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BAPTISTS REGARD THE BAPTISM OF UNCONSCIOUS INFANTS AS UNSCRIPTURAL, AND INSIST ON THE BAPTISM OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST; AND OF BELIEVERS ALONE.
EFORE showing wherein Baptists differ from other Christian denominations, it may be well for me to say that in many things there is substantial agreement.
As to the inspiration, and the consequent infallibility, of the word of God, there is no difference of opinion. The Bible is recognized as the supreme standard of faith and practice that is to say, it teaches us what to believe and what to do.
Salvation by grace is a doctrine which commands the cordial assent of all Christians. While "sin reigns unto death," they rejoice that "grace reigns
through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." They expect through endless ages to ascribe their salvation to the sovereign grace of God.
Justification by faith in Christ is a fundamental article of belief among all Christians. Acceptance with God on the ground of their works they know to be impossible, and they give the Lord Jesus the trustful reception which the gospel claims for him, and of which his person, character, and mediatorial work render him infinitely worthy. Christ is the object of their faith.
Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is a Christian doctrine. To be "born of the Spirit" is an essential part of salvation; for the subjects of this second birth become the children of God and heirs of heaven. They "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
With regard to these and kindred topics Baptists are in accord with other evangelical Christians; but there are points of difference. On these points Baptists hold views which distinguish them from Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Methodists. These views they deem so important as to justify their denominational existence; and because they hold these views they are a people "everywhere spoken against." If, however, the distinctive princi
ples of Baptists have their foundation in the word of God, they should be not only earnestly espoused, but maintained with unswerving fidelity. No truth taught in the Scriptures can be considered unimportant while the words of Jesus are remembered: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. v. 19); "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. xxviii. 20).
The account given of John's baptism and of the personal ministry of Christ affor no justification of infant baptism.
In the third chapter of Matthew it is thus written : "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. . . . Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to
come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham."
From these verses we learn that John preached repentance; that those whom he baptized confessed their sins; and that descent from Abraham was not a qualification for baptism. There is nothing in the narrative that can suggest the idea of the baptism of impenitent adults or of unconscious infants. This is equally true of the account of John's ministry a given by the other three evangelists.
Paul, in explaining John's baptism, says, “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus" (Acts xix. 4). Here it is plain that John required in those he baptized repentance and faith. They were not only to repent, but to believe in the coming Christ, for whom it was John's mission to "prepare a people." There is not the remotest allusion to the baptism of any who either did not or could not repent and believe in Christ. Baptists, so far as the subjects of baptism are concerned, certainly imitate closely the example of John the Baptist.
The disciples of Christ baptized no infants during
his ministry. The only reference we have to the baptisms administered by them before the Redeemer's death and resurrection is in John iii. 26; iv. 1, 2, as follows: "And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him;" "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples." From the words quoted from the third chapter it would be thought that Jesus baptized personally; but we have an explanation of the matter in the language of the fourth chapter. Baptism was not administered by the Saviour; but, as his apostles acted under his authority, he is represented as doing what they did by his direction. The fact, however, which deserves special notice is "that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John." There is a distinction between making and baptizing disciples. First in order was the process of discipleship to Christ, and then baptism as a recognition of discipleship. Could unconscious infants be made disciples? Manifestly not. Then, according to this passage, they were not eligible to baptism; for the inference is irresistible that none were baptized who had not first been made disciples.