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separation of the parents invalidate their baptism and render them in this sense "unclean”? Lange justly comments: “This whole argument militates against, rather than favors, the existence of infant baptism at this period. Had such a practice existed, it would be fair to presume that the apostle would have alluded to it specifically in confirmation of his position. Here, most of all, would have been the place to have mentioned it by name as furnishing ecclesiastical authority for the view he had taken. The fact that he does not mention it, therefore, affords some reason for concluding that the rite did not exist." Thus also Stuart, Barnes, Olshausen, Neander, Meyer, Alford, and nearly all exegetes of note.
Acts xvi. 15, 32-34; 1 Cor. i. 16. These passages record the baptism of three households, and the inference has been drawn that infants are to be baptized on the faith of the parent. Such an inference, however, is wholly unwarranted; for, (1.) There is no evidence of children in these families too young to exercise faith, or indeed of children at all; and even were there evidence of infants in them, the ordinary usage of language would forbid their inclusion in the term house or household, as here employed. We say: "Mr. A. and his family were at church to-day,” but no one would for a moment suppose from that statement that his infant child was there. Only those capable of attending church would be included. The mention of households by no means necessitates the idea of infant children in them, for repeated instances occur in which entire households are spoken of as believing This is affirmed of the household of the nobleman of Capernaum (John iv. 53), of Cornelius (Acts x. 2), and of Crispus (Acts xviii. 8). (2.) There is
) evidence that the three households mentioned as baptized
were composed of believers. This may be inferred, in the case of Lydia, from ver. 16; it is directly affirmed in the case of the jailer, who “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house;" and it would seem plain as it respects the household of Stephanus, since they “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (1 Cor. xvi. 15). (3.) The argument for household baptism on the mere faith of the parent or head proves far too much for those who use it; for, if valid, it requires the baptism of all the household, old and young, servants and children, willing or unwilling—a doctrine which is justly repudiated by all evangelical Christendom. Meyer, with whom concur the highest exegetical authorities in Germany and England, distinctly denies that the baptism of households is any evidence of infant baptism, and, commenting on Acts xvi. 15, he says: “On this question the following remarks are to be made: (1.) If in the Jewish and Gentile families which were converted to Christ there were children, their baptism was to be assumed in those cases when they were so far advanced that they could and did confess their faith in Jesus as the Messiah ; for this was the universal, absolutely necessary qualification for the reception of baptism. Comp. also vs. 31, 32, 33; xviii. 8. (2.) If, on the other hand, there were children still incapable of confessing, baptism could not be administered to those to whom that, which was the necessary presupposition of baptism for Christian sanctification, was still wanting. (3.) Such young children, whose parents were Christians, rather fell under the point of view of 1 Cor. vii. 14, according to which, in conformity with the view of the apostolic church, the children of Christians were no longer regarded as akathartoi (unclean), but as hagioi (holy), and that not on the footing of having received the character of holiness by baptism, but as having part in the Christian hagiotēs (holiness) by their fellowship with their Christian parents. See on 1 Cor., l. c. Besides, the circumcision of children must have been retained for a considerable time among Jewish Christians, according to xxi. 21. Therefore, (4.) The baptism of the children of Christians, of which no trace is found in the New Testament (not even in Eph. vi. 1), is not to be held as an apostolic ordinance-as, indeed, it encountered early and long resistance-but it is an institution of the church which gradually arose in post-apostolic times in connection with the development of ecclesiastical life and of doctrinal teaching, not certainly attested before Tertullian, and by him still decidedly opposed, and, although already defended by Cyprian, only becoming general after the time of Augustine in virtue of that connection."
Scripture passages, it is evident, furnish no ground for infant baptism. Exegetical scholars, German and British, both earlier and later, concur with Professor Stuart, who admits: “Commands or plain and certain examples in the New Testament relative to it I do not find.” Thus also Dr. Woods, who finds an argument for infant baptism in “the silence” of Scripture respecting it, thence arguing that the Bible does not forbid the rite, forgetting that such an argument is equally valid for the five spurious sacraments of Rome, and for all other rites which are assumed as having basis in the old dispensation and are not expressly forbidden in the new.
SECOND: ARGUMENTS AGAINST INFANT BAPTISM.
I. THE SCRIPTURES INVARIABLY REQUIRE PERSONAL FAITH
IN CHRIST AS PREREQUISITE TO BAPTISM. 1. The ministerial commission. Matt. xxviii
. 19: “Go ye therefore, and teach (disciple) all nations, baptizing them (those discipled) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Mark xvi. 15, 16: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” This fundamental law, under which the church and the ministry act, contains no warrant to baptize any except those who profess personal faith; but, on the other hand, it positively requires the ministry to baptize believers, and believers to be baptized. It is evident, however, that if the rite has been performed in infancy, neither the ministry nor the believer can perform the duty enjoined. It is objected to this interpretation that faith is here made prerequisite to salvation as well as to baptism; and if this interpretation be correct, infants, being incapable of faith, cannot be saved. We reply: This law, when it requires faith as prerequisite to salvation and baptism, does by that fact limit church and ministerial action to those capable of exercising faith. As to the salvation and baptism of infants the commission says nothing, and devolves no responsibility on the church or the ministry. The sphere of their duty is limited to such as are capable of hearing and believing the gospel. The salvation of infants God has reserved within his own power; the church has here no duty or responsibility; and the perversion of a divine ordinance to secure, by a mere physical act, the salvation of souls not yet capable of receiving instruction or of exercising personal faith, is an invasion of the divine prerogatives.
2. Apostolic example and teaching. In every instance in which baptism is recorded, a previous faith in Christ is either expressly stated or clearly implied. At the Pentecost it was those who "gladly received " the word who were baptized. In Samaria those who “ believed ”“ were baptized, both men and women.” The existence of faith prior to baptism, and as a condition of receiving it, is equally clear in the case of the eunuch of Ethiopia, of Saul of Tarsus, of Cornelius, of Lydia, and of the jailer of Philippi. The apostolic example has absolute uniformity in this, nor is there the slightest hint that, apart from previous faith, the ordinance might be administered. On the contrary, the apostolic teaching everywhere regards baptism as implying a previous faith. Thus, Paul says to the Galatians: “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ: for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. iii. 26, 27), where, as is plain, their baptism is adduced as a proof of their faith.
II. THE CHARACTER AND SPIRIT OF THE NEW DISPENSA
TION REQUIRE A SPIRITUAL CHURCH MEMBERSHIP,
The old dispensation was predominantly external; the new is spiritual. The old was national, regarding men in the mass; the new is personal, dealing more with the individual soul. The old presented types and shadows, while the realities were yet future and unattained; the new presents realities, and its ordinances symbolize blessings not so much future as already possessed. The general aspects of the two dispensations are thus distinguished; and, in this view, it is evident that infant baptism belongs rather to the old than to the new economy. It is a sign without the thing signified, symbolizing no present fact in the experience of the child; while believers' baptism is the symbol of a present experience in the baptized—the living, blessed reality of spiritual regeneration.
Thus, in Jer. xxxi. 31–34, the Mosaic and Christian dispensations are placed in striking contrast: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new cov