It was this principle which gave meaning and legitimacy to the administration of the corresponding rite under the old dispensation. It was because the parents were visibly within the bond of the covenant, that their children were entitled to the same blessed privilege. The same principle precisely applies under the New Testament economy. Nor does it impair the force of this consideration to allege, that parents, it is feared, too often present their children, in this solemn ordinance, without genuine faith. It is, indeed, probable that this is often lamentably the fact.
But so it was, we cannot doubt, with respect to the corresponding ordinance, under the old dispensation. Yet their circumcision was neither invalidated, nor rendered unmeaning, by this want of sincerity on the part of the parent. It was sufficient for the visible administration that faith was visibly professed. When our Baptist brethren administer the ordinance of baptism to one who professes to repent and believe, but who is not sincere in this profession, they do not consider his want of faith as divesting the ordinance of either its warrant or its meaning. The administration may be regular and scriptural, while the recipient is criminal, and receives no spiritual benefit.
It is, in every case, the profession of faith which gives the right, in the eye of the church, to the external ordinance. The want of sincerity in this profession, while it deeply inculpates the hypocritical individual, affects not either the nature or the warrant of the administration. Again; it is objected, that baptism can do infants no good. To ask the question is almost impious, because it implies an impeachment of infinite wisdom.
God appointed that ordinance to be administered to infants. Baptism is a sign of many important truths, and a seal of many important covenant blessings. Is there no advantage in attending on an ordinance which holds up to our view, in the most impressive symbolical language, several of those fundamental doctrines of the gospel which are of the deepest interest to us and our offspring; such as our fallen, guilty, and polluted state by nature, and the method appointed by infinite wisdom and love for our recovery, by the atoning blood, and cleansing Spirit of the Saviour?
Is there no advantage in solemnly dedicating our children to God by an appropriate rite, of his own appointment? Is there no advantage in publicly ratifying the connection of our children, as well as ourselves, with the visible church, and as it were binding them to an alliance with the God of their fathers? Verily, my dear friends, those who refuse or neglect the baptism of their children, not only sin against Christ by disobeying his solemn command; but they also deprive both themselves and their children of great benefits.
They may imagine that, as it is a disputed point, it may be a matter of indifference, whether their children receive this ordinance in their infancy, or grow up unbaptized. But is not this attempting to be wiser than God? I do not profess to know all the advantages attendant or consequent on the administration of this significant and divinely appointed rite; but one thing I know, and that is, that Christ has appointed it as a sign of precious truths, and a seal of rich blessings to his covenant people, and their infant offspring; and I have no doubt that, in a multitude of cases, the baptized children, presented by professing parents who had no true faith, but who, by this act, brought their children within the care, the watch, and the privileges of the church, have been instrumental in conferring upon their offspring rich benefits, while they themselves went down to everlasting burnings.
If I mistake not I have seen many cases, in which as far as the eye of man could go, the truth of this remark has been signally exemplified.
Dr. John Calvin on Infant Baptism | A Puritan's Mind
Let it not be said that such a solemn dedication of a child to God is usurping the rights of the child to judge and act for himself, when he comes to years of discretion; and that it is inconsistent with the privilege of every rational being to free inquiry, and free agency. This objection is founded on an infidel spirit. It is equally opposed to the religious education of children; and, if followed out, would militate against all those restraints, and that instruction which the word of God enjoins on parents. Nay, if the principle of this objection be correct, it is wrong to preoccupy the minds of our children with an abhorrence of lying, theft, drunkenness, malice, and murder; lest, forsooth, we should fill them with such prejudices as would be unfriendly to free inquiry.
This, indeed, may not be, and most commonly, so far as we can judge, is not the case. When children are baptized, they are thereby recognized as belonging to the visible church of God. They are, as it were, solemnly entered as scholars or disciples in the school of Christ. Let parents think of this, when they come to present their children in this holy ordinance. And let children lay all this to heart, when they come to years in which they are capable of remembering and realizing their solemn responsibility. A seventh objection which our Baptist brethren frequently urge is, that, upon our plan, the result of baptism seldom corresponds with its professed meaning.
We say it is a symbol of regeneration; but experience proves that great majority of those infants who are baptized, never partake of the grace of regeneration. To this objection we reply:.
That baptism is not more generally connected or followed with that spiritual benefit of which it is a striking emblem, is indeed to be lamented. But still this acknowledged fact does not, it is believed, either destroy the significance of the ordinance, or prove it to be useless.
If it holds up to view, to all who behold it, every time that it is administered, the nature and necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit; if it enjoins, and to a very desirable extent secures to the children of the church, enlightened and faithful instruction in the great doctrines of the gospel, and this doctrine of spiritual cleansing in particular; and if it is, in a multitude of cases, actually connected with precious privileges, and saving benefits; we have, surely, no right to conclude that it is of small advantage, because it is not in all cases followed by the blessing which it symbolically represents.
How many read the Bible without profit! How many attend upon the external service of prayer, without sincerity, and without a saving blessing! But are the reading of the scriptures, and the duty of prayer less obligatory, or of more dubious value on that account? In truth, the same objection might be made to circumcision. That, as well as baptism, was a symbol of regeneration, and of spiritual cleansing: The fact is, the same objection may be brought against every institution of God. They are all richly significant, and abound in spiritual meaning and in spiritual instruction; but their influence is moral, and may be defeated by unbelief.
They cannot exert a physical power, or convert and save by their inherent energy. Hence they are often attended by many individuals without benefit; but still their administration is by no means, in respect to the church of God, in vain in the Lord.
It is daily exerting an influence of which no human arithmetic can form an accurate estimate. Thousands, no doubt, even of baptized adults receive the ordinance without faith, and of course, without saving profit. But thousands more receive it in faith, and in connection with those precious benefits of which it is a symbol. This is the case with all ordinances; but because they are not always connected with saving benefits, we are neither to disparage, nor cease to recommend them. If not regenerated at the time of baptism which the nature of the ordinance does not necessarily imply , are they not, in virtue of their connection with the church, thus ratified and sealed, placed in the best of all schools for learning, practically, as well as doctrinally, the things of God?
Are they not, by these means, even when they fail of becoming pious, restrained and regulated, and made better members of society? And are not multitudes of them, after all, brought back from their temporary wanderings, and by the reviving influence of their baptismal seal, and their early training, made wise unto salvation? Let none say, then, that infant baptism seldom realizes its symbolical meaning. It is, I apprehend, made to do this far more frequently than is commonly imagined. And if those who offer them up to God in this ordinance were more faithful, this favourable result would occur with a frequency more than tenfold.
A further objection often urged by the opponents of infant baptism is, that we have the same historical evidence for infant communion that we have for infant baptism; and that the evidence of the former in the early history of the church, altogether invalidates the historical testimony which we find in favour of the latter. In reply to this objection, it is freely granted, that the practice of administering the eucharist to children, and sometimes even to very young children, infants, has been in use in various parts of the Christian church, from an early period, and is, in some parts of the nominally Christian world, still maintained.
About the middle of the third century, we hear of it in some of the African churches. They were, therefore, led to give a small portion of the sacramental bread dipped in wine to children and dying persons, who were not able to receive it in the usual form; and, in some cases, we find that this morsel of bread moistened with the consecrated wine was even forced down the throats of infants, who were reluctant or unable to swallow it.
Nay, to so revolting a length was this superstition carried in a few churches, that the consecrated bread and wine, united in the same manner as in the case of infants, were thrust into the mouths of the dead, who had departed without receiving them during life! But it is doing great injustice to the cause of infant baptism to represent it as resting on no better ground than the practice of infant communion. The following points of difference are manifest, and appear to me perfectly conclusive. Infant communion derives not the smallest countenance from the word of God; whereas, with regard to infant baptism, we find in scripture its most solid and decisive support.
It would rest on a firm foundation if every testimony out of the Bible were destroyed. The historical testimony in favour of infant communion is greatly inferior to that which we possess in favour of infant baptism. We have no hint of the former having been in use in any church until the time of Cyprian, about the middle of the third century; whereas testimony more or less clear in favour of the latter has come down to us from the apostolic age.
Once more, infant communion by no means stands on a level with infant baptism as to its universal or even general reception. We find two eminent men in the fourth century, among the most learned then on earth, and who had enjoyed the best opportunity of becoming acquainted with the whole church, declaring that the baptism of infants was a practice which had come down from the apostles, and was universally practiced in the church; nay, that they had never heard of any professing Christians in the world, either orthodox or heretical, who did not baptize their children.
But we have no testimony approaching this, in proof of the early and universal adoption of infant communion. It was manifestly an innovation, founded on principles which, though to a melancholy degree prevalent, were never universally received. And as miserable superstition brought it into the church, so a still more miserable superstition destroyed it.
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When transubstantiation arose, the sacred elements, now transmuted, as was supposed, into the real body and blood of the Saviour began to be considered as too awful in their character to be imparted to children. But in the Greek church, which separated from the Latin before the transubstantiation was established, the practice of infant communion still superstitiously continues.
Does not this manifest that their system is inconsistent with itself, impracticable, and therefore unsound? They do not carry out and apply their own system by a corresponding practice. That baptized children should be treated by the church and her officers just as other children are treated, that they should receive the seal of a covenant relation to God and his people, and then be left to negligence and sin, without official inspection, and without discipline, precisely as those are left who bear no relation to the church, is, it must be confessed, altogether inconsistent with the nature and design of the ordinance, and in a high degree unfriendly to the best interests of the church of God.
This distressing fact, however, as has been often observed, militates, not against the doctrine itself, of infant membership, but against the inconsistency of those who profess to adopt and to act upon it. In regard to adults, this duty is generally recognized by all evangelical churches.
Infant Baptism Scriptural and Reasonable Part 2 -by Rev. Samuel Miller
Why it has fallen into so much neglect, in regard to our infant and juvenile members, may be more easily explained than justified. And yet it is manifest, that attention to the duty in question, in reference to the youthful members of the church, is not only important, but, in some respects, preeminently so; and peculiarly adapted to promote the edification and enlargement of the Christian family.
If it be asked, what more can be done for the moral culture and welfare of baptized children, than is done? I answer, much that would be of inestimable value to them, and to the Christian community. The task, indeed, of training them up for God, is an arduous one, but it is practicable, and the faithful discharge of it involves the richest reward. The following plan may be said naturally to grow out of the doctrine of infant membership; and no one can doubt that, if carried into faithful execution, it would form a new and glorious era in the history of the church of God.
Let the officers of the church, as well as their parents according to the flesh, ever regard them with a watchful and affectionate eye. Let them be early taught to reverence and read the word of God, and to treasure up select portions of it in their memories. Let appropriate catechisms, and other sound compends of Christian truth, be put into their hands, and by incessant repetition and inculcation be impressed upon their minds.
Let a school or schools, according to its extent, be established in each church, placed under the immediate instruction of exemplary, orthodox, and pious teachers, carefully superintended by the pastor, and visited as often as practicable by all the officers of the church. Let these beloved youth be often reminded of the relation which they bear to the Christian family; and the just claim of Christ, to their affections and service, be often presented with distinctness, solemnity, and affection.
Let every kind of error and immorality be faithfully reproved, and as far as possible suppressed in them. Let the pastor convene the baptized children as often as practicable, and address them with instruction and exhortation in the name of that God to whom they have been dedicated, and every endeavour made to impress their consciences and their hearts with gospel truth. When they come to years of discretion, let them be affectionately reminded of their duty to ratify, by their own act, the vows made by their parents in baptism, and be urged, again and again, to give, first their hearts, and then the humble acknowledgment of an outward profession, to the Saviour.
Let this plan be pursued faithfully, constantly, patiently, and with parental tenderness. If instruction and exhortation be disregarded, and a course of error, immorality, or negligence be indulged in, let warning, admonition, suspension, or excommunication ensue, according to the character of the individual, and the exigencies of the case.
If the children of professing Christians are born members of the church, and are baptized as a sign and seal of this membership, nothing can be plainer than that they ought to be treated in every respect as church members; and, of course, if they act in an unchristian manner, a bar ought to be set up in the way of their enjoying Christian privileges.
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If this be not admitted, we must give up the very first principles of ecclesiastical order and duty. No one would consider it as either incongruous or unreasonable to declare such a person unworthy of Christian fellowship, and excluded from it, though he had no disposition to enjoy it. The very same principle applies in the case now under consideration. This doctrine appears to me subversive of every principle of ecclesiastical order.
Every baptized child is, undoubtedly, to be considered as a member of the church in which he received baptism, until he dies, is excommunicated, or regularly dismissed to another church. And if the time shall ever come when all our churches shall act upon this plan; when infant members shall be watched over with unceasing and affectionate moral care; when a baptized young person, of either sex, being not yet what is called a communicant, shall be made the subject of mild and faithful Christian discipline, if he falls into heresy or immorality; when he shall be regularly dismissed, by letter, from the watch and care of one church to another; and when all his spiritual interests shall be guarded, by the church, as well as by his parents, with sacred and affectionate diligence; when this efficient and faithful system shall be acted upon, infant baptism will be universally acknowledged as a blessing, and the church will shine with new and spiritual glory.
The truth is, if infant baptism were properly improved; if the profession which it includes, and the obligations which it imposes, were suitably appreciated and followed up, it would have few opponents. I can no more doubt, if this were done, that it would be blessed to the saving conversion of thousands of our young people, than I can doubt the faithfulness of a covenant God.
Yes, infant baptism is of God, but the fault lies in the conduct of its advocates. The inconsistency of its friends has done more to discredit it, than all the arguments of its opposers, a hundred fold. Let us hope that these friends will, one day, arouse from their deplorable lethargy, and show that they are contending for an ordinance as precious as it is scriptural. Upon this principle, say our Baptist brethren, as a large portion of those who are baptized in infancy are manifestly not pious, and many of them become openly profligate; if their caprice or their wickedness should prompt them to go forward, the church would be disgraced by crowds of the most unworthy communicants.
Every child is a citizen of the country in which he was born: He is a free born citizen in the fullest extent of the term. Yet, until he reaches a certain age, and possesses certain qualifications, he is not eligible to the most important offices which his country has to confer. And after he has been elected, he cannot take his seat for the discharge of these official functions, until he has taken certain prescribed oaths. It is evident that the state has a right, and finds it essential to her well being, by her constitution and her laws, thus to limit the rights of the citizen.
Return to Book Page. Cuthbert Sydenham or Sidenham — received Presbyterian ordination, and was a Reformed Calvinistic Preacher during the era of the Westminster Assembly. He died at an early age, though he was used mightily by God as a preacher of the Gospel and theologian.
This work on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism is a complete Presbyterian treatment of the subject of infan Cuthbert Sydenham or Sidenham — received Presbyterian ordination, and was a Reformed Calvinistic Preacher during the era of the Westminster Assembly. This work on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism is a complete Presbyterian treatment of the subject of infant inclusion in the Covenant, and of the proper administration of the ordinance of baptism.
A Discourse on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism
Cuthbert specifically writes against the rising error in his day of credo-baptism, or believers only baptism. Cuthbert shows that the credo-baptistic position is by inference only, and how that position is scripturally unattainable, and that it does not reflect the manner in which God works in covenant with his people. He covers the nature of the Covenant made with Abraham, whether the infants of believers may not be called in the New Testament the seed of Abraham, and how any person may be said to be in the Covenant.
He exegetically expounds Acts 2: This is a masterful polemic against the error of dispensationalism, and demonstrates faithfully the Scriptural foundation of God's covenant and ordinances. This is not a scan or facsimile, and has been updated in modern English for easy reading.
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