The Biblical Doctrine of Baptism – Part 2 of 4

THE DOCTRINE OF INFANT SPRINKLING—IS IT BIBLICAL?

Part Two of Four

It should be understood that the sincerity of those brethren who practice infant sprinkling are convinced that they are correct in the manner in which they administer baptism.  That they desire as much as any to adhere to the written word of God will be admitted, albeit the lack of evidence notwithstanding.

There is much to be said about the joy and delight received by much of the written material they have published, and some of the most precious fellowship ever enjoyed by many saints of God.  Nevertheless, the correct interpretation and obedience to the same as that which is taught in the scriptures is crucial.

The practice of infants as the subjects for baptism, and sprinkling as the mode, is not found in the sacred text.  Since there is no support for either of the subjects (infants and sprinkling) as to the mode, where then did this manner of baptism find its origin?

The practice of immersion was universal (in England) in the reign of Henry VIII (1509-47).  It was the form of baptism of all parties.  The Church of England practiced immersion.  The Catholics practiced immersion.  The Baptists practiced immersion.”  (John T. Christian; Baptist)

“This change in England and other Protestant countries from immersion to pouring, and from to pouring to sprinkling was encouraged by the authority of Calvin.”  (Philip Schaff; Teaching the Apostles, 51, 52 Presbyterian)

“Sprinkling it seems was begun in 1645 and used by very few.  It must have begun in the disorderly times after 1641.” (Wall, Episcopalian)

“From Scotland this practice (sprinkling) made its way in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, but was not authorized by the established Church.  In the Assembly of Divines, held at Westminster in 1643, it was keenly debated whether immersion or sprinkling should be adopted; 25 voted for sprinkling and 24 voted for immersion.  (David Brewster, Free Church of Scotland)

Who had the authority to change baptism from immersion to sprinkling?  Haydock pronounced that the Roman Catholic Church had the right to change from immersion to sprinkling.  (Haydock’s Catholic Family Bible and Commentary).  Haydock admits that Christ was immersed but states that the Catholic Church has the right to change the form.  However, the Catholics are not the only denomination that embrace this position.

From the early part of New Testament history infant baptism was not preformed.  The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) does not include unbelievers as candidates for Christian baptism.  When the baptism of infants became a practice in the post-apostolic day, it was by immersion.  Even among the Catholics as well as the Churches of the Reformation immersion was the mode used in the ordinance.  This method of baptism in later centuries little by little was changed by much of professed Christendom to pouring then to sprinkling.  By the 1800’s, this method of baptism (sprinkling) was so universal that it was and is the current belief to many concerning baptism.  However, this is the not command of Jesus Christ.

BARNABAS, Paul’s companion wrote “Consider how he hath joined both the cross and the water together; for this he saith, Blessed are they who putting their trust in the cross, descend into the water.”

CLEMENS, “That they are right subjects of baptism, who have passed through an examination and instruction.”

DR. MOSHEIM, “Whoever acknowledged Christ as the Saviour of mankind, and made a solemn profession of confidence in him, was immediately baptized and received into the church . . . No persons were admitted to baptism, but such as had been previously instructed into the principal points of Christianity, and had also given satisfactory proofs of pious dispositions and upright intentions.” 

DR. F. A. FOX,  “From the writers of this century,  who will be allowed to have been the earliest next to the apostles, as Barnabas, Hermes, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp, and yet not one of these speaks of baptism being administered to infants.”

Only a few authors will be mentioned who advance baptism of believers as the proper subjects for the ordinance.  However, authors and biblical expositors will be quoted who practiced infant sprinkling or pouring on both infants and adults and call such Scriptural Baptism.

“In the New Testament the Greek word for sprinkle is rantidzo.  It occurs four times.  Rantismos, the noun, occurs twice, but refers to blood in both instances.  Proschusis occurs once referring to blood.  All references to sprinkling are found in the following scriptures:  Hebrews 9:13, 19, 21; chap. 10:22; chap. 11:28; chap. 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2.  None of these refer to baptism.  The word ‘pour’ occurs in the New Testament 24 times, but never refers to pouring water upon a person.”  (Hugh L. Tully, Baptist)

“It is not necessary to quote Baptist authority on infant baptism.  A reference to any of the anti-Baptist bodies will suffice to confirm the statement.”  (Joshua E. Wills, Believers’ Manual  On Baptism)

“As to the baptism of infants, it is a mere human tradition, for which neither precept nor practice is to be found in all the Scriptures.”  (Robert Barclay, Apology for the True Christian Divinity)

“Baptism in the early and Apostolic times always succeeded instruction.  It was preceded and was administered agreeably to the command of Jesus Christ, ‘Go teach all nations, baptizing,’ etc.”  (Saurin)

“Baptism was administered only to professors of saving faith.”  (Richard Baxter)

“There is no express precept or rule given in the New Testament for baptism of infants.”  (Bishop Burnet)

“There is nothing in the words of institution nor in any after records of the administration of this rite respecting the baptism of infants; there is not a single precept for, nor example of, this practice through the whole New Testament.”  (S. Palmer)

“It cannot be proved by the Sacred Scriptures that infant baptism was instructed by Christ, or begun by the first Christians after the Apostles.”  (Martin Luther, Leader of the Reformation)

“The champions for infant baptism are by no means agreed upon the question.  On what is the right of infant baptism founded?”  (Edward Williams)

“The baptism of infants is therefore named a tradition, because it is not expressly declared in the Scriptures that the Apostles did baptize infants, nor any express precept that they should do so.”  (Mr. Field)

“The baptism of infants in the two first centuries after Christ was altogether unknown.  The custom of baptizing infants did not begin before the third age after Christ was born.  In the former ages no trace of it appears—and it was introduced without the command of Christ.”  (Cochlaeus; Geneva Professor of Divinity)

“In the Acts of the Apostles we read that both men and women were baptized when they believed the Gospel preached by Philip, but not a word about infant baptism.”  (Regaltius; annotator upon Cyprian)

“All traces of infant baptism which one will find in the New Testament must first be put into it.”  (Dr. F. Schleiermacher, Lutheran)

 “There is no express command for it in Scripture; nay, all those passages wherein baptism is commanded do immediately relate to adult persons, since they are ordered to be instructed, and faith is prerequisite as a necessary qualification.  There is no instance that can be produced from which it may indisputably be inferred that any child was baptized by the apostles.”  (Limborch)

“There is but one baptism of water left by Christ in the New Testament, and but one condition or manner of right thereto, and that one baptism is that of an adult.”  (J.R Graves, John’s Baptism)

“The way of the Lord is one—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; and repentance and faith is the condition of the adult, and AS TO ANY OTHER CONDITION I AM SURE THE SCRIPTURE IS SILENT.”  (Richard Baxter)

“And we know, if we have honesty enough to admit, that wherever the Scriptures specifies any one character, or condition, it prohibits every other.”   (See Pendleton’s remarks in later pages.)

 “The baptism of an unconscious babe is manifestly not the baptism of repentance.”  (Graves)

“That cannot be an institution of Christ for which there is neither command nor example in all God’s Word, nor promise to those who observe it, nor threatening to those who neglect it.”

“Some claim that among the multitude of parents doubtless baptized by John the Baptist, not a few infants were also baptized.”  (Graves)

“It does not appear that any but adults were baptized by John.”—(Commentary on Matthew 3:5-6; Thomas Scott – Episcopalian)

“Infant baptism was established neither by Christ nor His apostles.”  (Dr. Jacobi)

“John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance, of which infants are incapable.”  (Mr. Burkitt  Episcopalian)

“There is no express mention, indeed, of any children baptized by him—i.e., John.”  (Dr. Wall Episcopalian)

“Both John and Christ’s disciples and apostles did teach before they baptized, because then no others were capable of baptism.”  (Mr. Marshall)

“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  (Commentary on Matthew 19:14.  This is thought to be one of the strongholds for infant baptism.

“No one pretends that the children spoken of in this passage were brought to Christ for baptism, or that the passage affords direct proof of infant baptism.”—(Commentary on Baptism, Dr. L. Wood)

“There is no express precept or rule in the New Testament for the baptism of infants.”  (Bishop Burnet)

“From the action of Christ’s blessing infants, to infer they are to be baptized, proves nothing so much as that there is a want of better argument. . . Christ blessed infants, and so dismissed them, but baptized them not; therefore infants are not to be baptized.”  (Bishop Taylor; Episcopalian)

“We must take heed we do not found infant baptism upon the example of Christ in this text; for it is certain that He did not baptize these children.”  (Commentary on Matthew 19:14; Mr. Poole)

“Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  “The Church of God on earth and His kingdom in heaven is composed of persons who resemble little children.”  (Commentary on Matthew 19:13-14; Dr. Macknight – Presbyterian)

“They were brought unto Christ; but for what end?  Not to baptize them, but to bless them.”  (Commentary on Matthew 19: 13-15; W. Burkett)”

“Another verse that is thought to bolster the right of infant baptism is 1 Corinthians 7:14.”  “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband:  else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.”  The holiness of children, and therefore fitness for baptism and church membership.”  Some prefer innocence to holy.

“It is moreover clear, that St. Paul could not have chosen this line of argument, had infant baptism been at that time practiced.”  (Commentary on 1 Cor. 7:14; Olshausen-Lutheran)

“With all our searchings, we have been unable to find in the New Testament a single express declaration or word in favor of infant baptism.  We justify the right, therefore, solely on the ground of logical inference, and not on any express word of Christ or His apostles.”  (Dr. Bledsoe Methodist)

The Great Commission is the command of Jesus Christ—saving faith then baptism.  Some argue that the mode of baptism does not make any difference.  The subject whether infant or adult likewise is not to be considered as a major condition.  However, that is not the manner in which the Scriptures declare any command from the glorious Godhead.  Review the Great Commission verses as seen in the Gospels.  (Matthew 28: 18-20, Mark 16: 15-16, and Luke 24: 46-47).

“No man can, in obedience to this commission, baptize an unbeliever or an unconscious infant.  The unbeliever is not a penitent disciple, and it is clearly impossible for the infant to repent and believe the gospel.

It may be laid down as a principle of common sense which commends itself to every mind, that a commission to do a thing authorizes only the doing of the thing specified.  There is a maxim of law to the effect that ‘the expression of one thing is the exclusion of another’.  It must be so, for otherwise there could be no definiteness in contracts and no precision in legislative enactments of judicial decrees.  This maxim may be illustrated in a thousand ways.  Numerous scriptural illustrations are at hand.  For example:  God commanded Noah to make an ark of gopher wood.  Genesis 6:14.  The command forbade the use of any other kind of wood.  Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac for a burnt-offering.  Genesis 22:2.  He was virtually forbidden to offer any other member of his family.  Ay, more—he could not offer an animal till the order was revoked by him who gave it, and a second order given requiring the sacrifice of a ram in the place of Isaac.  The institution of the Passover furnishes an illustration, or rather a series of illustrations.  Exodus 12.  A lamb was to be killed—not a heifer; it was to be of the first year—not of the second or third; a male—not a female; without a blemish—not with a blemish; on the fourteenth day of the month—not on some other day; the blood was to be applied to the door posts and lintels—not elsewhere.

In application of the principle laid down, and of the law-maxim now illustrated, I may say that the commission of Christ, in enjoining the baptism of disciples, believers, forbids in effect the baptism of all others.”  (James Madison Pendleton; Christian Doctrines)

If those that baptize infants, whether by immersion or sprinkling, is the mode used, do not see this practice taught in the scriptures ,why would it be thought strange that the baptism of believers only is a rite to be dismissed as non-essential for the correct manner of the ordinance?

What would be the reaction of these brothers in Christ if the following took place.  Ask an adult if he knows that he was saved by the effectual works of Jesus Christ?  If the adult person answered no, or not sure, assuredly no one would baptize that person whether sprinkling or immersion was the mode.  Ask an unsaved and unaware infant the same question, there can be no reply.  Yet the brethren that baptize infants do so as a matter of course, without a Biblical precept to do so.  Who can justify this practice?

The Next article “Baptism was not the Replacement for Circumcision”

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