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Thoughts on Baptism - Contents
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    The saying is very old—“There are two sides to every question,” and no one will contradict it. But when we come to examine the two sides, we find that they resolve themselves into a right side and a wrong side. There cannot be two sides equally right to any question.TOB 68.3

    We have said, and firmly believe, that in Biblical questions, the path of safety lies in keeping as strictly as possible to the exact terms of the Scriptures. But besides those who adhere to this principle and rest only on evidence positive or direct, there is, unfortunately, another class who place strong reliance upon that which is suppositive or inferential. Few Bible doctrines are difficult to understand if we confine ourselves to that which is revealed. They become difficult, and the ground of confusion, when inference takes the place of statement.TOB 68.4

    In regard to the subjects of baptism, we have some plain, undeniable statements in the Scriptures.TOB 69.1

    1. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Belief is here presented as preceding and prerequisite to baptism. Over this text there is no chance for dispute.TOB 69.2

    2. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized” Here repentance also precedes and is prerequisite to baptism. With so plain a statement, denial is impossible.TOB 69.3

    No text of Scripture is to be taken alone when others speak on the same subject. The two here quoted, one in the great commission and the other in its fulfillment, agree in their testimony, and they teach us that,—TOB 69.4

    3. Penitent believers are proper subjects of baptism.TOB 69.5

    But the texts quoted are given in an authoritative manner, and come with the power of a precept or law; and therefore we learn from them that,—TOB 69.6

    4. The requirement of baptism is a commandment; it is presented as a duty to be performed. Of course to be performed by the parties to whom reference is made,—penitent believers.TOB 69.7

    Thus far we stand on safe ground. The testimony challenges the approval of every reader. No one can, with the least show of reason or of reverence for the Scriptures, say that baptism is not a duty to those who believe the gospel; or that baptism is not a duty to those who repent; or that baptism is not a precept, and does not demand obedience. No one dares to assume these positions.TOB 70.1

    But now comes a class of persons who say they do not deny these statements; they only go beyond them and insist that baptism is appropriately administered also to those who cannot believe, who cannot repent, and who cannot obey a precept. No direct or positive evidence is offered in favor of these positions; and we are called upon to examine whether the suppositions or inferences presented in their favor are just and necessary, or unjust and unnecessary. We think that, in the execution of a law, we have no more warrant to go beyond than to come short of its requirements. It is presumption, and opens the way to every usurpation of authority.TOB 70.2

    First in the order of inferential arguments in favor of the baptism of infants is this, that baptism stands related in the gospel as circumcision did in the first covenant; and as that related to infants, so must this. But the premise is defective, and the argument has no foundation in fact. A positive duty of the gospel must have some direct testimony in its favor. A small work in our possession lays down as the foundation of the argument for infant baptism this proposition: “Baptism is both a sign and a seal.” No Scripture proof is offered to establish this proposition. The argument proceeds on the hypothesis that as circumcision, which was a sign and seal, was applicable to infants to bring them into covenant relation to God, so baptism, which is a sign and seal, and thus answers to circumcision, is also necessary to bring infants into like covenant relation in this dispensation. The serious and fatal defect in this argument is, that baptism does not occupy, in the new covenant, the place which circumcision occupied in the old covenant. The advocates of that idea are justly held to bring some Scripture evidence to support it, as a supposed likeness of one to the other is no proof at all in such a case; but the Scriptures afford direct and positive disproof of it, by plainly declaring that the circumcision or seal of the new covenant is something else, namely, the Spirit of God in the heart of the believer.TOB 70.3

    We are well aware that in these statements we come into conflict with the feelings of many parents whose early training and constant thought in that direction, together with the idea that a real benefit is imparted to children in the rite, causes them to feel very deeply on the subject. Said an aged friend, while the tears were starting from his eyes, “Would you not let us seal our children to the Lord?” We should readily answer in the affirmative if two necessary conditions were proved or could be proved: 1. That it is possible for us to seal our children, and, 2. That it is required of us in the Scriptures. It is not enough to show that it gratifies even our pious feelings, or to claim a pious use for the rite. All this has been urged in favor of every innovation and every error that has been brought into the church from the days of Tertullian and of Constantine to the present time. When we learn that the sign, or seal, of the new covenant is not outward, but is the circumcision of the heart by the operation of the Spirit, we perceive that it is impossible for us to affix the seal to any one. As we are not required to do that which is impossible, the Scriptures never intimate that any duty exists in that direction; but all religious observances, in the absence of Scripture requirement, are will-worship.TOB 71.1

    Paul makes an important statement in regard to the relation of the seal, which is in perfect harmony with all the evidence that has been presented, but fatal to the idea of sealing infants. He says, “After that ye believed, ye were sealed” Ephesians 1:13, 14. This is the only order admissible according to the Scriptures. And this text at once reverses the conclusion, and destroys the premise, of those who contend for infant baptismal sealing; it says: “After that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance,” the same as the sign or token, which outward circumcision was in the old covenant. No scripture says, Ye received the sign, or seal, or token, or earnest, of baptism; and no scripture says, Ye were sealed before ye believed. All that kind of talk is sheer assumption, and all assumptions on Bible doctrines are only hindrances to the progress of simple revealed truth.TOB 72.1

    The statements of the Scriptures in regard to the two rites of circumcision and baptism, are so different as to preclude any reasoning from one to the other. Were there no conditions stated concerning baptism,—were it left on conditions previously given, or were there any reasons given why the facts relating to one rite could be referred to the other,—the case would be quite different. It is distinctly stated that circumcision is to be performed when the subject is eight days old, and, of course, repentance and faith are not given as prerequisites to circumcision. It is never stated that baptism is to be administered at the age of eight days, or any number of days or years, but when the subjects receive the word preached, and repent of their sins. All efforts to enforce baptism, or to define the extent of its relations and application because of its supposed likeness to circumcision, are not only without any warrant of Scripture, but directly against the plainest statements of the Bible, where the two rites are defined.TOB 72.2

    Second in this line of inferences is the supposed reference to infants in certain promises made to your children, especially in Acts 2:38, 39: “The promise is unto you and to your children.” But this argument is defective also, and the conclusion gratuitous. The term children need not refer to infants, and in this and kindred texts does not refer to them, as may easily be shown.TOB 73.1

    “To you and to your children” refers to the Jewish people then present and to their posterity; while “all that are afar off” refers to the Gentiles. The first statement is proved by such texts as Genesis 45:21; “the children of Israel” referred only to the adult sons of Jacob who went into Egypt to buy food; and so in numerous instances. So also in the New Testament. “They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Galatians 3:7. “Ye are the children of the prophets.” Acts 3:25, and others. The second statement, that the Gentiles are referred to as “afar off,” is proved by Ephesians 2; the apostle declares to the Gentiles that the gospel was preached “to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh,” by which means Jews and Gentiles are made both one, the Gentiles being also “made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Nothing may be inferred from Acts 2:39, in reference to infants, or to irresponsible little children.TOB 73.2

    The inference is not only unnecessary, but is actually forbidden by the connection.TOB 74.1

    The promise is so related to conditions to be fulfilled that an application to infants is out of the question.TOB 74.2

    1. The promise is made to those whom the Lord our God shall call. But infants are not subjects of any calling.TOB 74.3

    2. The promise is on condition of repentance. But infants cannot repent.TOB 74.4

    3. The promise is on condition of obeying the precept to be baptized. But infants cannot obey any precept.TOB 74.5

    4. The requirement to repent refers only to sinners, and that to be baptized is for the remission of sin. But infants have no sins of which to repent, or to have remitted. The last two propositions call for more extended notice.TOB 74.6

    No one can possibly deny that baptism is always presented in the New Testament as a commandment to be obeyed, and never as a blessing to be passively received. The writer once asked an aged friend if the duty to be baptized is not found in a commandment. The answer was promptly given in the affirmative. Next the question, “Does an infant when it is baptized (if it were baptized), obey the commandment?” The answer was, “No; it is not the obedience of the child; it is obedience on the part of the parent.” Then followed the important question, “When the child grows up to manhood and personally accepts the Saviour, will you baptize him in your church, if he asks for baptism?” “No,” was the answer; “for he was once baptized, and it is wrong to repeat it.”TOB 74.7

    The conclusion is evident; it is even in the answer. It was not obedience on the part of the child, and if he grows to age, and believes and repents, the church will not permit him to obey; the action of the parent having forestalled his obedience! Can this be right? How can it be defended? Can a church lawfully adopt rules which are not laid down in the Scriptures, which prevent obedience to those which are given in the Scriptures? But this is exactly the case with infant baptism. Religious duties cannot be discharged—commandments cannot be obeyed—by proxy. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you,“ is the authoritative precept which sounds in every sinner’s ears; and no action of man, either priest or parent, can absolve from the duty to obey this precept. Here is an indictment of infant baptism from which its friends can never rescue it.TOB 75.1

    Again, as baptism stands related to repentance on the part of the subject, and the remission of sin, it cannot be appropriately administered to infants; for they have neither ability nor need to repent. Repentance is for sin committed, and remission is for those only who have committed sin; and these do not apply to innocents. To relieve the practice from this difficulty, the weak pretext has been framed that they are baptized because of the sin of Adam! for to this amounts the assertion that they are baptized for original sin, or to obviate natural depravity. This last idea has led further to a wrong estimate of, and false dependence on, baptism. The idea of baptismal regeneration is inseparably connected with infant baptism. They are not only connected by logical sequence, but they stand connected in the writings of the advocates of the practice. On this point we must make some quotations.TOB 75.2

    Rev. R. Pengilly, of Ireland, author of an excellent tract on Baptism, says:—TOB 76.1

    “From my earliest childhood, I was taught to say that, ‘in my baptism, I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven.’ See the Church of England Catechism, and Baptism of Infants. My instructors would readily admit, and in effect taught, the following sentiments, lately given to the world by different writers.TOB 76.2

    “One affirms: ‘With the water of our baptism, the grace of regeneration, the seed of the Holy Ghost, the principle of a higher existence, is committed to the soul; it grows with us as an innate impression of our being.... As long as the believer trusts to his baptism as the source of life, all is well.’ Mr. W. Harness, minister of St. Pancras’ chapel, London, in a sermon on Baptismal Regeneration.TOB 76.3

    “Another adds: ‘On a topic so interesting I might have well enlarged. I might have told you that only by baptism we are admitted into Christ’s flock on earth; by baptism we are adopted into his covenant, incorporated into his church; ... that in baptism all our sins are pardoned, and the Holy Ghost bestowed.’ W. B. Knight, Perpetual Curate of Margam, and Examining Chaplain to the Lord Bishop of Llandaff, Letter on Baptism.”TOB 76.4

    These teachings are not confined to the Church of England. Dr. Clarke says substantially the same thing, as follows:—TOB 77.1

    “Baptism brings its privileges along with it, is a seal of the covenant, does not lose its end through the indisposition of the receiver.”—Com., at the end of Mark.TOB 77.2

    In the baptismal service of the Methodist Episcopal Church are the following words of prayer for an infant, at its baptism:—TOB 77.3

    “We beseech thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt look upon this child; wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, that he, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ’s church.”TOB 77.4

    And hymn 259, of the Methodist Hymns, says:—TOB 77.5

    “Now to this favored child be given Pardon, and holiness, and Heaven.”TOB 77.6

    Wesley says; “If infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper subjects of baptism; seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved, unless this be washed away by baptism. It has been already proved, that this original sin cleaves to every child of man; and that hereby they are children of wrath and liable to eternal damnation.” And again, quoting the “rubric” of the church, he says: “It is certain, by God’s word, that children who are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are saved.”TOB 77.7

    These are sufficient to show, and conclusively show, that salvation is based entirely upon baptism—“baptismal regeneration.” The remark of Dr. Clarke is singular,—the indisposition of the receiver is no bar to receiving the benefit of the ordinance. It must then remain a question, What is necessary, on the part of the receiver, to invalidate baptism or to forfeit its benefits? Who shall determine this?TOB 78.1

    And it is evident, also, that, if these teachings are true, unbaptized children are certainly lost! If, by baptism, sins are pardoned, the Holy Ghost received, the principle of a higher existence is committed to the soul, a child is made a member of Christ and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven, it follows that without baptism none of these benefits can be received. For how shall an infant receive pardon who is not thus “favored”? How else is an unconscious babe delivered from the wrath of God and brought into the church? The Arminians are accustomed to speak sharply against the Calvinists on account of their belief in infant reprobation, but the parties are not so very far apart so far as “infant damnation” is concerned. In effect, both parties teach it.TOB 78.2

    But the whole system is wrong, in every particular. Wrong in principle, and wrong in its methods of proof. The salvation of little children stands on a different basis. The infant of days has committed no sin, cannot repent or believe, and needs no remission. Or else, of what is it pardoned? As it has no sin of its own, it must be pardoned of the sin of another. Of course, then, without such pardon it would stand condemned, and finally be lost, for the sin of its forefather! But the Lord says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.” Ezekiel 18:20. Each individual of the race must bear his own sin, and the sin of no other. How will the advocates of this theory meet this Scripture truth?TOB 78.3

    We will now present an argument, which, we think, is justified by reason and the Scriptures.TOB 79.1

    As no person is answerable for the sins of another, so no person can repent of the sins of another. We may, indeed, be sorry that others have sinned. I am sorry that Adam sinned; sorry that my parents sinned; yes, sorry that you, reader, have sinned; but I am not required to repent of their sins or of yours. I cannot do it. I can repent of my own sins only. And as baptism is so intimately connected with repentance, I was baptized for my own sins, and for no others. However much Adam may have sinned, I should not have been required to be baptized if I had not sinned. It is as unscriptural and unreasonable to be baptized for the sins of another, as it is impossible to repent of the sins of another.TOB 79.2

    The Scripture says, “In Adam all die.” Adam, because of his sin, was shut away from the tree of life, lest he should eat, and live forever; Genesis 3:22, 23; and thus mortality was settled upon him because of sin; for “the wages of sin is death.” Of course his children, and so all his posterity, received from him a nature no higher than his own; with him all were shut out from the tree of life, all became subject to death, all returned to the dust. This death, which we variously call natural death or temporal death, and the first death in distinction from eternal death, or “the second death,” was a penalty inflicted upon Adam for his sin; and it was the penalty of that sin only. As he only was the transgressor, he only could bear the penalty; for “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.” To his posterity it is a consequence of their relation to him, and not a penalty. The “second death” is the penalty for the personal sins of Adam’s posterity. When sentence was pronounced upon Adam, a new probation was given to man through “the seed of the woman.” Through a promise of the Son of God, who should become a son of man, the gospel scheme was opened to the race; and as the race was already involved by the fall of Adam, shut out from the tree of life, and doomed to return to the dust, or to die, another death was placed before Adam’s race as the penalty for personal sin; for it is true, under all conditions and dispensations, that “the wages of sin is death.”TOB 79.3

    That the death which the race has fallen under ever since the fall of Adam is not the penalty of our personal sins, is proved by the following considerations; They who accept the gospel of Christ are justified through faith in him, and receive pardon of their sins; yet they die “in Adam,” as the unjustified do. But no one can believe that sin is pardoned and punished also. The remission of sin is the remission of its penalty. The individual who is pardoned by the gospel escapes the penalty of personal sin; “on such the second death hath no power.” Revelation 20:6. But they who are not pardoned—are not justified by faith in Christ—shall fall under the second death. This is proof sufficient that the second death is the penalty of personal sin.TOB 80.1

    Repentance, faith, remission, all combined, will not remove the consequence of Adam’s transgression. We still die “in Adam,” saints as well as sinners; and therefore this death is not the penalty of personal sin. The gospel may bring from it, as a benefaction; but it does not save from it by means of remission. It is remitted to nobody.TOB 81.1

    As in the case of the saints—the justified—so in the case of infants. They have no sins for which to answer. They cannot fall under a penalty, because they are innocent. Yet they die; of course not as sinners condemned, but as mortal creatures cut off from the tree of life by the action of Adam. His sin brought condemnation to himself, and it was deserved; but it brings no condemnation to these innocent ones; they do not deserve it, and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.”TOB 81.2

    What, then, it may be asked, does the gospel actually offer in the case of infants? We answer, life; it offers them a resurrection from the dead. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Infants die because of their connection with Adam, not on account of any sin of their own; and they are made alive in Christ, not because of their obedience, but as members of the race for whom he died. What they lost in the first Adam is restored to them by the second Adam. See a promise of a resurrection to children, in Jeremiah 31:15-17. This is positive, tangible; it stands on no uncertain inference.TOB 81.3

    There will be three classes in the resurrection. One, of sinners condemned, who have never accepted the gospel nor received pardon through Christ. The second death claims them as its own. Another, the saints; those who have had their sins washed away by the blood of the Redeemer. Being justified, the law has no claim against their lives. “On such the second death hath no power.” The third, infants, who have never sinned. Of course they are not condemned; they have done no wrong; on no principle of justice can they be condemned. Through Christ they are brought up from death, of course to die no more. They stand related to the law as the saints do; not as the saints, pardoned, but as innocents, against whom no charge can be brought. Having no sin upon them, they will die no more. That life they get through Christ as truly as do the saints. Hence they can join the everlasting song of redemption, with all the saints in glory. Had it not been for Christ they would have remained dead. For eternal life, its joys and its glory, they are as truly indebted to divine love and favor in the gospel as David, or Peter, or Paul. Thus it is easy to see that infants are saved by the gospel, but not by means of faith, repentance, and baptism. These are for sinners, not for innocents.TOB 82.1

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