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Observer, May 1, 71,
other side of the street, then a majority of its members might have the right to expel anyone who suggested an enlargement of its basis; but if the Church is the household of faith—a brotherhood under one Father-then, I think, in such a household, confidence, and charity, and forbearance ought to be supreme; and when an appeal is made to that which is higher than all creeds or compacts, such an appeal ought to be received not with suspicion, but with respect. It is the word of the Father, and not the mere compact of the brethren, that ought to decide the matter."
The result of the discussion was that Dr. Davidson's motion was carried by 31 to 18. Several members protested and appealed to the Synod, and what the decision of that august assembly will be remains to be seen.
T. Y. M.
Mr. Ferguson certainly looks backward with a longing eye to the "simplicity and spirituality of the apostolic age," a return to which, he considers, would be a blessing to the world. Thus looking and thus considering, it may seem, to him, very consistent to set at naught all human compilations of doctrine and to prefer the unadulterated milk of the word. But still after all he is not consistent. He deems it the duty of & Christian minister to go right on in learning and teaching truth. In this he is right. He protests against viewing the Church as “ founded on a mère voluntary compact, a society got up to compete with the older Establishment on the other side of the street,” in which case “its members might have the right to expel everyone who suggested an enlargement of its basis." In this there is a strange commingling of right and wrong. If it be applied to the Church of God, then the right to "enlarge its basis” must be denied to everyone who does not come attended by the " signs of an apostle.” If spoken of the Presbyterian Church, then it is altogether inapplicable; for that church is founded on a “human compact,” and it may not require a very wide stretch of the imagination to see it as a society got up to compete with the older Establishment on the other side of the street. That church has its Confession of Faith, which is not the product of inspiration, but a purely human document. Now a man whose faith is not in accord with that confession has no right in that church. If within it, he should not remain: if out of it, he ought not to enter. Let Mr. Ferguson, if his wish be for the “simplicity of the apostolic age,” find or plant a church which has no standard save the Bible, no confession other than the form of sound words written by inspired men; no polity save that which appertained to the first churches. Then his. brethren, should they consider him to err in doctrine, will appeal only to the Bible, and if he cannot be condemned thereby he must remain uncondemned. But that is not the right of any man in the Church of Rome, nor in the Church of England, nor in that of Scotland, nor in that of any church which adopts as a standard the Westminster or. any other confession.
DR. STOCK AND INFANT BAPTISM.* The following letter was sent to us a few weeks ago :
DEAR SIRS,-In your impression of February 17th you give a quotation from Dr. Stock as a new argument for believers' baptism-viz., that "none of the distinguished Fathers
, of the early church were baptized in infancy,” and there are mentioned Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Nestorius, Ambrose, Jerome and
A letter from Dr. Stock in the Freeman presented as an argument against infant baptism, that “none of the distinguished Fathers of the early church were baptized in infancy.'' Ris letter has produced the reply and rejoinder here given. The argument of Dr. Stock is not new, but he presents many facts in so condensed a form that it is deemed well to place them on our pages for reference,
Observer, May 1, 71
Augustine." Before I go further I shall be obliged if Dr. Stock, or any other friend will inform me how many of the above-mentioned fathers (Gregory Nazianzen excepted) were children of Christian ministers ? and also, where it is to be learned that all of them, as Dr. Stock affirms, were baptized when grown up ?
Now, I think, in matters of doubt it is always best to go to the fountain head, and, as Dr. Stock has referred to the Fathers living in the fourth century, I beg to refer and quote from those of the second and third centuries. Irenæus, a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John, says “Christ came to save us all by Himself, all, I say, infants and young children, boys and young men, and old men,” (see Ed. Grabbii, Oxford, 1702) and Cyprian, living in the early part of the third century, says “If to the greatest of sinners, and to those who have offended God a long time, yet afterwards believe in Him, remission of sin is granted (and no one is debarred from receiving baptism and grace), how much more ought not those benefits to be denied to an infant, who, being but newly born, bath as yet no way sinned, except that being born in the flesh according to Adam he hath contracted the contagion of the old death from his very birth ; who is the more easily admitted to receive remission of sin upon this very account, because he hath no sins of his own to be remitted, but only those of others," (see Fells ed., Oxford, 1682).
Plenty of undoubted proof of infant baptism in the early Christian Church can be found in any complete work on the catacombs of Rome. I will close my remarks by citing a part of Pliny's celebrated letter to Trajan, written about seventy years after Christ's death :-“I have,” said he,“ been present at the examination of the Christians,
nor are my doubts small whether there be not a distinction to be made between the ages of the accused, and whether tender youth ought to have the same punishment with strong men. And, again, he says " there are many (Christians) of every age, of every rank, and of both sexes.' Margate.
JOHN HEARN. We append Dr. Stock's reply
The evidence, that infant baptism cannot have been known in the Apostolic Church, seems to me to amount to a demonstration. Let us go at once to “the fountain head” as Mr. Hearn desires.
1. The Evangelists contain no allusion to the institution of such a rite. On the contrary they "give no sign" on that question, when (supposing infant baptism to be in harmony with God's will), they must have spoken. When children are brought to Christ He blesses them, but says nothing to their anxious parents about baptizing them. In the last commission not a word is said about baptizing infants with their “ discipled” parents. The Acts of the Apostles are silent as death, when they must have alluded to the rite of infant baptism, supposing it to have existed. The controversies about the perpetuity of circumcision could not have arisen had the apostles from the beginning taught that infant baptism had come in the room of infant circumcision; but, supposing such a controversy to have arisen through ignorance, it would have been immediately settled by a reference to the substitution of the one rite for the other. Yet at the council held at Jerusalem to consider this controversy, no such solution was even hinted at by any of the inspired debaters. (See Acts xv.) The epistles present the same remarkable absence of all 'allusions to such a ceremony as infant baptism, where some reference must have been made to it, if it were the universal practice in the Apostolic Church. Parents are often admonished about their duties to their children, not once are they reminded to baptize them in infancy. No passing allusion is made that even im ies the existence of such a practice. No plea, or exhortation, or argument is based upon it. In short, the New Testament is absolutely dumb as to any incidental reference to the then existence of infant baptism ; and is so especially in cases where allusion must have been made to it, supposing it to have been practised. The households baptized were households of “believers,” and “ brethren"; such households as may be found in all our larger Baptist churches.
2. The Apostolical Fathers, Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius, who
Observer, May 1, '71.
constitute the first connecting link between the Apostolic Church and ourselves, are equally silent as to the existence of infant baptism in their day. There is not a word in any of their preserved writings about the observance of such a rite by the churches of that era. And (like the New Testament), they too, are silent where they must have spoken, supposing the ceremony to have been then in universal practice. As, for example, when Clement, in his second Epistle, three times refers to baptism as the seal of the Christian profession.
3. The quotation from Irenæus given by Mr. Hearn does not touch the question in dispute. Baptists believe that Christ came to save infants. That , however, does not imply their right to baptism. The whole passage
. in Irenæus reads thus :-" For He came to save all by himself—all, I say, who through him are born again unto God; infants, and little children and boys, and young men; and old men. Therefore, He passed through every age, and for infants was made an infant (thus) sanctifying infants ; among little children (He became), a little child, (thus) sanctifying those who are of this same age, and at the same time presented them an example of piety and integrity, and obedience; among young men (He became) a young man, producing an example for young men and sanctifying them to the Lord.” There is not a word here about baptism. It is a mere petitio principii to say that the clause “ Qui per Eum renascunter in Deum"
Who through Him are born again unto God”—means, "Who through baptism are born again unto God." The argument of Irenæus is simply that Jesus sanctified every age by Himself passing through it. But what has that to do with the question before us? The argument, as Mr. Hearn employs it, would entitle every age to baptism, irrespectively of faith in the recipient. Irenæus was born about A.D. 140, and died at Lyons about 202. He was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John.
4. The letter of Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan, written about seventy years after our Lord's Ascension (Liber x. Ep. xcvii.) contains not a particle of evidence that Christians of the apostolic age baptized
The Oxford edition of 1703 reads :-"I have never (nunquam) been present at the examinations of the Christians, therefore I am ignorant.
nor have I a little hesitated whether there should not be a distinction made between ages, whether those of tender years (teneri) should in no way be discriminated from older people
For many persons of every age, of every rank, and of both sexes, are placed, and will be placed, in peril of their lives.”
Here is nothing about infant baptism. All that Pliny tells us is, that many of those who had made the Christian profession were very young. Church history, indeed, informs us, that some of the most heroic martyrs of the faith in early days were comparitive children. That children of
years were baptized in the early Church is evident; but then these children were invariably such as “ walked in the truth” (John ii. 1, 4, 13). Baptists have too generally substituted what they call adult baptism for believers' baptism. The New Testament and the Apostolic Church know nothing of adult baptism, merely as such, but they both recognize the right of all who personally repent, believe, and “ walk in the truth,” of however tender an age, to the holy ordinance of baptism. A child of sufficient intelligence to trust and love the Saviour is old enough to be baptized. We ourselves have known two children, a brother and sister, one nine and the other eleven years of age, baptized on a profession of faith ; and why not? we say.
5. The ground is thus cleared up to the age of Tertullian, who was born, probably at Carthage, about A.D. 170, and died about 240. Tertullian is the first Father who makes unmistakeable allusion to the existence of such a rite as infant baptism ; and he refers to it as an innovation then coming into practice, and dissuades from it as fraught with great peril. It is remarkable, too, that the first practice of infant baptism was connected with the use of sponsors, who repented and believed for the child. Dissenting Pædobaptists, therefore have no just occasion to take exception to the use of sponsors in the established Episcopal Church and in the Church of Rome; for the first infant baptism practised in the professing church was clearly sponsorial in its character. Faith and repentance were still regarded as pre-requisites to baptism, but as they could not be had from the infant they were accepted from sponsors. The teachings of the catechism of the Established Church, however repugnant to the feelings of Evangelical Pædobaptist Dissenters, have the merit of presenting the earliest defence of infant baptism that ecclesiastical history furnishes. The practice of baptizing infants clearly arose out of the heretical doctrines of sacramental efficacy and priestly power. In a later age, St. Augustine of Hippo defended sponsorial faith for an infant in these terms-He, the infant, “credit in altero qui peccavit in altero," believes in another—i.e., the sponsor, who sinned in another, i.e., Adam. (Hagenbach's History, vol. ii. p. 83.
Tertullian reasons thus :- Why is it necessary that sponsors as well should be brought into peril, who themselves by death may abandon their promises, or may be deceived by the growth of a corrupt disposition ? The Lord indeed says, do not hinder them from coming to me!
Let them come, then, provided that they are growing up; let them come provided that they are learning, provided that they are being taught whence they come; let them become Christians (with Tertullian this is equivalent to let them be baptized) when they shall have become able to know Christ. Why should an innocent (i.e., infantile) age hasten to the remission of sins?" (De Baptismo, Works, Paris folio edition, 1580.)
This passage amounts to a demonstration that infant baptism was not an apostolical usage received by the church from the first. Had it been so it would not have been opposed by such a man as Tertullian, who professed great reverence for everything apostolical. It was clearly in the time of Tertullian a then commencing innovation.
6. That Cyprian, who was converted to Christianity in A.D. 246, and died in A.D. 258, defended infant baptism is, of course, not disputed by us. He was one of those who added the weight of his authority to the new practice. But the fact that orthodox Fathers are thus found at first taking different sides in this controversy, proves that infant baptism cannot have been apostolical. Had it been apostolical, no dispute of the kind could have arisen in that early age. The rite would have been accepted by all as a matter of course.
That the ceremony did not at first make rapid progress is obvious from the fact that, so far as we can ascertain, none of the distinguished Fathers of the early church were baptized in infancy. This is the more remarkable because most of them had devout Christian parents, and yet we have the record of their baptism after conversion. Clearly, then, in those godly families infant baptism must have been unknown. Some of these Fathers were the children of Christian ministers, and yet remained unbaptized until they were upwards of twenty years of age.
We give the following cases as illustrations of this argument, but others
Observer, May 1, 71.
might be adduced. Three notable and undoubted examples shall first be given in a very condensed form from the Western Church. We take them in their chronological order :
ST. AMBROSE: born at Milan A.D. 340, died Bishop of Milan, A.D. 397; was the child of Christian parents of noble rank, but was not baptized until the year 374, when he was thirty-four year old. The people of Milan actually elected him bishop by acclamation while he was yet only a catechumen; and his baptism and the subsequent ecclesiastical steps had to be hurried on that he might be qualified for the episcopal office. (The reader may consult the English Cyclopædia, by Charles Knight; the Encyclopædia Britannica ; Articles, Ambrosius, St; Dean Milman's History of Christianity, vol. iii. pp. 241-243; Biographie Universelle Ancienne et Moderne ; Paris, 1811; Article, Ambroise (S.); Socrates, Eccle. Hist. p. 251; Bohn's Trans., &c., &c.)
Sr. JEROME : Born about the year 331 at Stridon on the confines of Pannonia and Dalmatia, and died in 420. He was the son of rich Christian parents. While a youth he left home to study literature at Rome, where he was converted and baptized when about twenty-five years of age. (See the Encyclopædia Britannica : General Biography, by Dr. John Aikin and others; Article, Jerome, St.; Biographie Universelle, &c.,; Article, Jerome, St. Hieronymus; Dean Milman's History of Christianity, vol, iii. p. 324, note; à secunda nativitute means from Jerome's baptism, &c.)
ST. AUGUSTINE, of Hippo : Born in the year 354, died in 430. His parents were Christians of respectable rank. In his childhood he was attacked by a dangerous illness; he entreated to be baptized; his mother Monica took the alarm; all was prepared for that solemn ceremony, but on his recovery it was deferred, and Augustine remained in the humble rank of catechumen. He was baptized by St. Ambrose at Milan in 387, when thirty-three years old. His mother Monica was one of the brightest ornaments of the early church. The whole case shows clearly that the doctrine of sacramental efficacy was the parent of infant baptism. (See Dean Milman’s History of Christianity, vol. iii. pp. 273—276; Encyclopædia Brittanica ; the English Cyclopædia, C. Knight; Biographie Universelle, &c., &c.; Article, Augustine, St. ; Neander, Eccle. Hist., vol. iii., p. 321,
Our next examples shall be taken from the Eastern Division of early Christendom.
ST. ATHANASIUS: Born probably in Alexandria and about the year 296 ; died in 373.
The anecdotes related of his childhood would seem to indicate that he must have had pious parents, and have received a Christian education (Socrates : Eccle. Hist. li. c. 15). He afterwards entered the house of Alexander, Archbishop of Alexandria by whom he was baptized and made his secretary. His after-life is well known. Alban Butler affirms that “ his parents where Christians remarkable for their virtues.” His case must, however, be held to be somewhat doubtful. (Biographie Universelle, &c., &c., Article, Athanase, S.; Tillemont's Memoires pour servir a l'histoire ecclesiastique, &c. Dr. Arnold, of America, maintains that the case of Athanasius is an illustration of our argument.)
ST. EPHREM OF EDESSA :-Died in 378. Alban Butler in his Lives of the Saints, &c., says, Ephrem was born of parents who “ were ennobled by the blood of Martyrs in their family, and had themselves both confessed Christ before the persecutors, under Divclesian or his successors. They consecrated Ephrem to God from his cradle, like another Samuel, but he Was eighteen years old when he was baptized.” St. Ephrem's ancestors