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The Works of Gilbert Beebe
THE SALVATION OF INFANTS
The Signs of the Times -December 1, 1856
The doctrine of salvation by grace alone, as held by all consistent Old School Baptists, is the only doctrine ever published in the world that affords the least hope for the salvation of those who die in infancy. This we propose to prove by the most clear and positive testimony. All other doctrines represent salvation to be conditional; but the theories of men vary much in regard to what the conditions are on which salvation is to be secured, but all conditionalists agree that something is to be done by the sinner, in order to secure salvation. Some assert that the condition is faith and repentance; some that it is the giving up of our hearts to God, while others contend that a law of righteousness must be worked out, and “except we be circumcised and keep the law, we cannot be saved.” Some again represent the salvation of infants of rest upon the piety of their parents, and their work in having them baptized, or sprinkled into the pale of the church. Perhaps the most common theory among the Arminians is, that infants are not sinners, consequently are not lost, do not require to be saved. This last position is generally taken by conditionalists, to avoid the inconvenience and impracticability of showing how any infants can be saved on their conditional plans. Hence they set forth one way for adults, and another for infants. But if infants were not sinners, they could not die. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” “Death has passed on all men, because all have sinned.” As Adam embodied all his posterity when he transgressed the law of God, all the human family sinned in that transgression. “By one man’s offense death reigned by one.” “Therefore as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation,” (Rom. 5:18). The Scriptures fully demonstrate the fact that all infants and all adults have sinned, and as sinners judgment has come upon all unto condemnation, and it is therefore “appointed unto them all once to die.” And the fact that some infants do die, corroborates the testimony of the Scriptures, that all have sinned and are sinners. By these two witnesses the solemn fact is so clearly demonstrated as to defy successful contradiction. Certainly if it were not so, they could have neither part nor lot in that redemption and salvation which is by and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Admitting, then, what cannot be denied, that all infants are conceived in sin, shapen in iniquity, and that they all go astray from the womb, speaking lies, the question arises, How can they be saved from sin, and the consequences of sin? Divine revelation declares positively that there is but one way. Our Lord Jesus Christ has said, “No man can come unto the Father but by me.” “There is no other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved.” If then there is but one way whereby a sinner can be saved, and that one way is Christ, then the notion that infants are saved by the piety, faith or works of their parents, is swept by the board. How strange the infatuation, that the piety and works of parents can save their infants, when neither can avail anything in their own salvation. For salvation is “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” As parents, therefore, cannot save their children, and God has said, If Noah, Daniel and Job stood before him, they could neither save son nor daughter, let us examine the conditional plan. Supposing salvation were offered to all sinners, on condition of something to be by them performed, could the infant perform it? Tell them that they must believe a preached gospel, repent of their sins, make themselves a new heart and a right spirit that they must love God, reverence, obey and worship him, that they must give up their hearts, and that if they fail to do so, they must be damned, (for in this kind of language all conditionalists talk and preach to adult sinners,) On that plan who could hope for the salvation of a single infant very few, if any, even of the Arminians, will claim that infants can be saved by their own compliance with terms and acceptance of overtures, or even use of means.
Some contend that infants come into the world pure and sinless, and go so far as to fix for them a period in life at which they become accountable to God for their conduct; previous to which, they affirm, the infant is not accountable To fix the precise time at which they cross the line, and become responsible beings, has been a matter of grave and perplexing deliberation among them. But in direct contradiction to this theory, the Scriptures of truth declare that they are conceived In sin and shapen in iniquity, and all infants and adults became accountable beings to God, as soon as God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. To deny this, is an attempt to impeach the justice of God himself; for if in their creation in Adam they were not accountable to God, what right had God in justice to pass on them the judgment to condemnation, of which we read in Romans v. 18? Did the holy and righteous God enter judgment on any that were not accountable beings? Did, or did not death reign by one man, and from Adam to Moses, over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression? Most certainly it did; see Rom. v. 14. And could it have so reigned in justice over unaccountable beings? What daring impiety! What blasphemy then, to say that children come into the world holy and sinless, when the Scriptures, which are inspired by God himself, declare the very reverse. Perhaps we have written enough for this time, in defense of our position that all infants and all adults are sinners, and by nature children of wrath. The object of this article is to give our views on the subject of their salvation. We have already said, and proved, too, that there is but one way of salvation for any of the posterity of Adam. To show then that this one only way of salvation is perfectly adapted to the condition of infants, let us examine the doctrine of salvation by grace, and that in the light of what God has revealed in his word on the subject.
First: The doctrine of eternal and personal election is essential to salvation. We must admit this, or charge God with doing that which was not necessary to secure the salvation of his people. For the apostle has said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which hath us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love,” (Eph. 1:3, 4). This was God’s method of securing his object, namely, that we should be holy and without blame Arminians may think election unnecessary to secure our holiness and blamelessness before God, but it is enough for us to know that “So it seemed good in his sight.” And whether men like it or not, God hath chosen us (his people) in Christ, before the foundation of the world.
Second: As we have proven that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that the chosen people of God were all by nature the children of wrath, even as others, and all were under condemnation by the law, as sinners, therefore redemption was also indispensably necessary to our salvation. And we are happy to find the testimony, “engraved as in eternal brass,” that, “By one offering Christ has perfected forever them that are sanctified.” That he has carried their sorrows, borne their grief’s, and the chastisement of their peace was upon him, and with his stripes they are healed.
Thirdly: Regeneration is indispensable to our salvation. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3). And that birth must be “Not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; but of God,” (John 1:13).
Election, redemption and regeneration, and every other requisite brought to view in the gospel of our salvation, are so essential to our salvation that in their absence, all, whether infant or adult, must forever perish in their sins. Now let us inquire if it was or is any more difficult for God to elect, redeem or regenerate infants than adults? Election being before the foundation of the world, must have bean wholly of God, and in that matter the people chosen must have been perfectly passive, “Ye have not chosen me; but I have chosen you,” (John 15:16). Adults then could have no more to do in effecting their election, than infants, for it is all of God, “Who hath saved us, and called us, with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” (2 Tim. 1:9).
Redemption also was a work in which all infants and adults were equally passive. “For our Lord Jesus Christ is of God, (not of us) made unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” We had no hand in this work. He, Christ, gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Can there then be anything in redemption better adapted to adults than infants? Neither adults nor infants could have any agency, directly nor indirectly in their regeneration. None are so silly as to pretend that they were the agents of their own natural generation, and if that was impossible, is it not a still greater impossibility that an earthly, fleshly being could beget, conceive and bring forth immortality? That which is born of the flesh is flesh, nothing more, but that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. “It is,” says Jesus, “the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words which I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life.” But generation and regeneration imply a prior existence in a progenitor. Levi was in the loins of his great grandfather, Abraham, when Melchisedec met him and blessed him. And all the saints were in Christ Jesus, their spiritual immortal progenitor, when the eternal Father blessed him, and all his saints in him, with all spiritual blessings, according as he had chosen them in him before the foundation of the world. What agency could infants or adults, or adults more than infants, have had in that before the foundation of the world? But the inspired testimony of God allows no room for caviling on this subject, for, as we have already quoted, “They were born of incorruptible seed, by the word of God,” “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; but of God.”
From what we have said and proved, it appears that in all that is essential to salvation, the subjects of it are as passive in the hands of God as is the clay in the hands of the potter. The mightiest man that ever trod upon the earth, is just as powerless and helpless in the matter of salvation, as the feeblest infant that was ever inspired with human life, and neither the one nor the other can possibly be saved by any other than by the power of God. To all who are saved it is said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast; for ye are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that ye should walk in them.” The hope and prospect of the application of this salvation which is altogether of God, in regard to its application to any of the children of men, is founded on the eternal purpose purposed in himself before the world began, and not on anything to be done by us, after the world began; and on the faithful pledge which God has graciously given. Hence Paul says, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began,” (Titus 1:2). “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Can any child of grace ask for more?
“Enough, my gracious God,
Let faith triumphant cry;
My heart can on this promise live,
Can on this promise die.”
We have redeemed our pledge, and proved that the doctrine of salvation alone by grace, as held by all consistent Old School Baptists, is the only doctrine that can possibly save infants. But still the question returns, Are all infants saved? The answer to this inquiry God has seen proper to withhold from us, it is not our privilege therefore to answer it. Why he has not told us plainly, may be that from necessity on our part, we should trust the whole matter to him. The trial of our faith is very precious, and when we are called to give up unto his hands our little ones, our faith and confidence in him is put to a trying test. Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; and blessed be the name of the Lord.” David said, “I was dumb, because thou didst it.” And our God has said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Are we afraid to resign our infants to his hand? Why should we be? We know that he is too wise to err, and too gracious to be unkind.
We may take another view of this subject. Had the Lord plainly told us that all who should die in infancy should certainly be saved, would we not beg of him to take all our infants away in that state? But there is no saving virtue in their early death, for in their death, as in their birth, they are passive. The bounds of their habitation, as well as the number of their days, are with the Lord. It is infinitely better for us, better for our infants, and more sure to promote the glory of God, that it should be even so. The writer of this article has been called in the inscrutable providence of God to surrender four lovely babes to him who gave them, but he has never felt in the least uneasy about their future state. They are taken from the evils of this mortal state. And we do believe that God can and does regenerate infants as well as adults. That quickening power and grace which could reach the thief on the cross, in his expiring moments, or could impart spiritual life to John the Baptist even before he was born, can and does reach the dying infant. Without being born of the Spirit no infant or adult can enter into the kingdom of God, but that preparation being wholly of God, will never be withheld where its bestowment would be for the glory of God, or the best good of his saints. How ready Abraham was, when exercised by that faith which God had given him, to offer up his only son to God, and if we have that faith which Abraham had, will it not subdue our fears, and lead us to yield up our children, in death and in life, into his gracious hands? Living or dying, may God direct their course, and ours, and may his will be done on earth as in heaven. Be it our prayer that he may reconcile us to his will, conform us to the image of his Son, and save us with an everlasting salvation. Amen.
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