« PrécédentContinuer »
ry, “Whether an infant before it was eight days old might be baptized, if need required?” Fidus was, it seems, against this practice. The Council are in favor of it: for what reasons? Ist. “Because the Son of Man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” 2d. “Because, as far as lies in us, no soul is to be lost.” 3d. “For it is written, To the clean all things are clean.” 4th. “Because the eighth day, that is the next to the Sabbath day, was to be the day on which the Lord was to rise from the dead, and quicken us and give us the spiritual circumcision.” 5th. “Because Peter said, “The Lord has shown me that no person is to be called common or unclean." 6th. “Because they are not his own, but others' sins, that are forgiven him.” “Therefore, it is not for us to hinder any person from baptism and the grace of God, who is merciful and kind and affectionate to all.”* So reason St. Cyprian and his sixty-six bishops. Not one scripture is quoted by way of authority. No appeal is made to scripture precept, precedent, or even to the history of the church. Now can any one, free from prejudice, imagine that if infant baptism had been from the beginning a primitive apostolic usage, such a superannuated dotardly affair as this Carthage decision could possibly have occurred, or that such a question should have been debated as late as the last half of the 3d century? I wonder not that such men as “the great Grotius” should have argued against the universal prevalence of infant baptism even so late as the fourth century, from the very authorities which are urged in proof of its apostolic origin and authority.
Concerning the 6th canon of the Council of Neo-Cesarea, passed A. D. 314, which saith, “A woman with child may be baptized when she pleases. For the mother in this matter communicates nothing to the child: because in the profession every one's own [or peculiar) resolution is deelared, (or because every one's resolution is declared to be peculiar to himself.”] I am of the same opinion with Grotius, who says of it—"How much soever the commentators draw it to another sense, it is plain that the doubt concerning the baptizing women great with child, was for that reason because the child might seem to be baptized together with the mother, and a child was not wont to be baptized but upon its own will and profession." Grotius quotes Balsamon and Zonaras of the 12th century as interpreting this canon as he does, for which he has good authority. But on these matters I lay no stress whatever. They only show that learned and very distinguished men, not Baptists either,
* Wall's History of Infant Baptism, vol. i., pp. 129–132.
concur with us in repudiating the decrees of councils as evidence that infant baptism was fully established in their days, or that it was from the beginning.
After describing the preparation for receiving baptism as respects the state of mind of the recipient of it, St. Gregory Nazianzen says, “Some may suppose this to hold iu the case of those who can desire baptism. What say you to those that are as yet infants, and are not in a capacity to be sensible either of the grace or the miss of it? Shall we baptize them too? Yes, by all means, if danger make it requisite. For it is better that they be sanctified without their own sense of it, than that they should die unsealed and uninitiated. And a ground of this to us is circumcision, given on the eighth day, and was a typical seal, or baptism, and was practised on those that had no use of reason, as also the anointing of the door-posts, which preserved the first born by things that had no sense. “As for us," (whom danger of death does not threaten,) “I give my opinion that they should stay three years, or thereabouts, when they are capable to hear and answer some of the holy words, and though they do not perfectly understand the words, yet they form them, and that you then sanctify them in soul and body with the great sacrament of initiation."* This needs no comment.
At this period, A. D. 360, it is very evident that infant baptism was still in debate; and no one as yet presumes to appeal to the history of the church from the beginning. This may be made still more evident from the words of the great Basil, his contemporary. He says, “There is a time for sleep, a time for watching, a time of war, a time of peace; but any time of one's life is proper for bap. tism; yet the most proper time is Easter.” Again he says, “Do you demur, and put it off, when you have been from a child catechized in the word? Are you not got acquainted with the truth? Having been always learning it, are you not come to the knowledge of it? A seeker all your life long, a considerer till you are old. When will you be made a Christian? When shall we see you become one of us? You do not know what change to-morrow may bring.” This is a very striking passage; and notwithstanding the assertion of Dr. Wall that these were the children not of Christians but of unbaptized Pagans, I must think that amongst these were the children of Christians; else, I ask, how could he say, “You have been from a child catechized in the word?” Did Pagans so bring
* St. Gregory Nazianzen, as quoted by Dr. Wall, vol. i., p. 177. The Greek for the sacrament of initiation is, 76 peeyance revolgsco 7ns. 722E1WTEWS, rather the great mystery of perfection or initiation.
up their children? Did they teach them that the Bible was the book of God? Did they introduce them to a Saviour in whom they did not believe? This passage from Basil is alone sufficient to show that in the 4th century infant baptism was any thing but universal.
To Basil we shall add a quotation from St. Chrysostom: “The catechumens being of this mind," (having an aversion to a godly li fe,) “to take no care of a godly life; and those that are baptized, some of them, forasmuch as they were children when they received it, and some for that they received it in a fit of sickness, having put it off to that time, and having no mind to live godly, show no good inclination. And they that received it in their health show but very little; having been for the present zealously affected, afterward even they let their fire of zeal go out.” So spoke Chrysostom, A. D. 380.
We are now brought down to the era of the Pelagian controversy, to the commencement of the 5th century, and till this time we have no decree of any council nor declaration of any distinguished author that, fairly construed, could induce us think that infant baptism was practised from the beginning, or that it had become universal. No one appears even disposed to trace it up to the apostolic age, but to assign for it some other reason or authority, doctrinal or inferential. It seems, indeed, all the while struggling against objections, and finding in circumcision, or expediency, or in the opinion of some distinguished persons a support for itself-evidently wanting the seal and the authority of apostolic sanction either in the form of precept or example.
We know no good reason for either listening to, or examining, the conflicts of St. Anstin and St. Jerome against Pelagius and Cælestius, on original sin, and their respective allusions to baptism for remission of sins; or the reasons urged for, and against, its application to infants according to their respective theories and hypotheses. They but reiterate the dogmas and decrees of their own times-the decisions of Fathers and Councils, with their own assertions and opinions.
As a matter of curiosity, however, we will quote a passage or two from Dr. Wall's History of Infant Baptism, setting forth the views of the most orthodox of all the great Fathers, the defender of the faith and traditions of the true church as opposed to the equally distinguished heterodox and heretical Pelagius, who is quoted as affirming that "men slander me as if I denied the sacrament of baptism to infants, or did promise the kingdom of heaven to some
* Wall, vol. i., page 236.
persons without the redemption of Christ; which is a thing that I never heard, no, not even any wicked heretic say.” “Who is there so ignorant-vho can be so impious as to hinder infants from being baptized and born again in Christ, and to make them miss of the kingdom of heaven; since our Saviour has said that none can enter into the kingdom of heaven that is not born again of water and the Holy Spirit? Who is there so impious as to refuse to an infant, of what age soever, the common redemption of mankind, and to hinder him that is born to an uncertain life from being born again to an everlasting and certain life! **
Pelagius in all this was verbally most orthodox: for all the church with the great St. Austin believed and taught infant baptism for the remission of sin original. Austin said of the Pelagians, "Beset both with the authority of God's word, and with the usage of the church that was of old delivered to it, and has been since kept by it in the baptizing of children, that they dare not deny that infants are baptized for forgiveness of sins, and that must not be supposed that the church does this in any trickish or deceitful meaning; but since what is acted is acted seriously, that which is spoken must be supposed to be really done.”
But adds St. Austin, although Pelagius in this speaks according to the true church, “The Pelagians do not yield that infants are baptized for the remission of sins in such a sense as that any sins are forgiven to them who, they say, have none”_namely, infants; “but that they, though they be without sin,” (i. e. original sin,) "yet are baptized with that baptism by which is granted forgiveness of sins to all that have any."| Concerning this concession of Pelagius to the orthodox St. Austin, Dr. Wall says, “There will ever be this difference between a man of sense and a thick-skulled man-that, the former, if he find himself gravelled, will at least have the modesty to give over talking. Pelagius after he was brought to this contradiction, kept silence, and we hear no more of him.”I
So then it appears that Pelagius, St. Austin, and Dr. Wall agree first in infant baptism; and, secondly, in pretence the first, and in sincerity the last two believed in the baptism of infants for the remission of original sin; and that without either faith or repentance on their part. This, no doubt, was the mystic charm of infant baptism and its passport into the catholic faith of all that taught or believed infant damnation for original sin, or because of simple descent from a fallen and condemned progenitor.
* Wall, vol. i , page 450.
Ibid., p. 454.
# Ibiil., p. 454.
Indeed, Dr. Wall strongly affirms that St. Austin, and the orthodox with him, “held as certain that children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved:"? "for,"" continues Dr. Wall, “St. Austin says in these last words that 'he that does not believe this'—that baptized children dying in infancy are undoubtedly saved—is an infidel. "Austin plainly supposes,”. says Dr. Wall, “that without baptism they would be liable to eternal damnation because of original sin."*
“Austin did not think,” says Dr. Wall, “nor pretend that infants that are baptized have, in any proper sense, faith or repentance, or conversion of heart, &c.” How much soever he is here pressed with the difficulty of explaining the reasons why godfathers answer in the child's name—'He does believe'-he does not, for all that, fly to the justifying of so great a paradox as to say that the child does indeed, in a proper sense, understand, believe, or disbelieve any thing. He shows the words are true in a sacramental sense, but does not maintain that they are so in a proper one. Nay, he plainly yields that they are not: he grants that infants cannot as yet either believe with the heart or confess with the mouth. And when, at other times, he argues that infants, after they are baptized, are no longer to be counted either among the infidels or catechumens, but the fideles or credentes, (believers;) yet still he means and explains himself as he does here— that they are constituted fideles, not by that faith which consists in the will of believers, but by the sacrament of faith.” “He holds, indeed, that the Holy Spirit does do offices for the infant and is in the infant. You see here his words: the regenerating spirit is one in these that bring the child, and in the child that is brought: and in that part of the epistle which I left out because of the length, he says, “The water affording outwardly the sacrament of the grace, and the Spirit operating inwardly the benefit of the grace, loosing the bond of guilt, &c., do regen.
erate. But he supposes the infant to be merely passive, and not to · know, understand, or co-operate any thing themselves." “We
affirm, therefore, that the Holy Spirit dwells in baptized infants, though they know it not: for after the same manner they know him not though he be in them, as they know not their own soul: the reason whereof which they cannot yet make use of, is in them, as a spark raked up, which will kindle as they grow in years."Dr. Wall, pp. 276, 277, 278.
* Wall, vol. i., page 274.