Images de page
PDF
ePub

all scriptural authority, the whole Greek church and the whole Roman church admit infants to the eucharist; or, as some semiProtestants call it, the sacrament of the supper. If, then, Dr. Wall and Dr. Miller-if Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and all Pedobaptists receive as authorities ancient opinions, or the testimony of Greek and Roman Fathers as to the existence of opinions and practices in their

s, in evidence of the divine and apostolic authority of infant baptism, why repudiate their own witnesses when they equally depose in favor of infant communion? Why administer the one “sacrament” to babes, and withhold from them the other “sacrament,” having as good authority for the one as for the other? Nay, better for infant communion than for infant baptismbecause infants ate the passover, which they say was the prototype and precedent of the supper.

But as they are bold, we must be bold also. We affirm, and I know that our opponents dare not deny it, that not one of the five “Apostolic Fathers –Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius, or Polycarp, either name, or allude to, infant baptism, or say any thing that would imply it; but, on the contrary, say that which implies believer baptism, and believer baptism only. Neither do the oldest of the Greek Fathers--Papias, Dionysius of Corinth, Tatian, Melito, Irenæus, Theophilus, or Clement of Alexandria, name it. Nor, indeed, does Justin Martyr indicate the existence of the rite in his time. He is, however, the first of Dr. Wall's cloud of historic witnesses of the opinions on the subject. Certain it is, that Justin Martyr does not once name infant baptism. On the contrary, his history of Christianity in the second century forbids the assumption.

His words are -(I have the Greek before me, but will give Dr. Wall's own version of them)—"Those who are persuaded and do believe those things which are taught by us are true, and do promise to live according to them, are directed first to pray and ask of God, with fasting, the forgiveness of their former sins; and we also pray and fast together with them.* Then we bring them to some place where there is water,f and they are regeneraled by the same way of regeneration by which we were regenerated; for they are washed with water in the name of God, the Father and Lord of all things, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ says unless you be regenerated you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven: and every body knows it is impossible for

* Very like the actions of infants.

+ We are more courteous than Justin Martyr's Christians. We bring the water to the infants, but they carried the infants to the water!

those that are once generated, or born, to enter again into their mother's womb."-"The washing is called the enlightening," &c. Dr. Wall argues from this passage that the ancient church regarded baptism as regeneration, and as commonly called it ‘regeneration' as the Episcopalians call it ‘christening.' But, waiving all criticism on the propriety of this language, we only ask, How does all this prove infant baptism? Does not the whole passage cited clearly intimate that the subjects of Justin Martyr's baptism were believers and had agreed to live according to Christ's will before they took them to the water?

But the advocates of infant baptism will concede this, and flee to another passage from the same author as directly favoring their theory. They quote a few words from Justin's First Apology. The passage already read is from his Second Apology. We shall hear that portion from his First Apology:"Several persons among us, of sixty and seventy years old, of both sexes, who were discipled, (or made disciples) to Christ in ar from their childhood, do continue uncorrupted (or virgins.”) “From childhood”—not from infancy. In the original Greek of Justin it is ek paidoon, which indicates from ten to fifteen, rather than from eight days to two years. There is not, then, any authority whatever for assuming Justin Martyr as a witness in favor of infant baptism. It cannot be logically or philologically deduced from any thing I have ever seen quoted from him.

Unless, then, we assume that to be regenerated means neither more nor less than to be baptized, there is no Greek Father, no Apostolic Father, no ecclesiastic writer, who so much as names baptism in connexion with infants before the third century. Nor, indeed, do they ever speak of regenerated infants. The Greeks have four words for children. They have brephos, a babe; paidion, a little child; teknion, a little chlld figuratively; and pais, a youth, a strippling, any one under age. Now it happens that neither Dr. Wall nor Dr. Miller, nor any of those special pleaders for infant baptism, seem to know, and certainly do not make known to others, the fact which I have now stated: nay, they assume, without the shadow of proof, that pars must mean in the New Testament, or in the style of the Greek Fathe s, an infant; that is, a brephos, or babe; and this, too, in the face of the fact that we have these four words frequently in the New Testament Greek, and wherever we find a literal babe or infant in the New Testament, we find brephos in the original; and wherever literal little children are spoken of, we have in no case pais, but always paidion or teknion.

* Wall's History of Infant Baptism, vol. 1, pp. 67, 70, Oxford ed. 1836.

With regard to pais, the word used by Justin Martyr in his 24 Apology, on which Dr. Wall and others so much rely, it is applied to persons of from twelve to thirty years of age in the New Testament. Jesus, at the age of twelve, and after he had risen from the dead, is called pais. Acts. iv. 27. Eutychus, a young man, mentioned Acts xx. 12, is represented by the word pais. So of others from twelve to twenty years old.

Of the Greek Fathers of this era we have none other quoted by Dr. Wall or Dr. Miller. Tertullian is the first of the Latin writers who early in the third century mentions infant baptism. He does, indeed, name it; but I have long since said, and no one has as yet presumed to refute it, that he opposes it as an innovation. Dr. Miller says—“Tertullian, about two hundred years after the birth of Christ, is the first man of whom we read in ecclesiastical history, as speaking a word against infant baptism.” Well, uncandid as this is, we must request our readers to remember that Dr. Miller says Tertullian spoke against it. But he says he is the first man that spoke against it. And who, we might ask, was the first person that spoke for it? Any one before Tertullian? If any one, his name has not reached us! But what is the Professor's solution of this case? Why did Tertullian speak against it? Hear him:—“Tertul. lian adopted the superstitious idea that baptism was accompanied with the remission of all past sins.*" And who of his predecessors or contemporaries did not teach the same “superstitious idea”? Who did not also, according to Dr. Wall, adopt a still more superstitious idea, that baptism and regeneration were convertible terms perfect and complete equivalents!--and that there was not one writer during the first four centuries that understood baptism as any thing else but regeneration!! And did not all of them, as well as Tertullian, teach "that sins committed after baptism were peculiarly dangerous”? These are Pedobaptist assertions-not ours.

Tertullian's views may be gathered from the extracts found in Wall's history of infant baptism. “They who administer baptism," says Tertullian, "are to know that it must not be given rashly.” “Give to every one that asketh thee,' "has its proper subject, and relates to almsgiving; but that commaad is rather here to be considered;—"Give not that which is holy to dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine;' and that 'lay hands suddenly onê no man, neither be partakers of other men's sins.' _Therefore, according to every one's condition and disposition, and also their age, the delaying of baptism is more profitable, especially in the case of little

* Miller on Baptism, page 32.

children. For what need is there that the god-fathers should be brought into danger? because they may either fail of their promises by death, or they may be mistaken by a child's proving of wicked disposition. Our Lord says, indeed, 'Do not forbid them to come to me:' therefore, let them come when they are grown up-let them come when they understand. When they are instructed whither it is that they come, let them be made Christians when they can know Christ. What need their guiltless age make such haste to the forgiveness of sins? Men will proceed more warily in worldly goods; and he that should not have earthly goods committed to him, yet shall have heavenly!! Let them know how to desire this salvation, that you may appear to have given it to one that asketh.” I wonder not that any one who calmly and dispassionately reads even so much as we have quoted from Tertullian's writings, and more especially if he have patience to read so much of them as are found in Du Pin, or even Dr. Wall, should conclude with Richard Baxter, saying, “Yet again will I confess that the words of Tertullian and of Nazianzan show that it was a long time before all were agreed of the very time, or of the necessity of baptizing infants before any use of reason, in case they were to live to maturity."

Can any one think-I mean any one free from prejudice—that had infant baptism been an apostolic institution preached from the beginning, any man of learning in the age of Tertullian would have 80 written about it as here reported by his friends and the friends of that institution? We cheerfully admit the probability that infant immersion, god-fathers, infant communion, monkery, &c. &c. commenced about the times of Tertullian and St. Cyprian in the first half of the third century. This will, however, appear still more evident from the decision of the Council of Carthage, composed of sixty-six Bishops, which met Anno Domini 253, to deliberate on certain queries referred to it by Bishop Fidus; one of which was, “Whether an infant, before it was eight days old, might be baptized if need required?"

We shall give a few extracts from this celebrated response of the Council to the query sent up to Carthage by Bishop Fidus:—“We read your letter, most dear brother, in which you write of one rector or priest, &c. But as to the case of infants: whereas you judge that they must not be baptized within two or three days after they arc born; and that the rule of circumcision is to be observed, so that none should be baptized and sanctified before the eighth day after he is born; we were all in the assembly of the contrary opinion, SERIES II].-VOL. V.

21*

We have judged that the grace and mercy of God are to be denied to no person that is born. For whereas our Lord in the gospel says, “The Son of Man came not to destroy men's souls, or lives; but to save them: as far as lies in us, no soul, if possible, is to be Jost. For what is there deficient in him who has been once formed in the womb by the hands of God.”_"All things that are made by God are perfect by the work and power of God their maker. The scripture gives us to understand the equality of the divine gist on all, whether infants or grown persons. Elisha, in his prayer to God, stretched himself on the infant son of the Shunamite woman who lay dead, in such manner that his head, and face, and limbs, and feet were applied to the head, face, limbs, and feet of the child;* which, if it be understood according to the quality of our body and nature, the infant could not hold measure with the full grown man, nor its limbs fit and reach to his great ones. But in that place a spiritual equality, and such as is in the esteem of God, is intimated to us; by which persons that are once made by God are alike and equal."

The remainder of this letter is as weak and childish as the specimen before us, and concludes with these words:-"It is not for us to hinder any person from baptism and the grace of God, who is mere ciful and kind and affectionate to all. To infants our help and the divine mercy are rather to be granted, because, by their weeping and wailing at their first entrance into the world, they do intimate nothing so much as that they implore compassion.”'

Such was the wisdom, and learning, and good sense of the African council of sixty-six Bishops, who decreed that infants should be baptized as soon as born; and that, too, in A. D. 253. From such a council who could expect a more sage conclusion or a higher authority than that of Elisha stretching himself down to the dimensions of an infant! High authority, indeed, and is only surpassed by the following passage, which, so far as argument is concerned, embraces the remainder of the letter:—"If the greatest offenders, and they that have grievously sinned against God before, have, when they afterward come to believe, forgiveness of their sins; and no person is kept off from baptism and the grave; how much less reason is there to refuse an infant, who, being newly born, has no sin, save that being descended from Adam according to the flesh, he has from his very birth contracted the contagion of the death anciently threatened; who comes for this reason more easily to receive for

* Strange stretching this! We would rather say contracting himself.

« PrécédentContinuer »