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i nor his apostleified, either in a dogmonly meant fo
as if the matter were regarded by Church historians and critics as settled : “ Infant baptism was established neither by Christ nor his apostles. In all places where we find the necessity of baptism notified, either in a dogmatic or historical point of view, it is evident that it was only meant for those who were capable of comprehending the Word preached, and of being converted to Christ by an act of their own will, A pretty sure testimony of its non-existence in the apostolic age may be inferred from 1 Cor. vii. 14, since Paul would certainly have referred to the baptism of children for their holiness. But even in later times, several teachers of the Church, such as Tertullian, (De Bapt. 18,) and others, reject this custom; indeed his Church in general, that of North Africa, adhered longer than others to the primitive regulations. Even when baptism of children was already theoretically derived from the apostles, its practice was, nevertheless, for a long time, confined to a maturer age.” Of course these gentlemen, and other critics equally well informed, are too good scholars, and too intimately acquainted with church history and usages, not to admit that immersion was the primitive mode of baptism, and that affusion or sprinkling was introduced only in the case of clinics, or those thus baptized upon a sick-bed or a death-bed; baptism having come in the third and fourth centuries to be regarded as absolutely necessary to salvation, and a sure passport to heaven. From this source Neander and others derive an argument in favor of the position that baptism, in the apostolic age, was uniformly significant of an entrance into a new life. «The usual form of submersion at baptism practised by the Jews, was transferred to the Gentile Christians. Indeed this form was the most suitable to signify that which Christ intended to render an object of contemplation by such a symbol, the immersion of the whole man in the spirit of a new life. But Paul availed himself of what was accidental to the form of this symbol, the two-fold act of submersion and of emersion, to which Christ certainly made no reference at the institution of the symbol. As he found therein a reference to Christ Dead, and Christ Risen, the negative and positive act of the Christian life in the imitation of Christ to die to all ungodliness, and in communion with him to rise to a new divine life-so in the given form of baptism, he made use of what was accessory in order to represent by a sensible image the idea and design of the rite in its connection with the whole essence of Christianity.” Planting of the Church, p. 101, Ryland's Trans.
It will not do to rebut these testimonies by saying that they proceed from German rationalists, and may be classed with other aberrations of those learned men. For their rationalism, of which we say nothing at present, can have no influence upon such a question. Indeed their own practice and defense of infant baptism on other grounds would, if any undue influence were felt by them at all, induce them to take a very different view of the matter. Their testimony therefore is the more valuable on this account, more especially as it has reference to mere historical facts.
In connection with the import of the commission, which is really decisive of the question, Mr. Noel carefully examines all the instances of baptism recorded in the New Testament, and only finds the natural import of the commission confirmed. On which ground he adds forcibly : “ Now since all the persons baptized were, according to the only received records we possess, believers, what right have we to baptize any others? The baptism of a believer is a spontaneous profession of faith ; the baptism of any other class is something essentially different; and how can we innocently add to Christ's institution something essentially different ? His commission declares that believers are to be baptized; the books of the New Testament record the baptism of none but believers. Where then is the precept or precedent for something totally distinct, the baptism of catechumens or infants ? If you baptize these, baptize also heathens. Why do you reject heathens from baptism but because you have no precept or precedent to authorize their baptism? And since you are equally without both precept and precedent for the baplism of infants, rescue them also from the disadvantage of an unauthorized and deceptive rite, which by making them Christians in name, may hinder them from being Christians in reality.” P. 88. | Mr. Noel argues the point further from the nature and effects of baptism, its relation to faith and obedience, its influence .upon the heart and the life, and confirms the whole by a reference to the practice of the first centuries of the Christian era ; for during the apostolic times, and the two or three centuries immediately succeeding, a profession of faith was required of all, including believers and catechumens, and in later times, he might have added, even children; for although the last could not of themselves profess faith, it was uniformly done on their behalf by parents and sponsors, who engaged that the little ones should renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil. All of these also, when baptized, were regarded as regenerate, and consequently were admitted to the Eucharist without any further change.
This concludes the first part of Mr. Noel's book. The second part is devoted more specifically to the question of infant baptism, and closes with a chapter on Communion.
But before proceeding further we wish to say a few words upon one or two points, on which it seems to us Mr. Noel has fallen into some slight errors. These, however, we are bound to say, do not affect the force of his main argument. o 1230
He asserts, for example, in his introduction and elsewhere, that Christian baptism was not instituted till after the giving of the commission by our Saviour; whence it is a fair deduction, that all the baptisms which preceded this were not, properly speaking, Christian or valid baptisms. This would include the baptisms by John the Baptist, the baptism of Christ himself, and indeed all others which took place before our Saviour's resurrection. As well, however, might we say that preaching the gospel was not instituted previous to the commission, for it embraces this as well as baptism, and thence that all the preaching which preceded the resurrection of Christ was not Christian or valid preaching !
Moreover, it is expressly affirmed not only that Jesus and his apostles preached, but that “they made and baptized disciples." John iv. 1; iii. 26. Were they Christian disciples whom Jesus and his apostles made and baptized ? And if so, was their baptism Christian baptism? But Mr. Noel suggests that there was a difference between such baptisms and those which succeeded the commission. We ask what kind of difference? Was it essential or relative; in the thing itself, or in the circumstances ? Every one must reply, in the circumstances. For example, the former were baptisms " in the name of Christ only," the latter in the “ name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” This difference is trivial, as all must admit, and could not make the one more Christian than the other. Indeed it is doubtful whether even subsequently to the resurrection, nay, for a century or two after, baptism was not administered indiscriminately in the "name of Christ,” or in the name of the “ Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." - As to the baptisms of John, it is of less consequence, in our judgment, to prove them Christian baptisms; for it makes little difference as to the solution of the main question on this subject. But we might well inquire, if they were not Christian baptisms, what were they? Were they Pagan or Jewish baptisms? This could not be, for they were essentially dif
bized by and quite the discovere bapujohn," of not k
ferent in their spirit and aim; they were baptisms “in the name of Christ;" they were baptisms "unto repentance." But the question is asked, Were they not simply preliminary to the higher baptism of Christ and his apostles ? They were certainly quite numerous; yet not so numerous as is generally supposed : for although “ Jerusalem and all Judea'—that is, a great multitude from all quarters—went unto John to Jordan, he was quite discriminating, and baptized those only who repented of their sins, and cherished faith in a coming Messiah. It is expressly said that John “heard in the prison how that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus baptized not, but his disciples;" from which we may form some probable judgment as to the numbers baptized by Jesus, or by the authority of Jesus, and those also by John the Baptist.
But even if we concede that the baptisms of John were preliminary to the organization of the church under the Messiah, they were yet essentially Christian, both in their mode, spirit, and formula; and this notwithstanding the admitted fact that certain disciples, “who knew only the baptism of John,” were rebaptized by the apostle Paul. It is often taken for granted, by Mr. Noel for example, that these disciples had been baptized by John the Baptist. This, however, is a mere hypothesis, and quite improbable : for John the Baptist was dead long before, and the disciples referred to came from Ephesus. In all probability they were baptized in some irregular way, “knowing only the baptism of John,” or, which is the same thing, the divine mission of. John, but not knowing even “ whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Of course they were rightly rebaptized by the apostle Paul.
But Mr. Noel, in another place, argues in such a manner about these very baptisms of John, as to prove that fundamentally he himself regards them as really Christian baptisms. On pp. 51–59, he shows, that the preaching and baptism of John fulfilled the prediction of the angel to Zacharias in the temple: “Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God," &c.
That John always required two things of those who came to his baptism, repentance, and faith in the Redeemer to come.
That the Evangelists declare expressly that this was the profession of those who came to be baptized by him. Matthew relates that “they were baptized of him in Jordan, touoroyoýuevou, confessing their sins, or, as Liddell renders the word, “ fully confessing their sins.” Bengel gives it, “libere, diserteque freely, and copiously.” Robinson "acknowledging, confessing fully.”
That to be baptized “ įts metávolar, unto repentance,” amounts to the same thing as to be baptized“ įus õpeow äpaptiwe, unto the remission of sins."
That John was particular in requiring these conditions, for which reason he rejected the Scribes and Pharisees who came to his baptism, describing them as “a generation of vipers.”
And lastly, that the testimony of Josephus, Antiq. viii. 5, confirms this view : “Herod slew him who was a good man and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness toward one another, and piety towards God, and so come to baptism. For that the washing would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away of some sins, but for the purification of the body, supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.” Whiston's Translation.
But whatever view we take of John's baptism, which was unquestionably “from heaven,” and “not of men,” it is quite evident that as the preaching of the Word, previous to the resurrection of Christ and the giving of the commission, had the sanction of God, so also the baptism of believers had a similar sanction. The commission invested it, of course, with a more solemn and specific authority, but added nothing to its essential character and universal obligation. It was, in all cases, when properly and devoutly observed, “a fulfilment of all righteousness"_" the observance," as Dr. Adam Clarke renders the expression, “ of a righteous institution.”
That various kinds of religious immersions and ablutions, or “bathings in water” as they are called, were common among the Jews, is known to every one; and we need not, therefore, be surprised that the rite of baptism, as practised by John, seemed to the Jews quite a natural thing, and needing no particular explanation. But this does not make it any the less a divine appointment. Certainly the advent and teachings of John were, as much as those of Jesus himself, “ from heaven," or of sacred authority. His appearance in Judea is appropriately styled by Mark, “ the beginning of the Gospel of Christ, the Son of God," and a fulfilment of the ancient prediction : “Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee." Mark i. 1, 2. If the church was not completely organized before the resurrection of Christ, or as some prefer so to consider the matter, before the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the initial and preparatóry steps were certainly taken with a view to that organization. The materials were gathered and fitted