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The Presbyterians and Infant Baptism
From the Western Baptist Review
Via The Tennessee Baptist, 1849
      The Presbyterians have ever been earnest and enthusiastic champions of Infant Baptism. As occasions might justify or circumstances demand, they have been ready with words or swords, by pen or powder, to assert and maintain its claims. In Geneva and Scotland, the founders of their church, in common with the other articles of their creed, established Infant Baptism by enactments of state; and when, in the seventeenth century, the Presbyterians obtained the ascendancy in the English Parliament, they made the denial of Infant Baptism an offence punishable by imprisonment. And in our times, who more ardent in the advocacy of this rite than Presbyterian ministers and editors? Who more ready than they to do battle for its honor? A short time ago, Dr. Cote, of the Grand Ligne Mission, when addressing a convention of Baptists in Rochester, N. Y., ventured to relate, "that in an interview between himself, a Congregation minister, and a Romish priest, the latter charged the Congregationalist with retaining some of the peculiar usages of Rome: your infant sprinkling, said he, is one of our traditions; it is not in the Bible; it belongs to us," &c. The editor of the New York Observer takes this anecdote of Dr. C. very much to heart; indeed, is quite offended at it. He declares it to be "impertinent and arrogant," and utterly wanting in "Christian courtesy." He says too, that the Presbyterians "regard Infant Baptism as a scriptural duty and an inestimable privilege," and that they "cherish the consecration of their infant offspring in baptism as one of the most hallowed rites that God has ordained for his church;" and not as mere tradition? Of course, the editor of the Observer is entirely serious in his declarations respecting the high and holy estimate set upon Infant Baptism by his church; still, in all honesty, we confess that it is very strange to us how he can be so. What advantage is there in Infant Baptism, our Presbyterian neighbors being witness?

      A pious and intelligent elder of the Presbyterian church, whose son was seriously inquiring about his soul's salvation, said to us not long since: "John asked me this morning, what benefit infant baptism conferred upon an individual? I did not know what to tell him. That is a hard question for us Presbyterians. Will the editor of the New York Observer answer the question? This young man had been, as the Observer will have it, consecrated to God in infancy; but now arrives at man's estate, convicted by the Spirit of God, he feels that he is in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity - a sinner - a child of wrath even as others - justly exposed to hell, whither he will go unless rescued by the amazing grace of God. And his condition is all that he feels it to be, as every intelligent Presbyterian in the land will testify. Not a minister but of that persuasion will bear witness, that this young man might as justly have been punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of God and the glory of his power, as if he had never been baptized in infancy - that it is equally as important that he should be born again, that he should repent and believe the gospel, as if his father had been an Indian or a Mussulman. His baptism in infancy did not change, in a single or a solitary particular, his moral relations to God. It conferred no temporal or spiritual benefit. It imparted no health to the body, gave no vigor to the intellect, and infused no grace into the soul. Presbyterian infant baptism has no promise of the life that now is, or of that which is to come; and yet is a most "inestimable privilege!" - the most "hallowed of all rites." So the Presbyterians teach!

      Among the Papists, infant baptism is a rite of momentous import. It purges from sin - it saves the soul. If Papism be true, infant baptism is indeed an "inestimable privilege" and "one of the most hallowed rites that God has ordained for his church;" and those princes and states who, instigated by the Popes of Rome, enforced by penal statutes, its observance upon all parents were but enforcing a regulation necessary to secure the best interests of mankind. Admit the doctrine, and the laws were wise, salutary and philanthropic. Even the Episcopalians may plead a strong motive for baptizing their infants; and their children can very flippantly tell why, their sponsors carried them to the font: for each one is taught in the Catechism to say: "In baptism, I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven." In Europe generally, where infant baptism is established by law, this rite is of great importance, for in most countries there, whether Papist or Protestant, no one can buy or sell - hold office, enjoy any of the rights of citizenship, or receive decent burial - without baptism. But our Presbyterian neighbors profess to eschew all these things. They denounce them as monstrous superstitions and damnable heresies. True, in their Confession of Faith it is written, that "grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed to it [baptism,] as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated;" clearly implying, that some are regenerated and saved by baptism. This, we say, is taught in the Presbyterian Confession of Faith; but that article savors too strong of Popery to suit the tastes of our contemporaries who subscribe to it. They by no means give it the meaning which it bore in days of the Solemn League and Covenant; when

"Doctrine was proved orthodox,
By apostolic blows and knocks.

      Our neighbors now generally understand it in a Pickwickian sense. At least, they affect to spurn with supreme loathing and disgust, the doctrine, that baptism regenerates and saves. So they baptize infants for no such purpose. With them, this rite imparts no such benefits as among Papist and the great mass of Protestants. And again the question occurs. What are its advantages according to Presbyterianism?

      Why, says the editor of the New York Observer, we thus consecrate our children to God. But who required this at your hands? Where, in all the Bible, are we taught to consecrate our infants in baptism, any more than we are taught thus to consecrate bells, or horses, or donkeys? And echo answers - "Where?" Besides, this explanation does not remove the objection. If this consecration secure no grace - changes in no respect the moral relations of infants - improves the condition of neither the soul nor the body - confers no benefit and secures no blessing - why then, calling it a consecration may make it a more solemn farce, but still it remains most emphatically a farce! You change its name, but not its nature. It still leans its idiot back against folly's topmost twig.

      But, says another, it is a great pleasure and privilege for Christian parents to have their offspring, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, in the church with them. So Dr. Miller, of Princeton, Peter Edwards and others teach. But infants are not made members of the Presbyterian church by baptism. They are born to whatever of membership they enjoy. So teaches Dr. Miller. Besides, if they are not in the church before baptism, then they must remain out of it until they profess faith and repentance: for in the Larger Catechism, it is taught: - "Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him." But infants are not members of the Presbyterian church. Whatever her ministers and symbols may declare to the contrary, we fearlessly affirm that in no proper sense are infants members of the Presbyterian church. Their baptism secures to them none of the privileges of membership. They are treated in all respect like children unbaptised. They do not commune at the Lord's table. They are not considered subject to the discipline of the church. If they quarrel and fight over a piece of bread and butter, their mothers, like all other mothers, usually administer the necessary discipline in the nursery - they never dream of entering a complaint against them before "the most potent, grave and reverend signiors" of the session. They are not allowed to vote in the call of a pastor. They are not reported, in the official documents of the church, as members. They are treated precisely as other young persons. If, when arrived to years of discretion, they bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, then they are recognized as members; but not until then.

      In fine, as we have had occasion heretofore to remark, infant baptism, among our Presbyterian neighbors, is nothing more than the solemn sprinkling of water in the face of a babe! - This "scriptural duty," and precious "privilege," and most "important rite" as the New York Observer calls it "has this extent - no more." It is a mere bubble - a phantom. Learned doctors, in contending for it, are but "children of a larger growth" - "pleased with a rattle and tickled with a straw."

      But, says the New York Observer, it is a "scriptural duly," and because enjoined in the Scriptures, it ought to be observed! But it is not a scriptural duly. Baptism and infants are no where mentioned in the same connection in the Bible. We defy all the men of earth lo produce even one verse of Holy Writ where infant baptism is commanded. We know, as an ingenious Baptist historian remarks, that our Presbyterians friends manifest great tact and ingenuity in inventing scriptural arguments by which to infer this unmeaning rite. "It is written, God made a covenant with Abraham and his family: therefore, though it is not written, we ought to believe he makes a covenant with every Christian and his family. God settled on Abraham and his family a large landed estate: therefore he gives every Christian and his family the benefits of the Christian religion. God commanded Abraham and his family to circumcise their children: therefore all professors of Christianity ought, without a command, not to circumcise but baptize their children. Jesus said, Suffer little children to come unto me: therefore infants who cannot come, ought to be carried, not to Jesus, but to a minister, not to be healed, but to be baptized. Paul advised married believers at Corinth not to divorce their unbelieving yoke-fellows, lest they should stain the reputation of their children with the scandal of illegitimacy: therefore infants, legitimate and illegitimate, ought to be baptized. Adam offended God, but was never baptized: therefore infants who have not offended God ought to be baptized. A man of 80 years of age says, be believes the gospel: therefore his neighbor's infant of eight days ought to be baptized, as if he believed the gospel."* By such logic Papists might justify the baptism of bells; or any other of their numerous superstitious practices. The tortuous logic by which Presbyterians attempt to derive infant baptism from the Bible, is enough to convince the candid that it is not a scriptural rite; but a human tradition: that it is, indeed, but a relic of Popery.           J. L. W. [John L. Waller]
* Robert Robinson's History of Infant Baptism.

[From the Western Baptist Review via The Tennessee Baptist, February 8, 1849, p. 1. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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