« PrécédentContinuer »
enant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord : for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Here the Christian covenant is contrasted with the Mosaic, as to the character of its members, in four particulars: (1.) Instead of an external system of law, God will “put his law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts" (Jer. xxxi. 33)—that is, he will give them the spirit of true spiritual obedience. (2.) Instead of an outward relation to them as a nation, God will enter into a living union with them as individuals: he will be their God, and they shall be his people. (3.) Instead of being a mixed people, composed alike of saints and sinners, as Israel was, , "they shall all know the Lord, from the least to the greatest.” (4.) Instead of the temporary removal of sin by sacrifices that needed constant repetition, God" will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more.” Plainly, the visible community of God's people, in the church of the new covenant, is here predicted as a body composed of regenerate souls, obedient, believing, and forgiven, and, in this respect, placed in contrast with the visible community of God's people in Israel under the old covenant, where the regenerate and unregenerate were intermingled without visible and ritual distinction. It is evident that the two dispensations are put in like contrast in Matt. iii. 7-12 and other passages, thus precluding the idea of an unregenerate church membership and the administration of an ordinance where no spiritual reality is represented. III. INFANT BAPTISM IS USELESS TO THOSE WHO
RECEIVE IT. When the rite was introduced, in the Patristic period, it served, as was supposed, an important purpose. The ground of its administration, as stated by Neander and other reliable historians, was " that none could be saved without outward baptism." The Papal Church affirms : “The proper effect of baptism is the remission of all sins, whether they were contracted from original corruption or our own fault."* The Reformers regarded it as securing salvation to those who die in infancy, and necessary to salvation in all cases. The Anglican Church makes it a means of regeneration. † The Westminster Confession declares it to be to the baptized“ a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life." | And Wesley said: "By baptism we, who are by nature the children of wrath, are made the children of God;" and, "In all ages the outward baptism is a means of the inward."
Now, with such conceptions of the effect of baptism, there is certainly some apparent utility in administering it to infants. But this notion of its saving efficacy is, at this day, generally repudiated by evangelical Christians. What utility, then, has the rite when administered to an infant? 1. Suppose the child dies in infancy; would it have been lost without baptism? No evangelical Christian will affirm this. 2. Suppose it lives to mature age; what aid does its baptism afford the child or its parent in forming a religious character? If any, then the children of Pædobaptists, who have received the rite, ought to present a contrast in character to the children of Baptists, who have not received it. Is this the fact? 3. Suppose baptism, as is alleged, places on the child the seal of the covenant, and thus renders its conversion more probable. If this be so, then it ought to follow that a larger proportion of the children of Pædobaptists are converted than of the children of Baptists. Is this the ordinary fact? Plainly, infant baptism, when subjected to these simple and obvious tests, proves to be a sign where nothing is signified: it is founded on neither precept nor promise from God, and results in no visible benefit to man.
* Catechism, ii 2, 44. † Baptismal Service. Ch. 28, sec. i.
IV. INFANT BAPTISM IS ITSELF WRONG, AND ITS ULTIMATE
RESULTS ARE EVIL. 1. It rests on neither precept nor example in God's word, and it is, therefore, a form of will-worship-a rite of human institution, but claiming the authority of a divine ordinance. This intrusion of man upon the prerogatives of God is expressly condemned. Christ has said: "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. xv. 9)—a passage which our Lord quotes freely from Isa. xxxi. 13 in direct connection with the abuse of a divine command.* 2. It is the perversion of an ordinance of God. All the significance of baptism as a symbol of divine truth is destroyed when, instead of being the free personal act of a believing, redeemed soul, it is the compulsory act performed on a child wholly incapable of moral action. The divine symbol is thus perverted, and the beneficent results it was designed to secure are prevented. Besides, so far as the rite prevails, it practically abolishes God's ordinance; for if the person thus baptized, on afterward attaining capacity for personal moral action, should become a true believer on Christ, he is debarred from the exalted privilege and duty of a personal confession of his Lord in this holy symbol; and the moral power of this significant act, in which a free, intelligent soul publicly devotes his whole redeemed being to God, is thus lost to the world. Who but the omniscient One can measure the far-reaching and disastrous results, alike to the individual thus debarred from a high privilege and duty and to the world thus deprived of the influence of such a confession ? 3. The practical tendency of infant baptism is to a false and fatal dependence on a mere ceremony. The necessary effect of the doctrine that a child has thus been brought into covenant with God, or at least has been placed within the special promises of God, so far as it is believed in an unconverted soul, can only be to lull the conscience in carnal security, and thus imperil the soul's salvation. Probably few pastors of experience have failed to mark this tendency in the souls of the unconverted, silently but powerfully operating as a resisting force against all efforts to rouse them from indifference and to impel them to earnest effort for personal salvation. 4. The results of the institution, in its influence on the church and the cause of God, are plainly exhibited in history. No form of superstition has been more prolific of evil. Originating in the error that baptism has in it a saving efficacy, it has been the chief support of sacramentalism in all ages. Introducing, as it does, by a logical necessity, the children thus baptized as members of the church, it has filled the churches with an uncorverted membership; and it has thus perpetually and necessarily tended to obliterate the distinction, in faith, spirit, and life, between the church and the world. Thus introducing the world into the church, it has led to the establishment of state-churches, with their formalism, corruption, and oppression. In the churches of the Old World it has been the chief agency in destroying spiritual vitality, and on this continent its influence is only too apparent in the advancing power of worldliness and sacramentalism in the churches which practise it. For all history has most impressively taught that a pure church is essential to a pure gospel; infant baptism, therefore, by precluding a regenerate church membership, is, and must ever be, destructive of a pure Christianity.
* See Col. ii. 18–23.
V. INFANT BAPTISM UNKNOWN IN THE FIRST TWO CHRIS
TIAN CENTURIES. The rite of infant baptism had an undoubted recognition in the North African church in the middle of the third century, although there is no adequate evidence of its practice elsewhere till a later period. In this investigation, therefore, we need only to examine the patristic writings of the first two centuries and a half to ascertain what evidence, if any, they furnish of its existence in that earlier period.
THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS, A. D. 90-140. Of these, Ignatius and Polycarp make no allusions to baptism. Clement, in his second epistle, when arguing that sins committed after baptism are unpardonable, makes distinct recognition of the engagements made at baptism as personal acts, and thus seems to exclude the