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Have Baptists as a People been Indifferent
to the Conversion of the Young?

By Samuel H. Ford, 1889
      IT is not unfreqnently charged that opposition to infant baptism made the Baptists of old time (and to some extent still) indifferent to the conversion of the young. True Baptist history gives a stern and overwhelming denial to the charge.

      The facts are: The covenants of Baptist churches as far back as we can trace them, pledge each member to bring up their offspring in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord." 2nd. The first Sunday-school for religious instruction, originated with a Baptist, before Robert Bakes opened his secular school. 3rd. The first organized Sunday-school Society in the world was formed by the members of the Prescott Street Baptist church, London (of which Abraham Booth was afterwards pastor) in a " Hall at the Poultry London." 4th. Baptists have ever repelled as a slander the charge that the denial of infant baptism led to indifference about the early conversion of children.

      But beyond these undeniable facts, the fruits of Baptist doctrine and teaching are manifest in the lives of thousands of their eminent men. We notice a few of those:

      Benjamin Keach the eloquent and pious sufferer for Christ's sake - who stood in the pillory by order of the judges for writing and publishing a book entitled "The Child's Instructor" and also to pay a fine of twenty pounds and remain in prison two months -- was converted and baptized at fifteen years of age, preached at eighteen, and became pastor of the church at Horslydown London (the same church that Spurgeon is pastor of to-day) when twenty-eight years old. (Born 1640.)

      John Gill was converted at the age of twelve years under a sermon preached by his father's pastor; was soon afterward baptized and when twenty-three was called to be the successor of Keach, in London. (Born 1697.)

      John Rippon (the successor of Gill) was led to trust in the Lord Jesus when sixteen, was soon after licensed to preach and entered Bristol College when a little over seventeen. When about twenty he was unanimously chosen pastor of the Park Lane Baptist church London and succeeded the great Dr.Gill. (Born 1751.)

      John Ryland, whose father was an uncompromising Baptist minister was converted at fourteen, baptized by his father and ordained at the age of 18 - one of the founders of the first Missionary Society. (Born 1755.)

      Joseph Stennet, whose father, Joseph Stennet Senior, was a distinguished Baptist minister and author, was converted and baptized when fifteen years of age. He was ordained at 22, and became pastor of the regular Baptist church at Little Wild Street, London, when he was twenty-three. (Born 1692.)

      Samuel Stennet (son of the foregoing) was converted when quite a child, and baptized at an early age. He succeeded his father as pastor of Little Wild Street church, London, and John Howard the philanthropist was a member of his congregation. (Born 1798.)

      Robert Hall, also the son of a Baptist minister, was converted at nine years of age, began to preach at fifteen, and was assistant pastor at Broad Mead, Bristol, before he reached his majority - the most eloquent of all the pulpit orators in England. (Born 1764.)

      Andrew Fuller, the great theologian and one of the founders of modern missions - with Carey and others - was converted at fourteen years of age, baptized at sixteen, and ordained at twenty-one. (Born 1754.)

      This list might be increased. The names are chosen from those who lived in a time when Baptists had to defend every inch of ground they occupied - when they opposed infant baptism with an energy almost amounting to fierceness. Yet it is evident that their stern uncompromising and aggressive course produced no indifference to the conversion of the young. It is painful in view of these patent facts to see Dr. Armitage's words quoted by Pedo-Baptists from his History. They are as follows and are unjust as well as unhistorical:

"The natural tendency of things in the old times of harsh and hard controversy on Infant Baptism, when our fathers were obliged to struggle all the time for the right to be, was to look with comparative indifference if not suspicion, on the conversion of youth in very tender age. Happily that unreasonable and unlovely state of things is passing away, and our churches are learning the holy art of winning very young children to Jesus, as soon as they can understand His claims upon them and are able to love and serve Him. . . . Instead of leaving our children to run wild until their hearts are all gnarled and scarified, like a knotted oak tree, we are bringing our little ones to Jesus, that He may lay His hands on them and bless them."

[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository and Home Circle, May, 1889, pp. 335-336. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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