Brethren Archive

"The Publick Baptism of Infants"

by G.W. Bell


THE Book of Common Prayer lays down the ecclesiastical procedure for the "Regeneration of infants by water and the Holy Spirit," in order that, born in sin, they may be thereby enabled to enter the Kingdom of God.  The child's sins are to be mystically washed away; he is to be sanctified by the Holy Ghost; "delivered from Thy wrath and received into the ark of Christ's church."
Prayer is made that the infant of eight days old may be "released from his sins."  But according to Scripture, the child "not having known good and evil" has not committed any sins and is therefore not then under responsibility and wrath.
"Godparents" (not mentioned in the Bible) with the parents are to undertake VOWS of which the Bible knows nothing, and neither parents nor godparents have power to carry these out even for themselves!  Faith is personal and there is no salvation by proxy.
Instances of Christian Baptism represent the outward profession of faith linked with grace inwardly received, impossible to a babe. The Bible is silent about baptizing infants: "christening" based upon tradition, and it violates the teaching and intention of Christian baptism.  Many ancient and modern teachers opposed the rite.  Tertullian was one. It became a sharp weapon in the hands of men who sought power and attached mystical meanings to it.  It has gained a stranglehold over millions of persons who play into the hands of clergy and priests.  It has been one great cause of divisions in the great churches down the centuries.  Doubtless, it was introduced with good intent, but how dangerous it is to depart from the simplicity of Scripture, and to legislate when God is silent!
When the infant reaches adolescence, he is taught in the Catechism that his name was given "in my baptism, wherein I was MADE a member of Christ, the child of God and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven."  When, however, little children were brought to our Lord, He received them, but never said a word about baptizing or "christening" them to deliver them from the wrath of God (see 1st and 2nd paragraphs above).
The Prayer Book states that baptism is "necessary to salvation," and is a MEANS whereby we receive the same.  Our Lord and the apostles, however, give the reverse order—SAVED, THEN BAPTIZED.  "The Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized."  In Acts 2, "they that gladly received his (Peter's) word were baptized and continued . . ."  It was an outward sign only, but with a deep spiritual significance.  So, we see that baptism was necessary for obedience, but not for salvation.
The word for baptism, (baptisma from bapto) means DIP, (immerse, submerge, emerge) as when dyeing a garment.  Naaman the Syrian, in the Old Testament dipped (literally baptized) himself in Jordan.  Centuries ago, outside St. Paul's Cathedral, thousands used to be brought annually to a special building, the Rotunda, to be immersed.  That was before FONTS were introduced into churches.  On the Continent and in N. Africa, ancient baptisteries still exist, and visitors to Rome, Florence, Pisa, Fréjus, and many other places can see these.  The Rubric in the Prayer Book instructs the "priest" to "DIP the child warily," and also to DIP adult persons.  This is not "sprinkling" or pouring water on them.  Why is the rule disobeyed? One reason is that the Font takes the place of the POOL.
Baptism in the New Testament means the burial out of sight of a dead body, in a spiritual sense, and the raising of it up to "newness of life" in resurrection with Christ (identification).
The old sinful nature and life are to be abandoned, reckoned dead—read Romans 6.  A corpse is not buried by sprinkling earth upon it, and sprinkling water is just as futile to set forth the great symbolic teaching.
Departure from the symbols, baptism and the Lord's Supper, inevitably leads to the TRUTH itself being distorted or abandoned.  When Christ died, the believer died with Him (Gal. 2: 20), and was buried, raised up and seated with Him in the Heavenlies; and the Supper reminds us continually of His great work at Calvary, and that He has promised to return suddenly for "His own."  We are thus to proclaim His death "till He come."
Death and judgment were the sinner's deserts, but by faith, he now stands in grace, beyond condemnation through Christ's work. "There is therefore now no condemnation (judgment) to them who are in Christ Jesus," Rom. 8: 1.  Whereas Christian Baptism sets this forth, the Prayer Book declares that all men are to rise again at the General Resurrection at the last day, to find out whether they are saved or lost.  On this most important matter, the New Testament teaches that there are TWO RESURRECTIONS of the just and of the unjust, and "blessed and holy is he who hath part in the FIRST resurrection." (Christians then receive REWARDS, or suffer loss, according to the character of their service on earth, and shall reign with Christ a thousand years).  The final resurrection is of the DEAD—Sinners out of Christ, and doom is their portion.  Shall we believe the Bible or the Prayer Book?
Philip the Evangelist taught the Eunuch, the Chancellor of Abyssinia, the truth concerning baptism in Acts. 8.  After explaining to him the passage in Isaiah 53, they went down, both of them into the water and came up out of it.  Seeing then that Baptism means separation from the world, by the Cross of Christ, how can "the church" join with the State, the world and its politics, the Monarch with the Prime Minister appointing the principal church heads or officers?  Believers and unbelievers are yoked together for "worship" but sinners in their sins being unsaved, are not qualified as worshippers.  These matters would be visibly and continually corrected if the Scriptural practices and doctrines were followed by all companies of God's people.
To mark the infant with the sign of the Cross, an R.C. practice, is authorized by the Prayer Book, the Priest declaring, "Seeing NOW this child is regenerate, and by the laver (washing) of baptism is received into the congregation of Christ's flock."  It is also stated that "it is certain by God's word that children, WHICH ARE BAPTIZED, dying before they commit actual sins, are UNDOUBTEDLY SAVED."  This implies salvation by means of the ordinance, and that if the innocent child died unbaptized, it would lie under the wrath of God!!  Is this not a shocking reflection upon the mercy and justice of a loving Creator, Saviour—God and Father?
The rite of Infant Baptism lies at the base of ceremonial "religion," and the whole ecclesiastical organization rests and depends upon it. This applies to the Roman, Anglican, Eastern churches, and the various dissenting bodies which align their doctrines with them. Its great significance lies in the fact that to participate in "Holy Communion" is forbidden unless baptized, and subsequently Confirmed, by a clergyman episcopally ordained.  (It is on record that Charles Wesley, who remained a staunch Anglican to the end, opposed John Wesley, his brother, strongly and did not attend his brother's funeral.  John had ordained laymen to preach, etc., and he was not a "Bishop").
In support of christening and confirmation, a verse in Hebrews 6 is taken.  The reference is to "baptisms" (baptismos—washings, amongst the Jews) and "the laying on of hands" (that is, identifying the person who brought the offering of beasts, with the sacrifice). Now, both these and the other doctrines mentioned in verse 2 represent what was believed and practiced under the Old Testament Covenant, and whilst our Lord was on earth.  The point of the exhortation to the Hebrews was that they were to leave these things of their "childhood" behind, and make progress towards maturity, and the full appreciation of all that had been made known by the Cross, and the sending down of the Holy Ghost.  They were in great peril and weakness; they were clinging to an outworn priestly system, and the author of the epistle was unable to teach them about their Great High Priest in HEAVEN, who had done away with the Aaronic priesthood when the veil was rent by Christ's death.  Our WORSHIP is not now in earthly Temples, but IN THE HOLIEST, the heavenly Sanctuary, to which we are bidden to "DRAW NEAR."  See Heb. 10 and Eph. 2: 13-18.  The Messiah, the Saviour, whom their race had rejected, had offered one sacrifice, and forever sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  The verse has no reference therefore to christening and confirmation; both have arisen due to misunderstanding of Scripture.  When the Apostle visited the churches (assemblies) to confirm the believers in their faith, this bore no resemblance to what is now called Confirmation and the assumption of VOWS, as in the Prayer Book.
Salvation is wholly of Grace by faith, while the system of vows is often taught by ministers, that IF we do our part, God will do His. Consider what this means.  We all fail, as the human record throughout the Bible shows, therefore, according to the theory stated, salvation is undermined and destroyed.  But our Lord Jesus came from Heaven to bear our sins in His own body on the tree, and to endure the complete judgment of a Holy God, so that every believer may be justified and set free and constituted a "purged worshipper."  See Hebrews 10.
Many Christian clergy admit that the world is full of "christened" people, vast numbers of whom are still "on the broad road leading to destruction."  Many Evangelicals appear to disbelieve in the rite of infant baptism as set forth in the Prayer Book, and Vicars sometimes depute their assistants to do the christening.  How often have we been met with a refusal to listen to the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith, because of the plea, "I'm church," and "I've been MADE a Christian when I was christened!"  These pretexts by which so many are led to eternal loss should surely be abandoned, yet few seem to have a CONSCIENCE about them, even if they know the Truth.  Excuses and feeble explanations are given which have little conviction behind them.
It becomes difficult for all when an Archbishop, "Primate of England," condemns Billy Graham's preaching of the need of personal decision for Christ, and the assurance of salvation, as cited in the public press.  The "Daily Telegraph," 18th September, 1957, reported that at an international gathering in Oxford of "600 Churchmen and lay people," the Roman Catholic Archbishop Heenan, of Liverpool presided for an address by Dr. Ramsey, Archbishop of York.  The latter said, "It is a great delight to have the opportunity of fraternizing with your Grace on foreign soil!"  Then the other Archbishop, "Primate of all England" a leading Freemason, who took some interest in the Harringay Campaign, was afterwards photographed going to MASS with a foreign prelate!  In his ardent desire for a world-church—the "Ecumenical Movement" (which eventually will or may become the great Babylon of the Apocalypse---he was reported to have publicly stated that he was willing to welcome the Pope as a "brother," to be chairman of such a corrupt procedure.  What a contrast to the New Testament plan of companies of Christians called out from the world to witness to a rejected Saviour and glorified Lord in Heaven!  All Christians are "called into the fellowship of God's Son," to own no other gathering Name but His, and to keep His Word.
In view of what has been stated, many Christians may be a little surprised to learn that an evangelical head of a Bible Churchmen's College has written a book on "The child's right to Baptism."  If an unconscious infant has any rights, it might be asked why it was assumed to be right to decide for it in a matter affecting its eternal destiny, as might appear.  Was Mr. Stafford Wright, the author, right in imposing this rite on an infant, or was Mr. Wright wrong? He set forth, moreover, that the correct mode to be followed in baptism was "sprinkling."  He was reminded that the original has different words for sprinkling, affusion or pouring, and for BAPTISM.  There is no possibility of mistaking this point; yet he deliberately set aside the New Testament word for baptism as we have mentioned above.
There is a clear precedent in Acts 19 to guide those who were sprinkled as infants, and who ought to be baptized (i.e., by immersion) on confession of faith.  The disciples of Apollos, who is described as "mighty in the Scriptures" (of the Old Testament) had only taught the doctrines represented by the "baptism of John."  The apostle Paul taught them their duty to be properly baptized, "IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS."  The explanation is simply that John the Baptist pointed to preparation for the coming King and Kingdom amongst the Jews, and they were to repent and confess their sins, submitting to baptism in the Jordan.  Christian baptism on the other hand, refers to the work of Christ, the Head and Lord of His Church, which work had been already DONE, and all who believed on Him were to set forth their personal belief in this great salvation already wrought.  Re-baptism is, however, disallowed by the Church of England, evidently on the ground that it would invalidate the Prayer Book procedure and priestly action.  So, for years, this great question continues to falsify Scripture and confuse true Christian folk who deplore it.  Other remnants of Roman Catholic teaching are seen in the Liturgy.  The "religion" of "Works for Salvation" is difficult to eradicate, and the first verse at Morning and Evening Prayer from Ezekiel 18. 27, indicates the ground taken.  The "ThirtyNine Articles of Religion" are clear on this point, but they are rarely brought to notice or accepted.  They are regarded by ritualists as the "forty stripes save one."  All through the centuries, the "church" itself caused the many sects to arise, because Christian men were dissatisfied with the great worldly organizations of religion, which combined political power with spiritual poverty.  This is clearly shown by E. H. Broadbent in "The Pilgrim Church." (Messrs. Pickering and Inglis).
The movement in the 13th century was caused by Franciscan monks, followers of St. Francis of Assisi, who rebelled against the centralized power of Rome, and this has been the case with Canterbury and York at later periods.  The so-called "laity" urgently wanted liberation from the oppression of priestly assumption.
Evangelical clergy and others often meet and talk about these things but DO NOTHING ABOUT THEM.  The Bible knows only the priesthood of true believers, and of the Great High Priest in Heaven.  The distinction of clergy and laity is unknown in the New Testament.
The inspired Apostle Paul called on Timothy his delegate, to be a Man, not to fear, but to fight the good fight of faith, to be a soldier, to endure hardness through suffering, and "to cleanse himself out away from" (literally) the vessels unto dishonour, such as those men named in the epistle (2 Tim. 2), as Ellicott's Commentary and Luther emphasized.  In 2 Cor. 6. Paul shows that light can have no fellowship with darkness.  The Corinthians were not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers but were to "come out from among them and be ye separate."  Note Paul's use of the word "vessels" in Rom. 9: 21-24; 2 Cor. 4-7; and in 2 Tim. 2; vessels were men.
The Bible calls upon all to take heed what they hear, or read, and to hear "what the Spirit saith to the churches" (see the seven letters to the churches in Rev. 2 and 3).  "The faith once (for all) delivered to the saints" is found in Holy Scripture (Jude 3).  God's revealed Word is perfect and complete, and nothing is to be added to it or taken from it.  By it "the Man of God" will be made complete, "thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3: 15-17). The present writer trusts that all who read these lines may test every teaching by the Word of God and not allow any secondary book to usurp the sole authority of Holy Scripture.
Finally, how numerous are the errors which originated by the practice of many expositors and clergy stating that when God speaks of Israel, Christ and His earthly Kingdom, in the Old Testament, these things are now meant to refer to the Church or Churches of God! The "Church," the Body of Christ, is quite distinct from Israel.  The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God (composed of saved Jews and Gentiles together) are to be clearly distinguished, otherwise complete confusion results.  The Book of Psalms requires careful study, as in this connection it is often misunderstood.
NOTE SPECIALLY the attitude towards ROME of the heads of the Anglican Church, as quoted in the public press from time to time.
"Green Brae," Highland Road, Wimborne, Dorset, England.
“Assembly Testimony Magazine” September 1957.

 






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