allusion to the effect of that rite in introducing to the visible Church.
Minor Premise. Church Formed Under Abraham.
The minor premise leads us to consider the origin and constitution of the Church. Having found in the Old Testament a visible Church–State, called lh;q; and hd;[e and characterized by every mark of a Church, we trace that society up the stream of sacred history, until we find its institution (or re–institution) in the family of Abraham, and in that gospel and ecclesiastical covenant ratified with him in Genesis 17. The patriarchal form was most naturally super–induced on this Church then; because it was the only organized form, with which man had hitherto been familiar, and the one best suited to that state of the world. The society there organized was set apart to the service and worship of God. It was organized under ecclesiastical rulers. It had the Word and gospel of God. It had its sacrament and other sacred rites. No one will dispute the continuity of this society under Moses and his successors; for the covenant of Horeb manifestly developed, it did not destroy, the body.
The Same Under the New Testament.
But can the same thing be said of the visible Church catholic which has existed since Christ, under the organization given it by the Apostles? The Reformed Churches answer, Yes. This is substantially the same with the Church of the Old Testament The change of dispensation is the change of outward form, not of its substance or nature. This is proved. (a) By the fact that the repeal of God’s Church covenant with Abraham and his family is nowhere stated. The abrogation of the Mosaic economy does not destroy the old body, because that economy did not introduce it. The law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, could not dis–annul the covenant made with Abraham. Gal. 3:17.
Apostles Develop, not Destroy it.
(a) The Apostles and Christ, by their acts and sayings, recognize the existence of a visible Church, which they do not abolish, but reform, and increase. Observe in how many instances particular churches were but synagogues Christianized. Consider also, how those traits of order and ritual which are distinctive of the new dispensation, were made to overlap those which marked the old. The substitution of the former for the latter was gradual. St. Paul observed the Passover after he began to keep the Lord’s Supper; he circumcised Timothy after he began to baptize Gentiles. There is no sudden cutting off of the old, but a gradual "splicing" of the new on it.
Gentiles Formed it.
(b) The Apostle expressly teaches that Gentile converts, coming to Christ by faith, are under the terms of the Abrahamic covenant. Therefore that covenant is not abolished. They are "the seed;" they are the "children of Abraham." They are "the true Israel."Rom. 4:12–17; Matt. 3:9; Gal. 3:7. Indeed, the "seed," to whom the promises were made, never was, at any time, strictly coincident with the lineal descendants of Abraham. Ishmael, Keturah’s children, Esau, though circumcised, were no part of it. Every heathen proselyte was. See Gen. 17:12, 13; Exod. 12:48; Deut. 23:8. Gentiles were always, as truly (not as numerously) as now, a part of this seed.
Promises to it Only Fulfilled Under New Testament.
(c) The correlative promises that "all nations should be blessed in Abraham," and that he should be "Father of many nations," were only fulfilled as the Gentiles were made members of the Abrahamic body. See Rom. 4:16, 17. It cannot be said that Abraham’s paternity of the twelve tribes exhausted that promise, for Israel was but one nation. If, then, the Abrahamic Church expired before the Gentiles were brought in, this promise was never fulfilled. It will not help the cause to say that Abraham was father of these believers, in the sense of being their first exemplar. He was not. Noah, Enoch, Abel, probebly Adam, were before him. The relationship is that of the head and founder of an organization, to the subsequent members of it. Nor will it be said, that the Gentiles becoming "Abraham’s seed" only means their admission into the invisible Church, into which Abraham’s faith admitted him. This is indeed, a higher sequel to the privilege, as to all true believers, but not the whole of it. We have proved that the covenant was not purely spiritual, but also an ecclesiastical, visible Church covenant. Therefore the seed, or children of the covenant (see Acts 3:25) are also thereby brought into the visible Church relationship.
(d) The number of Old Testament promises to the visible Church, some of which were unfulfilled at the end of the old dispensation, must imply that the community is still in existence to receive their fulfillment. Otherwise God has failed. See, then, Isa. 2:2, 3; 54:1–5, 49:14–23; Ps. 2:6, 8. It cannot be said that the invisible Church is the sole object of these promises.
Rom. 11:17, etc.
(e) Last. The figure of Rom. 11:17to 24, plainly implies that the Old Testament visible Church is continued under the new dispensation. The good olive tree was not uprooted, but pruned, and new branches grafted in. And at last, the exscinded branches are to be redrafted "into their own olive tree" The argument is too clear and strong to need many words.
Inference. Confirmed by all Providences.
Thus, our minor premise is established. The ecclesiastical covenant made with Abraham still subsists unrepealed, and all Christians are brought under it. As children were members of that covenant, the inference is irresistible that they are members still, unless their positive exclusion can be pointed out in the New Testament. This inference is also greatly fortified, by showing that all God’s general dispensations toward the human family have embraced the children along with the parents. In the Covenant of Works with Adam: in the curse for its breach: in the covenant with Noah: in the curse on Sodom: in the doom of the Canaanites and Amelekites: in the constitution of society and course of Providence in all ages: in the political commonwealths ordained by Him: in all these, the infant children go with the parents. Were the visible Church different, it would be a strange anomaly.
Again: Malachi 2:15 tells us that God’s object in constituting the marriage relation and family as it is, was "to seek a godly seed ;"i. e., to provide for the Christian rearing of the offspring. Now, this is the Church’s object. Would it not be strange if the visible Church failed to embrace and consecrate the family institution as a subdivision of itself? Third: The affection, authority, and influence of parents are so unique, that when we properly consider them, it seems incredible God would have omitted them as parts of His Church instrumentalities, subject to the sanctifying rules of His house. Parental love is the strongest of the instinctive affections, and the most godlike in its permanence, forbearance, and disinterestedness. Parental authority is the most remarkable and absolute one delegated by God to man over his fellow man. Consider: it authorizes the parent to govern the child for a fourth of his life as a slave; to decide virtually his intelligence, culture, and social destiny, and even to elect for him a character and religious creed; thus seeming almost to infringe the inalienable responsibilities and liberties of the immortal soul! And last: the parental influence is so efficacious, especially in things moral and religious, that it does more than all others to decide the child’s everlasting fate. Can it be that God would omit such a lever as this, in constructing His Church, as the organism for man’s moral and religious welfare? Fourth: The Church membership of children seems to be implied in that duty which all right–minded Christians instinctively exercise, of caring for the welfare and salvation of the children of the brotherhood. Fifth: It follows from the declared identity of circumcision and baptism and from many express Scriptures. See Col. 2:11, 12, 13; Matt. 19:13–15; Acts 2:38, 39; 1 Cor. 7:14. The Church membership of infants having been thus established, the propriety of their baptism follows. Indeed, immersionists virtually admit that if the second premise is true the conclusion must follow, by denying the Church membership of infants under the New Testament.
Visible Church in Old Testament Denied by Immersionists. Answer.
Many evasions of this argument are attempted. Immersionists deny that there was any visible Church–State appointed for saints in the Old Testament! This is a striking, and at once a mournful, proof of the stringency of my argument, that a body of evangelical Christians claiming especial scripturalness and orthodoxy, should be forced, in resisting it, to adopt one of the most monstrous assertions of those flagrant heretics and fanatics, the Anabaptists and Socinians. You have only to notice how expressly it contradicts the Scriptures, Acts 7:38; Rom. 11:24; Heb. 3:5, 6: how it defies the plainest facts of the Old Testament history, which shows us God giving His people every possible feature of a visible Church–State; gospel, ministry, sacraments, other ordinances, Sabbath, discipline, sanctuaries, &c: How utterly it confounds all relations between the old and new dispensations: And how preposterously it represents Christ’s own personal life, observances, and obedience, including especially His baptism by John, an Old Testament prophet, administering his rite in this Old Testament No–Church; which rite is, according to immersionists, still the Christian sacrament!
Objected that the Argument Proves Too Much. Answer.
Some of them assert that the argument, if good for anything, would equally make all adult unbelieving children of believing parents, and all unbelieving domestic slaves, Church members. Is no force to be allowed to the passing away of the patriarchal state, with the almost absolute authority of the father? None to the growing spirituality of the New Covenant? None to the express change in these features by apostolic authority, as is manifested in their precedents? Still, all that could be made of this argument would be to prove, not that the reasoning of Pedobaptists is unsound, but that their conduct may be inconsistent.
Sometimes it is objected that if infants were really made members of the visible Church, then, as they grow up, they must be admitted, without question, to all the privileges of membership, to suffrage, to office, to the Lord’s supper. I reply that there is no commonwealth on earth, where mere citizenship entitles to all the higher franchises. In the State, all citizens are entitled to protection, and subject to jurisdiction. But all cannot vote and bear office. Christ’s ecclesiastical commonwealth is a school, a place for teaching and training. To be a member of the school does not at once imply that one must share all its powers and privileges. The scholars are promoted according to their qualifications.
Peter, etc., "Chosen out of the World."
It is objected by some: If Peter and his brethren were in the visible Church, how comes it that Christ says to them: "I have chosen you out of the world?"John. 15:19. I answer: Cannot that which is worldly, in the true sense, be in the visible Church? The objection begs the question. The very point in debate is, whether the Anabaptist definition of the visible Church, as a body containing only regenerate persons, is true. The Bible says that it is not: that Peter was yet worldly, while regularly in the visible Church, and was, out of that state chosen by Christ to the apostleship, and to effectual calling.
Why were Jews Baptized if in the Church?
One more objection may be noted: If the visible Church of the Old and New Testaments is one, then circumcision and baptism are alike the initiatory rites. How came it then, that Jews, already regularly in it, were re–admitted by baptism? I reply first. It is not so certain that they were. Note, that we do not believe John’s baptism to have been the Christian sacrament. But who can prove that the Twelve, and the Seventy were ever baptized again? As for the Jews after Pentecost, who certainly did receive Christian baptism, they were now, (after Christ’s definite rejection, crucifixion, and ascension) "broken off for their unbelief ;" and needed re–admittance on their repentance. But second, where is the anomaly of re–administering the initiatory rite to members already in the Society, at the season of the marked change of outward form, when it was receiving a large class of new members? I see nothing strange in the fact, that the old citizens took their oath of allegiance over again, along with the new.
No New Testament Warrent Required.
Immersionists delight to urge, that as baptism is a positive institution, no Protestant should administer it to infants, because the New Testament contains no explicit warrant for doing so. I shall show that the tables can be turned on this point.
Burden of Disproof on the Immersionists.
When a society undergoes important modifications, its substantial identity yet remaining, the fair presumption is, that all those things are intended to remain unchanged, about the change of which nothing is said. We may illustrate from citizenship in a Commonwealth, changing its constitution. So, if there were not one word in all the New Testament, indicating the continuance of infant Church membership, the silence of Scripture constitutes no disproof; and the burden of proof would rest on the Immersionist. And this burden he would have to assume against every antecedent probability. True, the cessation of the Mosaic dispensation was accompanied with great changes; but infant membership and circumcision never were merely Mosaic. We may say of them, as of the Covenant to which they belonged, as St. Paul says in Gal. 3:17. All that was typical, passed away, because of the coming of the Antitype: circumcision and infant membership never were types. Again, infant membership was esteemed by Jews a privilege. We understand that the new dispensation is an extension of the old one, more liberal in its provisions, and its grace: and embracing the whole human family. It would be a strange thing indeed, if this era of new liberality and breadth were the occasion for a new and vast restriction, excluding a large class of the human family, in whom the pious heart is most tenderly interested. Consider this in the light of the Apostle’s language: e. g., in Rom. 11:20; Acts 3:23. In these and similar passages, the Jews are warned that unbelief of Christ, the great closing Prophet of the line, (like resistance of previous Theocratic Messengers,) will be accompanied with loss of their church membership. According to Immersionists, the meaning of this warning would be: "Oh, Jew; if you believe not on Jesus Christ, you (and your children) forfeit your much valued visible Church membership. But if you believe on Him, then your innocent children shall be punished for your obedience, by losing their privilages!"
What New Testament Warrent for Close Communion, etc.
Further, no Immersionist is consistent, in demanding an express New Testament warrant in words, for all his ordinances. There is not an intelligent Protestant in the world, who does not hold that what follows from the express Word, "by good and necessary consequence," is binding, as well as the Word itself. What other warrant have Immersionists for observing the Lord’s day as a Christian Sabbath, and neglecting the seventh day? What warrant for admitting females to the Lord’s table? What warrant for their favorite usage of strict communion? This, pre eminently, is only a deduction.
No Clamor, such as Must have Arisen at Exclusion of Infants.
The presumption against the Immersionist is greatly strengthened again, in my view, by the extreme improbability, that the sweeping revolution against infant Church membership could have been established by the Apostles, without some such clamor as would have been mentioned in the New Testament. We must remember that all Hebrews greatly prized their ecclesiastical birth. See Matt. 3:9; John 8:33. To be cut off from among his people, was to the Jew, a shameful And dreaded degradation. The uncircumcised was a dog to him, unclean and despised. We have evidence enough that the believing Hebrews shared these feelings. Hence, when we saw that even believers among them were so suspicious, and the unbelievers full of rampant jealousy, and eager to object and revile the Nazarenes, how is it possible that this great abrogation of privilege could be established, while we hear none of that clamor which, the New Testament tells us, was provoked by the cessation of sacrifice, purifications, and circumcision?
That No Such Clamor Argued.
But the Immersionist may rejoin: such a clamor may have existed, and it may be omitted in the sacred history, because the history is brief, and the purposes of inspiration nay not have required its notice. One is not entitled to argue from the absence of proof. De omni ignoto quasi do non existentibus.
I reply: we are not arguing herein from the mere absence of proof; for we give high probable evidence to show that if the fact had ever occurred, the traces of it must have been preserved. First: Not only is there a dead silence in the brief narrative of Scripture concerning any objection of Jews, such as must have been made had infant membership been abrogated; but there seems to be an equal silence in the Rabbinical literature against Christianity, and in the voluminous polemical works, from the days of Justin Martyr— adversus Tryphonem, down. Second: The objections, restiveness, and attacks growing out of the revolutionizing of other things, less important than infant membership, required and received full notice in the New Testament. Look for instance, at the Epistle to the Hebrews, written practically with this main object; to obviate the restiveness and tendency to revolt produced among Jewish Christians, by the abrogation of cherished customs. The main line of argument is to show that these innovations are justifiable, and scriptural; yet there is not one word to excuse this momentous innovation against infant membership! Third: The sacred narrative in Acts xvth approaches so near the topic of this innovation, that it is simply incredible an allusion to it should have been avoided, had the revolution been attempted. The question which agitated the whole Christian community to its core was: shall Gentile converts, entering the Church under the new dispensation, be required to be circumcised, and keep the ceremonial law? The very arguments by which this question was debated are given. Now, how inevitable would it have been, had the change in membership been made, which the Immersionist supposes, to say: "Whether you circumcise adult Gentile converts, or not; you cannot circumcise their children; because Jewish children and Gentile, are no longer admitted with their parents." But there is no whisper of this point raised. I cannot believe the innovation had been attempted. But if it had not been made at that stage, it was never made at all by divine authority; for the Immersionist professes to find it in Christ’s commission at His ascension.
Great Commission Implies Pedobaptism.
Pedobaptist writers are accustomed to attach importance to that great Commission. See Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:47–49 As we have already considered the supposed evidence for exclusive believer’s baptism in Mark 16:16, we may take the language of Matthew as most explicit and full, of the three places. We consider that the Apostles would naturally have understood such a commission to include infants, for the following reasons:
The first thing told them is to go, and "teach" more properly, "disciple" (maqhteusate) all nations. Here, says the Immersionist, is strong evidence that only believer’s baptism is enjoined, because they are to be taught first, and then baptized; whereas infants cannot be taught. The argument is unfortunately founded only on a failure to examine the original. For this turns it against the Immersionist. The term "disciple," is eminently appropriate to the conception of a school of Christ, which is one of the Bible conceptions of the Church. See Gen. 18:19; Deut. 6:7; Isa. 2:3, etc. The young child is entered or enrolled at this school, before his religious education begins, in order that he may learn afterwards. Matt. 28:20.
Second: what would a mind free from Immersionist preconceptions naturally understand by the command to "disciple all nations?" Does not this include the infant children, as a part thereof? But we must remember, that the minds of the disciples were not only free from these prejudices, but accustomed to the Church membership of infants. They had known nothing else but a Church–State in which the children went along with their parents. It seems then, that they would almost inevitably understand such a command, as including the authority to baptize infants, unless instructed to the contrary. Nor is this all: these disciples were accustomed to see cases of discipleship to Judaism occurring from time to time. Proselytes were not unusual. See Matt. 23:15; Acts 6:5; 2:10; 13:43, and the uniform custom was to circumcise the children and receive them into the Jewish community, on the profession of the father. So that, if we set aside for the present, the question whether proselyte baptism was as yet practiced, it is clear the Apostles must be led by all they had been accustomed to witness, to suppose that their converts were to bring in their children along with them; unless the notion were contradicted by Christ. Where is the contradiction of it?
Argument from Proselyte Baptism of Jews.
IT has been fashionable of late years for learned Pedobaptists (e. g., Dr. J. A. Alexander) to doubt whether the Jews practiced proselyte family baptism as early as the Christian era; because, they say, it was first asserted in the Talmud (of 6th century) and these writers are unscrupulous. I see not why we may not in this case believe, because they are supported thus: (see Dr. Woods). They uniformly assert the antiquity of the usage. The usage is naturally deducible from Levitical purifications. It accounts for John’s baptism being received with such facility, while neither in the New Testament, nor in Josephus, is any surprise expressed at his baptizing as a novelty. Jews certainly did practice proselyte baptism at a later day, and it can hardly be supposed that they borrowed it from the hated Christians. If they even did, it proves a prevalence of usage before they borrowed. I ast: it does not seem very likely that such a pretence, if first invented in the Talmud, would have escaped denial by some earlier Christian or Jewish Christian
Now, if apostles were accustomed to see families baptized into Judaism, it was very likely that they would understand the command to go and proselyte all peoples to Christianity and baptize them, as including whole families.
Argument From Baptism of Houses.
Had the English version been accurate in the employment of the words house oiko" household oikia, our argument on this point would appear in it more just. According to the definition of Aristotle, and well–defined classic and Hebraistic usage, the word oiko" means literally, the apartments inhabited by the parents and children, and oikia, literally, the cartilage. Figuratively, the former, the family; the latter, the houshold. And the idea which constitutes the former a house is lineage. It is by birth of infants the house is built up; so that the word may more naturally mean young children distinguished from parents than vice versa. A house is a cluster of one lineage, receiving accretion by birth and growth of children. So that when it is said in the New Testament that the oiko" was baptized (never the oikia), the presence of children is forcibly implied. This distinction in usage is always carefully observed in the New Testament as to the figurative sense of the two words, often as to the literal. e. g., Acts 16:31–34(Greek); 1 Cor. 1:16, with 16:15; Phil. 4:22. The argument is miserably obscured in the English version. Now, while some eight Christian houses are spoken of in the New Testament (who presumably were baptized houses), four such are explicitly mentioned as baptized. Cornelius’, Acts 10:2, 44, 48; Lydia’s, 16:15; the Philippian jailor’s, 16:33; Stephanas’, 1 Cor. 1:16. Now, on the fact that, among the very few separate individual baptisms mentioned in the New Testament, four were of families, is ground of two–fold probability: that there were young children in some of them, who were baptized on their parents’ faith, and that this sacramental recognition of the parental and family relation, looks like Pedobaptism amazingly. Immersionists do not use such language, so that even if it could be proved there probably were no young unconverted children, the argument remains.
These Houses Included Children.
They say they can prove in each case there were none: Cornelius’ by verses 2, 24. But see Gen. 18:19; 2 Chron. 20:13; Ezra 8:21; Matt. 21:15, 16. That Lydia’s house were all believing adult children, or servants, or apprentices, they argue from Acts 16:40, "brethren." But see verses 14, 15, nobody’s faith is mentioned but Lydia’s; and doubtless Paul had many other converts out of Lydia’s house. The proof is, that the whole context shows the meeting in verse 40 was a public one, not a family one; and the Philippian church, a flourishing body was now planted.
That the jailor’s family all believed is argued from verse 34. But the original places the panoiki with rejoiced. That Stephanas’ family were all baptized and believers, is argued from 1 Cor. 16:15. Answer: it was his oikia not his oiko" which engaged in ministrations of Christian hospitality.
Infants are Addressed as Church members.
An argument of equal, or perhaps greater importance is to be derived from the addressing of the titles of Church members to little children in the New Testament. That the words Agioi, pisto", or piseuwn and Adelfo" are the current words employed to denote professed Christians, will not be denied. "Christians "is only used two or three times. The address of epistles to these titles is equivalent to their address to professed Church members. Now in these cases we find children addressed in the epistles. Eph. 6:1–4; Col. 3:20; 1 John 2:12, 13, teknia, padia. First, these were not adult children.
The Bishop’s Children Must be Members.
Further, in Titus 1:5, they are expressly called tekna pista. Compare for illustration, in 1Tim. 6:2, Pistou" despota" and 1 Tim. 3:4, parallel passage where the Bishop’s children being, pista and en upotagh, is equivalent to being well ruled, and in subjection. If the alternative be taken that Titus’ tekna piswta mean adult children who are professors, on their own behalf, of godliness, we are led into absurdities; for what must be decided of the man whose children are yet small; and who being therefore in the prime of manhood, is fit to serve the Church? Shall he wait, though otherwise fit, till it be seen whether his children will be converted? Or if the children be already come to ages of intelligence, and not converted, in spite of the Father’s good rearing, must he be refused ordination? This would have excluded Legh Richmond, and many ministers blessed of God. The obvious sense is, the bishop’s children must be consecrated and reared accordingly.
Authorities on Patristic Baptism. Remarks. 1st. Infant Baptism Early Mentioned.
As the historical evidence for the early and constant prevalence of infant baptism is so well unfolded in Coleman, Woods, gingham and Wall, and as your Church History enters fully into it, I shall not again detail the witnesses; but add some remarks to sum up. And first, gingham and Wall, between them, mention nine fathers, of the first and second centuries, who seem pretty clearly to allude to infant baptism; some briefly and singly, others clearly and more than once. Now Mosheim’s list of the genuine Fathers who wrote before A. D. 200, is only about 12 (Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Pseudo Barnabas, Pastor of Hermas, Ep. to Diognetus, (probably Justin’s), Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Clem. Alexandrinus, Tertullian), if we omit 12 or 15 more, whose names and works are only made known to us by other Fathers who speak of them. And his list is nearly exhaustive. Now seeing that few of these works are voluminous, and that some are mere fragments; and seeing that if our theory of Pedobaptism is correct, it was a subject which did not need much agitation, as being undisputed and of ancient establishment; here is fully as much notice of it as was reasonably to be expected. After A. D. 200, the notices are abundant.
2d. Denial of it Not Mentioned of Any Heretics.
The enumerations of heresies, and refutations of them drawn up by Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Philastrius, Augustine, Theodoret, (Epiphanius, for instance; against 80 heresies), contain no reference to any heretics who denied infant baptism, except those (as some Gnostic sects) who denied all baptism. And Peter de Bruys is said to be the first sectary who ever denied it.
3d. Not Refused even by Pelagians, Under the Strongest Inducement.
In the controversy between Augustine and Pelagians, the latter were much pressed with the argument. "If infants have neither depravity nor guilt, why baptize them?" Their answer was, to gain for them heaven, instead of eternal life. They would have gladly given the more satisfactory answer, if it had been true, that infant baptism was an innovation. But they do not. Celestius, it is stated, repudiated the insinuation that his doctrine would lead to the denial of infant baptism, saying, he had never known any sect wicked enough for this. He and Pelagius were learned and traveled.
4th. Evidence in the Catacombs.
In the Roman Catacombs, among the many interesting remains, are inscriptions over the graves of infants and young children, who are said to be baptized, and called "faithful," "believers," "brothers," while they are said to be of ages varying from 18 months to 12 years.
5th. Infant Communion.
Infant communion, which Immersionists love to class as an equal and similar superstition to infant baptism, is a clear proof of the earlier prevalence of the latter. For the primitive Church never gave the Lord’s Supper before baptism.
But Tradition no Authority to us.
But we do not rely on the patristic testimony as our decisive argument, but on Scripture. The Church early became superstitious; and many of their superstitions, as baptismal regeneration and infant communion, they profess to base on Scripture. But where they do so, we can usually trace and expose their misunderstanding of it. This current and early testimony is relied on, not as proving by itself that we are warranted to baptize infants, but as raising a strong probability that it was an apostolic usage, and thus supporting our scriptural argument.
Does Infant Baptism Corrupt the Church?
Immersionists object vehemently to infant baptism and membership, that it floods the spirituality of Christ’s Church with a multitude of worldly, nominal Christians. One of them has written a book on "the evils of infant baptism." They point to the lamentable state of religion in Europe, in the Papacy, and in the Oriental Churches, as the legitimate result. They urge: If our Confession and Government are correct in saying, ’all baptized persons are members of the Church,’ etc., (Bk. Disc. Ch. 1, 6), consistency would lead us, of course, to admit them, without saving change, to suffrage, to office, and to sealing ordinances; vie should baptize their children in turn (as Methodists’, Episcopalians, Papists do), and thus the whole world would be brought unsanctified into the Church, obliterating its spirituality. But Christ intended it to be composed only of His converted followers. The only reason why Presbyterian and other Churches in America, do not exhibit these abominable results is, that they do not act out their creeds, and practically regard the unconverted baptized as no members. I reply:
1st. Mixture in the Church Foreseen by Christ.
The notion that Christ would organize His religious kingdom on earth in contrast to human society, admitting none but pure members is plausible and pretty. Yea, the unthinking may reason, that as He is autocrat, heart searching, almighty, His voluntary embracing of any impure material would look like a voluntary connivance at sin, and indifference to that sanctity which the Church was formed to promote. But it is a utopian and unscriptural dream. See Matt. 13:24and 47. Christ has not even formed the hearts of His own people thus; but permits evil to mix with them. A Church to be administered by human hands must be mixed; anything else is but a dishonest pretense, even among Immersionists. Christ permits a mixed body, not because He likes it, but because His wisdom sees it best under the circumstances.
2nd. Mediaeval Churches Corrupted Otherwise.
It is not fair to argue from the abuse, but from proper use of an institution. Note: God’s arrangement under the old dispensation was liable to the same evils, for infant Church membership abused certainly led there to horrid corruptions. The wide corruptions of Papal and other European Churches are not traceable to proper use of infant baptism, but to other manifest causes: neglect of youthful training, State establishments, Paganism infused, hierarchical institutions, etc. If infant membership were the great corrupter, and its absence the great safeguard, immersed Churches ought to be uniformly pure. How is this? It is an invidious task to make the inquiry; but it is their own test. Look, then, at Ironsides, Dunkers, Mormons, African Churches in America. We shall not be so uncharitable as to charge all this on immersion.
Enough for us to answer for our own principles, not those of Papists, Episcopalians, Methodists. We stated our limitations on infant baptism. Where they are observed, and the duties pledged in the sacrament are tolerably performed, it results in high benefit. When we teach that all baptized persons "should perform all the duties of Church members," it is not meant with unconverted hearts. The Church states the great Bible doctrine that in baptism renewing graces are promised and sealed; and if the adult does not get them, it is his fault. Our doctrine does not break down the distinction made between spiritual and carnal by sealing ordinances one whit, or give to the baptized member one particle of power to corrupt the suffrage or government of the Church.
2. The remaining cavils are best answered by stating the Scriptural view of the relation of unregenerate baptized children to the Church, and the benefits thence inuring.
Baptized Persons in What Sense? Illustrated by Minors in Commonwealth.
When our standards say, "All baptized persons are members of the Church," this by no means implies their title to all sealing ordinances, suffrage, and office. They are minor citizens in the ecclesiastical commonwealth, under tutelage, training, and instruction, and government; heirs, if they will exercise the graces obligatory on them, of all the ultimate franchises of the Church, but not allowed to enjoy them until qualified. Yet they are, justly, under ecclesiastical government. The reasonableness of this position is well illustrated by that of minors under the civil commonwealth. These owe allegiance and obedience, and are under the government; they are made to pay taxes, to testify in court, and, after a time, even to do military service and labor on the highway. They can be tried for crimes, and even capitally punished. But they may neither sit as judges in a jury, bear office, nor vote for officers, until a full age is supposed to confer the necessary qualification. Such must be the regulations of any organized society which embraces (on any theory) families within it. And if the family is conceived as the integer of which the society is constituted, this status of minor members of families is yet more proper, yea, unavoidable. But such is precisely the conception of the Scriptures, concerning the integers of which both the State and Church are constituted. Now, the visible Church is an organized human society, constituted of Christian families as integers, for spiritual ends—religious instruction, sanctification, holy living and glorification of its members. Hence, it seems most reasonable that unregenerate members of its families shall be, on the one hand, included under its government; and, on the other, not endowed with its higher franchises. The State, whose purposes are secular, fixed the young citizen’s majority when, by full age, he is presumed to have that bodily and mental growth of the adult, which fits him for his duties. The Church recognizes the majority of its minor citizens when they show that spiritual qualification—a new heart—necessary for handling its spiritual concernments. The Church visible is also a school of Christ. Schools, notoriously, must include untaught children. That is what they exist for. But they do not allow these children to teach and govern; they are there to be taught and restrained The analogy is most instructive.
This Relation Natural.
The Immersionist says that our communion is only saved from utter corruption by our own inconsistency; that while our constitution calls our children Church members, we fortunately treat them, as they do, as not Church members. Whereas the Immersionist charges us with a wicked inconsistency, I will retort upon him the charge of a pious one: Those of them who are truly good people, while they say their children are not Church members, fortunately treat them as though they were. They diligently bring them under the instructions, restraints, and prayers of the Church and pastor. Happily, the instincts and influences of the Christian family are so deeply founded and so powerful, that a perverse and unscriptural theory cannot arrest them. These Christians discard the Bible conception of the visible Church, as an organized body whose integers are Christian "houses," and adopt the unscriptural and impracticable theory of a visible Church organized of regenerate individuals. But, blessed be God! the light and love of a sanctified parent’s heart are too strong to be wholly perverted by this theory; they still bring the family, as a whole, virtually within the Church. And this is the reason that true religion is perpetuated among them.
Discipline Consists in Instruction and Restraint.
But a more definite answer may be desired to the inquiry: What are the precise shape and extent of this instruction and government which constitute the Church’s "discipline" over its unregenerate members? To give a clear answer, let us distinguish the instruction from the restraint; the two together make up the idea of discipline. As to the former, the teaching of church presbyters and catechists is by no means to supersede that of the parents, but only to assist and re enforce it. Into the sacred relation of parent and child no other human authority, not even that which Christ Himself has appointed in His Church, may intrude. None can sufficiently replace it. But all these baptized members are the "charge" of the pastor and session; and it is the duty of these "overseers" to provide for them, and to see that they enjoy the public and social instructions of the gospel. And pastors and elders should, moreover, extend to them that advice in temptation, and those efforts to comfort them in affliction, and to secure the sanctification of their trials, which they extend to communing members.
Restraint Applied, First, Through Parents. The Rule of Living.
As to the ecclesiastical control or restraint over these unregenerate members, I remark, first, that the rule of morals should be the same as that imposed on communicating members, save that the former are not to be forced, nor even permitted, without spiritual qualification, to take part in sealing ordinances, and church powers. [But as to their neglect of these, they should be constantly taught that their disqualification is their fault, and not their misfortune merely; a sinful exercise of their free–agency, a subject for personal and present repentance; a voluntary neglect and rejection of saving graces, the sincere offer whereof was sealed to them in their baptism. And for this, their sin of heart, the Church utters a continuous, a sad and affectionate, yet a righteous censure, in keeping them in the state of minor members.] The propriety of exacting the same rule of living, in other respects, appears thus: Christ has but one law for man; these baptized members are consecrated and separated to Christ’s service in the Church as truly as the communicating members; they owe the same debt of devotion for the mercies of redemption; which are their offered heritage. Hence, it should be constantly taught them that questionable worldly amusements, for instance, are as inconsistent in them as in other Church members. In a word, the end of this Church authority, under which Providence has placed them, is to constrain them to live Christian lives, in order that thereby they may come unto the Christian graces in the heart.
Second, as to the means of enforcement of that rule, I would answer; that in the case of all baptized members of immature age, and especially of such as are still in the houses and under the government, of parents, the Church Session ought mainly to restrain them through their parents. That is, the authority of these rulers should be applied to the parents, to cause them, by their domestic authority, to lead outward Christian lives, and attend upon the means of grace. And the refusal or neglect of parents to do this duty, may doubtless subject them to just Church censure. Perhaps we may safely say, that the Session should reach this class of baptized members only through their parents, except in the case where the parents themselves refer the child’s contumacy to the eldership. In this case the eldership may undoubtedly proceed to censure the recusant child. See an analogous case in the theocracy, Deut. 21:18, etc.
If Adult, the Restraint is Direct. It May Proceed to Excommunicate.
If these baptized, unregenerate members are fully adult, and passed from parental control, then the Church Session must apply their restraint directly to them. The mere continuance of their unregeneracy, unfitting them for communion, will of course be no suitable ground for judicial prosecution. For the Church is already uttering her standing censure against this, in their exclusion from the Lord’s table. If they become wayward in outward conduct, then the Session, in addition to their constant and affectionate admonitions against their impenitence, should administer paternal cautions, advice, and entreaty, looking towards a reformation. But if they persist in flagrant and indecent sins, such as the persistent neglect of all ordinances, sensuality, blasphemy, or dishonesty, (such sins as would bring on a communing member excommunication), then nothing remains but that the Session shall proceed, by judicial prosecution, to cut the reprobate member off from the Church.
Some Fair Way Must be Provided to Cut Off the Reprobate.
Natural justice teaches that those who are members of the Church (in the minor sense) cannot be stripped of the privileges of membership, no matter what their character, and thus should have an ample opportunity to defend themselves against the accusing witnesses. It is a sin to judge a man or woman without a formal hearing. On the other hand, are they, in any sense, "members of the Church?" Then, to that degree, the Church is responsible for their discredit, and subject to the scandal of their irregularities. Common sense says, then, that there must be a fair way for the Church to obtain a formal severance of the membership, and publicly cleanse herself of the scandal of this contumacious member. That way can be none other than judicial prosecution. Finally, when a member is so thoroughly reprobate that, to human apprehension, there is no chance of his receiving any of the ends of a Church connection, there ought to be a way to terminate it; it has become objectless. Three objections are urged against the judicial prosecution of such members. 1. That its extremist sentence could only place them where they already are; self–excluded from full communion. I answer, this is clearly an oversight. This form of discipline will, of course, only be applied in cases of flagrant immorality; and then, it will do an entirely different thing from this self exclusion: it will sever the minor membership, and rid the Church, until the culprit repents, of the scandal of his connection. It is argued, second, that judicial discipline is utterly inappropriate, where there is not even the profession of spiritual life. "It is like tieing a corpse to a whipping post." That this is erroneous, is proved by every case of excommunication; for this extreme measure is always justified by the plea, that the man discloses himself to be unregenerate. Third: It is argued that judicial discipline is irrelevant to baptized members; because they are not the essential, but the accidental constituents of a visible Church. The fact is admitted; but it is irrelevant. There could be a commonwealth without minor citizens, but if there are minor citizens they must be judged as to their right to their lesser franchise, as other citizens are. No youth of sixteen years in Virginia would think it just to be hung or banished without trial, because he was not "of age ;" nor would the commonwealth deem that a sufficient reason to let him rob and murder with impunity. In fine, the practice of at least some of the Reformed Churches once illustrated the benefits of this position.
Our Usage Delinquent.
It is obvious that our own practice in our churches has fallen far short of the Biblical rule, and the taunts of the Immersionists are to a great degree accurate criticisms; we are not consistent in our pedobaptism. . And it may be, that the leavening of men’s minds, in this country, with the unscriptural ideas of the Immersionists may have produced a license of feeling among youths, which greatly increases the difficulty of Church Sessions’ doing their whole duty. It may, indeed, be almost impossible for any single Session to do it among us, in the face of this unfortunate corruption of society. and of the obstinate neglect of all sister Church Sessions around them. But the question for the honest mind is: Should a corrupt practice continue to preclude a right principle? Or should the correct principle amend the vicious practice? And the happy example of many of the Reformed Churches teaches us that this discipline of baptized members is feasible, reasonable, and most profitable. The Presbyterian Church of Holland, for instance, in its better days; and the Evangelical Church of Holland now, uniformly governs their children on the Scriptural principles above described
Benefits of the Bible Plan—Children of the Church its Hope.
The benefits of infant baptism, and of this form of membership for the children of God’s believing people, are great. Some of them are very forcibly set forth by Dr. John M. Mason, in his invaluable treatise on the Church. Borrowing in part from him, I would remark, that this relation to the Church, and this discipline, are, first, in exact harmony with the great fact of experience, that the children of God’s people are the great hope of the Church’s increase. This being a fact, it is obviously wisdom to organize the Church with reference to it, so as to provide every proper means of training for working up this the most hopeful material for Zion’s increase. To neglect this obvious policy seems, indeed, little short of madness. As we have seen, Immersionists’ communions only enjoy true prosperity, in virtue of their virtual employment of the principle of infant Church membership; grace and love being in them fortunately, stronger than a bad theory.
The Bible Plan Agrees with Nature and Grace. Prov. 22:6.
Second: This Bible plan is in strict conformity with those doctrines of grace, and principles of human nature, which God employs for the sanctification of His people. Our theory assumes that God’s covenant is with His people and their seed. (Acts 2:39). That their seed are heirs of the promises made to the fathers (Acts 3:25): that the cause which excludes any such from saving interest in redemption is voluntary and criminal Liz., unbelief and impenitence—a cause which they are all bound to correct at once, if they are arrived at the years of discretion; that the continuance of this cause, however just a reason for the eldership’s excluding them from certain privileges and functions, is no justification whatever for their neglecting them. And, above all, does our plan found itself on the great rule of experience, common sense, and Scripture that if you would form a soul to the hearty embracing of right principles, you must make him observe the conduct which those principles dictate. Every faithful parent in the world acts on this rule in rearing his children. If the child is untruthful, unsympathizing, unforgiving, indolent, he compels him, while young, to observe a course of truth, charity, forgiveness and industry. Whys Because the parent considers that the outward observance of these virtues will be either permanent or praiseworthy if, when the child becomes a man, he only observes them from fear or hypocrisy?. Not at all; but because the parent knows, that human nature is molded by habits; that the practice of a principle always strengthens it; that this use of his parental authority is the most natural and hopeful means to teach the child heartily to prefer and adopt the right principle, when he becomes his own man; that it would be the merest folly to pretend didactically to teach the child the right, and leave all powerful HABIT to teach him the wrong, and to let the child spend his youth in riveting the bonds of bad habit, which, if he is ever to adopt and love the right principle, he must break. Will not our heavenly Father act on the same rule of good sense toward His children? Is not the professed principle of the Immersionist just the folly we have described? Happily, Scripture agrees with all experience and practical wisdom, in saying that if you wish a child to adopt and love the principles of a Church member when he is grown, you must make him behave as a Church member while he is growing.
Third: Many collateral advantages are gained by this minor citizenship of the baptized in the Church. They are retained under wholesome restraints. Their carnal opposition to the truth is greatly disarmed by early association. The numerical and pecuniary basis of the Church’s operations is widened. And where the sealing ordinances are properly guarded, these advantages are gained without any compromise of the Church’s spirituality. Pedobaptist communities which are scripturally conducted present as high a grade of purity, even including their baptized members, as any others. For, on this corrupt earth, the best communion is far from being what it ought to be. Where the duties represented in the sacrament of baptism are properly followed up, the actual regeneration of children is the ordinary result.