« AnteriorContinuar »
A. D. 390. We also have a number of writers through the whole of this century, who speak of infant-baptism, but say nothing of its introduction: As Siricius, A. D. 384, St. Ambrose 374, Greg. Nazianzen 360, Optatus 306, the Council of Eliberius 305, and many others, mention infant-baptism as a thing in common use in the church. Thus, we see, it was not first introduced in the fourth century.*
In the third century, there are several remark. able testimonies concerning infant baptism, which make it very evident that it was not first introduced in that day. About the middle of this: century Cyprian called a council of fixty six ministers or bishops on this question, “ Whether infants might be baptized before they were eight days old ?” This council unanimously agreed, there was no necessity for such a delay. In consequence of this, a letter, which was signed by Cyprian, was written to the churches, to notify to them the result of their deliberation.
Origen, who was born less than an hundred years after the apostles, and flourished in the be. ginning of this century, speaks often of infant baptism in his homilies on Original Sin, as an estab. lished practice in the church. In one place he expressly says, that the church had a traditional order from the apostles to give baptism to infants. This clearly shews, that infant baptism was then an usage in the church. Tertullian also, who lived about the same time, mentions infant baptism as no novelty in his day. He pleads for the delaying of the baptism of infants on account only of the danger ** History of Infant Baptism, part 1. chaap. 7, 8, to the 23d. De. Fora bafius Hift, Theology.
From thelenot first introdudly was not intra
which might attend the introduction of sponsors. This can properly apply only in those cases, where parents were unbelievers, or were sick. Jacob Pamelius observes, in his Annotations on this place, that Tertullian had reference to such.*
From these observations, it is clear that infant baptism was not first introduced either in the third or fourth century.' It certainly was not introduced in the fourth, because we find it in the third-nei. ther in the third, because it is there fpoken of as a common undisputed practice. Our inquiry is now reduced to the limits only of two centuries, and it is clear to me, that infant baptism must have been introduced into the christian church in one or the other. Let us now carefully examine the matter with respect to the second century, the age that immediately followed the apostles and first ministers of Jesus Christ.
All the immediate successors of the apostles must personally know, what was the practice of the apostles themselves. The churches also must know whether their infants were baptized or not. If the ministers and churches knew that infant baptism had never been practized by the apostles, it is utterly impossible that it should then have been introduced into the church without making great disturbance. It must have met with the greatest opposition, both from the ministers and churches, of primitive zeal and purity. Were that fact, is it credible that we should not have heard something of it, when some of the writings of those Fathers have come down to us ?-Two of them are frequently mentioned on this subject, but not a word that there was any controversy in the
• Dr. Ferbefius' Hist. Theology; .
church respecting infant baptism. Ireneus, who flourished about the middle of this century, was acquainted with Polycarp, St. John's disciple, and also saw and conversed with those who had seen Jesus Christ. He mentioned infant baptifm as no matter of dispute. Reckoning up several sorts of persons who were born again unto God, he expressly mentioned infants among them. It is naturally supposed that he there must mean their being born of the water, or baptized, as many of the Fathers used the word in this sense, as infants could give evidence of no other regeneration.
Justin Martyr, who is supposed to have been born about thirty years after the death of our blessed Saviour, in his Apology, written in the year 140, mentions persons who' were discipled to Christ in infancy. He also speaks of baptisms being to us instead of circumcision. Ignatius lived in the end of the first century. He conversed with the apostles, and suffered martyrdom under Trajan, A. D. 107.* But from none of these have we a word respecting the first rise of infant baptism in their day. Since we have now pursued our inquiry back to the first century without fuc. cess, I would just make one remark here on the whole. If infant baptism is such a grofs error and corruption-if its introduction destroys the very being of the church, it is utterly incredible, if not impossible, that the practice of it could have obtained, either in the second, third, or fourth centuries, without its rise and progress being mentioned, or even that there were ever such heretics in the world. This remark obtains great weight when we consider that St. Austin, in the close of
* Dr. Torbalus' Hill. Theology.
the fourth century, wrote a book, giving a particular account of all sects that were, or ever had been in the church-(he enuinerates eighty-eight with their several tenets.)—And when we find, in the writings of the Fathers, an account of all the particular errors, and smallest departures from the faith and practice once established in the church, we are reduced to this dilemina, either that infant baptifm was introduced into the church in the first century by the apostles theniselves, or that it never has been practised in any age of the world. -The latter is contrary to known fact. The former is the truth, and it is the very doctrine proposed to be illustrated and established by this discourse. I shall now conclude with a few remarks.
1. We have both scripture command and example, for receiving infants of believers into the visible church with their parents, and for adminiftering to them the feal of the righteousness of faith. This command and this example from Abraham the father of the faithful, evidently run through the whole of the Old and New Testaments. When Christ came and fulfilled the law and the prophets, he confirmed the covenant of promise, he enlarged it with greater privileges, and he continued it to believers under the glorious gespel, as examples of infant baptism. We also have the evident practice of all the churches of Christ in ages of the greatest
zeal and purity. Those who deny that there is - either command or example for this practice,ought
first to point out from authentic history, a church or society of christians, within twelve hundred years of the apostles, who did not practise infant baptism.
2. Those who deny infant baptism have no just ground for breaking off from all the churches of Christ on this account; and much less for esteeming themselves the only true church in the world. For though they hold this to be an error, yet it is not such as to fubvert the foundation, nor indeed has it always been their sentiments, as appears by a confession of the faith of a hundred churches of their communion.* Awful have been the consequences of this feparation, and, perhaps, nothing tarnished the glory of the reformation from Popery more than the conduct of its first founders. Those, therefore, who, in the present day would break off from other churches of Christ and join this separate communion, ought first well to confider the nature of the action, lest they be involved in the awful guilt of many generations. On the whole, it is high time that all party zeal was banished from the church of Christ, and that all denominations were united in the cominon cause. The day of the Lord is at hand. In the mean time, let us give up ourselves and all ours to God and to his disposal.mlet us take hold of the cove. nant through Jesus Christ, and thankfully enjoy the privileges, let us plead the promises for ourselves and our children-and finally, let us wait patiently for his coming and kingdom, who will then reveal his righteous judgment, and reward every man according to his works.
* Printed in London, 1699.