THE following tract, published by the American Baptist Publication Society, is by Rev. Richard Fuller, D. D. It is eminently worthy of the perusal of parents, stating in the most satisfactory manner the Scriptural view of the subject. - D. C. Haynes
Dr. Richard Fuller on Infant Salvation, Baptism and Dedication
1. Are not infants, dying in infancy, saved? Certainly. Of a child which was the fruit of sin, David says, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me " (2 Samuel xii. 23.) It would be horrid blasphemy, to suppose that God can consign to hell infants who have never known good from evil. There is no controversy between Baptists and evangelical Pedobaptists on this point.
2. Ought not parents to dedicate their children to God? Assuredly. A Christian consecrates himself and all he has to Christ. And this is to be done by parents themselves, not by priests or ministers. In Mark x. 13, it was the parents, not the Apostles, who brought infants to Jesus. Yes, fathers and mothers, take your little ones to Him who is the same Jesus
now; supplicate his blessing on your offspring. Do more. Show, by your conduct, that you are sincere. When they are old enough, pray with them, send them to the Sunday School, and, above all, let your example point to heaven, and lead the way. To neglect this duty to our children, is to be ungrateful to God, who has given them to us; it is to be most perfidious and unnatural to our offspring, who inherit from us depraved natures; in a word, it is to prepare for ourselves sorrow while our children live, and the bitterest reproaches of our consciences if they are cut off in sin. There is no difference between Baptist and Peiobaptist brethren on this article.
3. Where, then, is the difference? It is as to baptizing infants. Jesus Christ commands all to repent - to believe - to be baptized. These are personal duties. The command is not to parents to do something for their children, but to each individual, requiring him to obey for himself. Can a parent obey, for a child, the command to repent? All answer, No - the child, when it grows up, must repent for itself. Can a parent obey, for his child, the command to believe? All reply, Certainly not - the child, when of sufficient age, must believe for itself.
Now the command to be baptized is just like these commands, and yet our Pedobaptist brethren maintain that parents can obey for their children. They teach that a parent and minister can do something for an unconscious babe, by which it may be said that the babe has obeyed the command to be baptized, so that the child is absolved, when it grows up, from the duty of personal obedience. As your friend, as the friend of Christ, as the friend of your children - for I am myself a parent - I wish affectionately to warn you against this error.
My friend, your common sense must convince you of the fallacy of such a doctrine. Your reason teaches you that we cannot obey God by proxy; that obedience to God is a personal duty, and that no one can obey for another. It is sometimes said that Christian parents must baptize their children,
because Jewish parents circumcised theirs. But you see the sophistry of such reasoning. The command to circumcise was to parents and masters as such. "He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man-child in your generations; he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger that is not of thy seed." (Genesis xvii. 12.) This is a command to parents, to perform a certain act on an infant eight days old; and to masters, to perform a certain act on a servant as soon as they purchased him. But baptism is not a command of this sort. It is a command to each individual, to be obeyed by himself. " Go preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark xvi. 15, 16.) Here the being saved is personal salvation; the believing is personal faith; and the baptism is an act of personal obedience.
When a general sends an order to his officers, the officers have no authority to go beyond that order. They must read it and obey it. If the commission is, "First instruct and train men, and then enlist them into the army," the officers cannot enlist men not instructed nor trained; it would be absurd to say that they can enlist infants. When these infants grow up they may be trained and enlisted, if they choose. And this is just the fact as to baptism. Jesus has given his written order as to baptism. The order requires ministers first to "preach the gospel," to "teach" people, then to "baptize" those that believe. This, of course, forbids the baptism of any who are not taught, or do not believe. Infants cannot listen to preaching, cannot be taught, cannot believe, and, therefore, cannot be subjects for baptism.
Let no one throw dust in your eyes by saying, "If infants cannot be baptized because they cannot believe, then infants cannot be saved." We have already said that infants are saved, saved through the blood of Him who "died for all." But the command to believe and be baptized is addressed to those who can believe and be baptized. It is absurd to
suppose that God requires faith, or baptism, or any duty from babes.
Open your Bible. Yon find there not a trace of infant baptism. If infants are to be baptized, Jesus would have baptized the children brought to Him. But this was plainly never thought of, either by the parents, or by the Saviour and his Apostles. "He took them up in his arms, and put his hands upon them, and blessed them." (Mark x. 16.) In all the cases of baptism recorded in the Scriptures, the parties were intelligent beings, who heard and acted for themselves. It is sometimes said that households were baptized. What then? This clearly proves nothing, unless it be shown that there were infants in those households. "Mr. Smith and his family were at church;" does this prove that there are infants in Mr. Smith's family, and that infants were at church? The Baptists often baptize families. But we are not left to conjecture here. In the case of the jailer's household, it is expressly said that they "believed" and "rejoiced." (Acts xvi.) Of the household of Stephanas it is declared, that they " addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." (1st Corinthians xvi. 15.) The only other household is that of Lydia. From the history (Acts xvi.) all we know is, that she was a woman keeping her own dyeing establishment. Dr. Whitby, (a learned Pedobaptist,) in his commentary on this passage, says, "When she and those of her household were instructed in the Christian faith, in the nature of baptism required by it, she was baptized and her household." She and those employed in her establishment were baptized. There is not a word about her being married, or having children. The whole account, and her reception of the Apostles afterwards, (v. 15,) shows that she was a woman having her "own house," and doing business on her own account.
The advocates of this error sometimes quote Acts ii. 39. "For the promise is to you and to your children." Read the whole passage. It will expose this plea, drawn from a garbled
quotation. "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized." What is the promise here mentioned? At verse 16th we are expressly informed that it included the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, which babes do not, of course, receive. "This is that which is spoken of by the prophet Joel. And it shall come to pass in the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." To whom is the promise made? "To you" (Jews) "and your children;" that is, the Jews and their posterity, (as Joel says, "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy;" not babes, but children who can prophesy;) "and to all that are afar off;" that is, the Gentiles; (as Joel says, "all flesh;") "even as many as the Lord our God shall call." How absurd to talk about infants being called! The remaining words settle the matter. "Then they that gladly received the word were baptized."
Baptism is a New Testament institution, and the New Testament teaches us who are to be baptized. They are believers only. Those who go to the Old Testament and the Jewish circumcision for arguments, plainly confess that the New Testament is against them. Baptism is a Christian command, to be obeyed by each individual for himself or herself. Circumcision was a command to the Jewish nation, requiring them to put a certain national mark on all male infants and slaves. The two things are as distinct as any two commands. in the whole Bible. I will, therefore, not dwell on this fallacy, except to remark, that when circumcision is spoken of in the New Testament with reference to Christians, it is never used as typical of baptism, but as emblematical of conversion and holiness. The very passage often cited by Pedobaptists proves this. It is Colossians ii. 11, 12. Read the passage, and you will see that the Apostle is describing a "complete" Christian,
(v. 10.) And he notices two things: his conversion, or the inward change; and baptism, or the outward confession. First, (v. 11,) because in circumcision a part of the flesh was cut off, conversion is called "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision made without hands, the circumcision of Christ;" that is, the change which Christ by his Spirit performs on the heart. Then, afterwards, (v. 12,) comes baptism, which is compared, not to circumcision, but to a burial and resurrection. "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead."
Parents, dedicate your children to God; but do not, in the very act, commit that which God has not commanded, and which cannot, therefore, be pleasing to him.
4. Perhaps, however, you may say: After all, what harm can this ceremony do? To which I answer, it plainly does no good, and it does much harm.
1st. It perverts the Gospel. Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of this world." His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. But read the writings of those who practice infant baptism, and you find they are forced to maintain that Jesus has a kingdom which is of this world, into which water can introduce an unconscious babe. Jesus says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The advocates of infant baptism teach that a child born of the flesh can enter the kingdom of God, by having a little water sprinkled on it. This perversion of the gospel is the foundation of the Popish system, and of the union of Church and State in Protestant countries.
2d. It makes void the command of God by a human tradition.
There is plainly no authority for baptizing infants in the Bible. It is equally plain that the practice began long after the Apostles. Curcellaeus (a learned Pedobaptist) says, "Pedobaptism was not known in the world the two first ages after Christ. In the third and fourth centuries it was approved by few. At length, in the fifth and following ages, it began to obtain in divers places. Therefore we observe this rite indeed as an ancient custom, but not as an apostolical tradition. The custom of baptizing infants did not begin before the third age after Christ, and there appears not the least footstep of it in the first two centuries." (Crosby's History Preface 66.) This human custom, but for the Baptists, would entirely abolish from the earth the baptism of the New Testament, which is the immersion of believers.
3d. Infant baptism attacks and insults the mercy of God. For it originated in the horrid impiety, that infants will be damned without baptism. Thus Augustine, (A. D. 410,) says: "The Catholic Church has ever held that unbaptized infants will miss, not only the kingdom of heaven, but also eternal life." (Wall on Infant Baptism, vol. i. pp. 411, 412.) And it is still really perpetuated by the same shocking doctrine, though its advocates are now afraid openly to avow it. Their insinuations about "covenant mercies," about infants being "admitted into the kingdom," &c., and their haste to sprinkle water on a dying child, all mean this, and nothing else.
4th. Infant baptism dishonors the Saviour. It cherishes the injurious idea that his blood is not enough; that our children, dying in infancy, cannot be saved through his atonement, but that the parent and minister must perform some act on them and for them, besides what Christ has done.
5th. I will only add, that this unscriptural practice does a serious injury to our children. It nourishes in them a vague idea that something has been performed towards their salvation. It prevents their searching the Scriptures for themselves, when they grow up. It fosters deeply-rooted prejudices, and
causes them to repel the thought that their parents could have been in error. And thus, the very love which your children bear you closes their minds against all investigation, and perpetuates in them, and in their children's children, error and disobedience, which would at once cease, if they were left to read the Bible, and judge for themselves as to this command.
In proof of what has just been said, my dear friend, I appeal to yourself. I ask you candidly, have you examined the Bible for yourself as to the question of baptism? You will confess that you have not. And why have you not? Because you have grown up with the idea that your parents attended to the matter for you. God commands "all men every where to repent;" none can so blind you, as to make you believe that your parents yielded to this command for you. God says to all, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ;" you are incapable of a delusion which would lull you into the folly of trusting that yo.ur parents had believed for you. You love the Saviour, and feel the absurdity of supposing that you need not love him because your parents loved him for you. How is it, then, that you can live and die under an illusion equally glaring? When God commands all believers to be baptized, how can you think that your parents obeyed this command for you? When Jesus says, "If you love me, keep my commandments," will you mock him, and do the grossest violence to your own reason, by saying, "I love Jesus, but this or that command I need not keep; my parents kept it for me?" Are you willing to die, and meet your Saviour with such a plea on your lips?
Do not suffer any one to perplex a plain thing by talking about "covenant mercies," and "circumcision," and the like. Search the Scriptures, and you will see that infant baptism is not a command of God, but an invention of man. It was introduced on account of the unscriptural, popish idea, that water washes away original sin, and that none can be saved unless baptized, no matter how impossible baptism may be. Do not lend your countenance to an error so insulting to God
and so pernicious to your children. Believe and be baptized yourself. Train up your children in the way they should go. By prayer and counsel and example seek to win them to Jesus. And admonish them to search for themselves those Scriptures, "which are able to make them wise unto salvation." So shall the blessing of God be upon you, and "it shall be well with you and your children forever."
[From D. C. Haynes, The Baptist Denomination: Its History, Doctrines, and Ordinances, 1856, pp. 185-193. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on Baptists: Various Subjects
Baptist History Homepage