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early period when the Pastor Hermæ is supposed to have been written. Or if it mean something more, namely, the baptism of the dead, real or substitutionary, it must be founded, as Neander (Planting of the Church, p. 102) suggests, on “ the mythus of the baptism administered in Hades to the saints of the Old Testament.” ; Tertullian is supposed, though unjustly, to refer to such a custom, in what he says, De Resurrectione Carnis, c. 48; but he states nothing more than what he believed to be contained in the apostle's words. In his work against Marcion, v. 10, he refers again to this passage, stating that such a substitutionary baptism appeared to him as, in some degree, analogous to the heathenish purgations for the dead on the first of February, called the Februationes, and adds that, in his judgment, Paul could not have approved of such a practice. 1. The practice in question did not prevail till a late period, and only among heretical sects, such as the Marcionites and Cerinthians. Chrysostom and Epiphanius refer to such a superstitious usage as prevalent among these sects. “When any of them (the Cerinthians) had died without baptism," says Epiphanius, (Hæres, xxviii. 7,) they used to baptize others in their name, lest in the resurrection they should suffer punishment as unbaptized.”
It is the opinion of Olshausen, Meyer, Billroth, De Wette, Rückert, and others, that Paul had some knowledge of this custom, and reasoned therefore by way of accommodation to the prejudices of others. But such an argument for the resurrection of the dead has no force in itself, nor any consistency with the acknowledged character and views of Paul. Indeed the idea seems to us preposterous, even if we could assure ourselves that the apostle had any knowledge of the custom referred to. But of this there is not the shadow of an evidence, beyond the imaginary interpretation of Paul's own words. The probability rather is, that this was a superstitious figment introduced by heretical and fanatical sects, and thence condemned by the Christian fathers, and the better portion of the church, even as late as the third century. 1 Some, among whom are Origen and Luther, interpret the passage as referring to the baptism over the graves of the saints, a frequent resort of the early Christians. Luther says, that, “ for the purpose of confirming their faith in the resurrection of the dead, the Christians baptized over the tombs of the dead.” But not only is this inconsistent with the obvious grammatical meaning of the passage, but it has reference to a custom which must have commenced at quite a late period, when the adoration of the martyrs began to prevail.
Why may not this simple expression, “ baptized for the dead," be regarded as elliptical, and really mean, taking the idea from the symbol of the resurrection which baptism supplies, “ baptized for the resurrection of the dead ?" If the form of the expression is unusual, is it not after all perfectly consistent and natural ? The passage then supplies a good argument for the resurrection ; for baptism as an immersion, and consequent emersion, ever taught this great doctrine. “ The like figure, namely baptism, doth also now save us, * * * by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.” This would be Pauline, as the Germans say, and in striking harmony with the apostle's course of argument. The preposition incèp will bear a translation consistent with this view. It often signifies “ for the sake of," " on account of," and hence “ with reference to.” See Robinson's Lexicon, where he gives instances of this kind. The word vexpur has been interpreted by Tertullian and some others as equivalent to dead bodies ; so that the baptism referred to by the apostle would be one on account of the dead themselves," or the resurrection of their own bodies from the grave. So Tertullian, De Resur. Carnis, 48, says: “Quid et ipsos baptizari ait, si non quæ baptizantur corpora resurgunt.” Some of the Greek fathers favor this interpretation, which bears a striking resemblance to the one which we have suggested. Theodoret thus explains the matter : “He who undergoes baptism is therein buried with his Lord, that having partaken in his death, he may become partaker also in his resurrection. But if the body is a corpse and rises not, why is it ever baptized ?” So also Chrysostom on this passage : “ Paul said, unless there is a resurrection, why art thou baptized for corpses, that is, for mere bodies ? For to this end art thou baptized, for the resurrection of thy dead, &c.”
It may be said that this is harsh, and that the other rendering, “ for,” or “ on account of the resurrection of the dead," is a mere paraphrase ; after all, this is obviously the natural meaning of the expression ; and certainly it is not to be laid down for an infallible rule, that Paul will never use a harsh or an elliptical expression. Singular as the version at first sight may appear, it is adopted not only by Chrysostom, but by Theophylact, another of the Greek fathers, who may be supposed to understand their own language. “Why," says he, are men baptized at all in behalf of resurrection, that is in expectation of resurrection, if the dead rise not ?”
This, too, we are gratified to find, is the view adopted by Robinson, (Lexicon, article Bantišw :) “ With inep, 1 Cor. xv. 29, bis, baptized on account of the dead, i. e., Why baptized into a belief of the resurrection of the dead, if in fact the dead rise not ?" Bloomfield upon the whole prefers it, and adds : “How simple and agreeable to the context is this view of the sense, will appear from an examination of the minute and accurate analysis of Gerdesius. And that it should be the general (vulgar ?) interpretation, and such as unlettered persons generally form in their mind, (not at all helped out by the common translation, that being word for word after the original,) is a proof that it cannot be really, though it is grammatically harsh. This interpretation, then, in its simplicity carries on it the stamp of truth. There is with reason supposed to be a reference to the confession which preceded baptism, in reply to the question, · Wilt thou be baptized in this faith, that is, in the hope of a resurrection ? There may also be (as the ancient commentators think) an allusion to the ancient mode of baptism by immersion ; which, while typifying a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness, also had reference to the Christian's communion with his Lord both in death and in resurrection from the dead."
We proceed now to speak of the second part of Mr. Noel's treatise, in which he discusses more specifically the right of infants to baptism, confirms his former positions, and refutes objections. This, upon the whole, we think the ablest and most discriminating part of his work. Among other arguments in favor of infant baptism, he devotes considerable space to the covenant of circumcision, and not only proves the misapplication of the fact in this instance, but derives from it an argument in favor of adult baptism. But much of what he says upon this point, and others of a kindred character, we are compelled to pass over for want of room. Nor do we feel that our readers in this country would derive much benefit from the discussion, even could we enter upon it ; for the fact is, the most intelligent and candid Pædobaptists give up the argument from circumcision. In this respect, some of their writers are doing a good work for the cause of truth. Dr. Bushnell speaks of the argument with contempt; Professor Stuart deliberately rejects it. As to the declaration of our Saviour,“ Suffer little children to come unto me,” &c., that too, as an argument for infant baptism, is generally abandoned; as also that passage in one of Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians touching the “legal holiness" of those children who are descended, on one side, from a believing, and on the
other from an unbelieving parent. For every intelligent reader of the Bible must see that the holiness predicated in such a case of the children, is precisely the same as that predicated of the unbelieving or idolatrous parent, and if it could justify the baptism of the one, it would also justify the baptism of the other.
Considerable stress is laid by some of our Pædobaptist friends upon the fact of the early prevalence of infant baptism in the primitive churches. They cannot see how, unless it was “an apostolic tradition,” it became so prevalent in the third and fourth centuries. They imagine, too, that they discover slight traces of it even earlier than this; and some of them venture to affirm, that it evidently descended from apostolic usage, and can be traced in every age. But this view of the subject they are compelled gradually to abandon. It is with extreme caution that their more critical and candid writers venture to speak of it at all, and some of them frankly yield the point.
Mr. Noel disposes of this supposed evidence in favor of infant baptism in the following summary way :
“1. There is no mention of infant baptism till the third century. 2. The corruption of infant communion was as early and as extensive as that of infant baptism. And, 3. The origin of both corruptions was obviously identical.”
On the first point, taking the citations from the learned Bingham, who did his best to uphold this practice, he proceeds as follows:
Clemens Romanus, who lived in the times of the apostles, though he does not directly mention infant baptism, yet says a thing that by consequence proves it. Speaking of Job, he says : “ Though he was a just man, yet he condemns himself, saying, There is none free from pollution, though his life be but the length of a day.” Therefore infants were baptized in the time of Clemens !! Bingham, III. 158.
Justin Martyr, A. D. 148, says : - Many men and many women, sixty and seventy years of age, who from their childhood have been disciples to Christ, continue uncorrupted.” Because Justin says that God was pleased to convert many children by his grace, therefore infants were baptized in his day !!*
Bardesanes Syrus, contemporary of Justin, says: “ The man that is regenerated by water, and born again to God, is thereby freed from the weakness of his first nativity, which comes to him from man; and so he is made capable of salvation which he could not otherwise obtain. For
* It might be added here, that the expression in Justin, ex naidwv èuaOntevoar, Apol. Il. p. 62, is quite indefinite so far as mere age or time is concerned. It might refer to childhood or youth indefinitely, and would be quite correct if it described persons who, when children of eight, ten or twelve years of age, were converted to God, or, as the original may be rendered, “made disciples of Christ."
so the true prophet has testified with an oath, saying, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be born again of water, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.'” Therefore, in the time of Bardesanes infants were undoubtedly baptized !!
Irenæus was born A. D. 97, and wrote A. D. 176 the following: ** Christ came to save all persons by himself; all, I say, who by him are born again unto God, infants and little ones and boys, and youths and elders. Therefore he passed through each age, being made an infant for infants, sanctifying infants ; among little ones, a little one, sanctifying those of that age also, &c." (Ire. lib. ii. 39.) Irenæus says, that some infants are born again through Christ, and sanctified by him ; therefore, all infants were baptized in his day!!*
Tertullian, who was born A. D. 160, and died A. D. 220, wrote about the beginning of the third century as follows : “ According to every one's condition, disposition, and age, the delay of baptism is more advantageous, especially in the case of little children. Our Lord says, indeed, • Do not forbid them to come to me.' Let them come, therefore, when they are grown up; let them come when they can learn, when they can be taught whither it is they come. Let them be made Christians when they can know Christ.' (Tertullian De Baplis.no.) Tertullian says, Let baptism not be administered to little children, not a syllable being uttered by any previous writer to intimate that they were baptized; therefore the baptism of infants was universal in the time of Tertullian !! Until the time of Tertullian, therefore, that is, during the whole second century, there is no record of infant baptism ; and in Tertullian's time, the only proof that it was beginning to be practised is Tertullian's argument against it.
But Origen, who lived in the third century, shows that it had become the practice of his day, by the following expressions : “ Infants are baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” “And because by the sacrament of baptism the pollutions of our birth are laid aside, therefore even little ones are baptized.” “The Church hath received from the apostles the tradition that baptism should be given even to little ones.” Origen, Bingham, III. 167. The practice, which was growing in the time of Tertullian, was become general in the time of Origen.
This is the whole of the evidence in favor of infant baptism, up to the third century. During the first two centuries, there is no symptom of it, not a line written in its favor. Early in the third century, Tertullian opposed it, and later in the same century Origen speaks of it as an established custom. These facts seem to me to justify the judgment of Suicer : " For the two first centuries no one received baptism except those who, being instructed in the faith and imbued with the doctrine of Christ, could testify that they believed, on account of those words, He that believeth and is baptized. Afterwards the opinion prevailed that no one could be saved without being baptized.” (Suicer in Bingham, III. 157.)
See Dr. J. Chase's learned and satisfactory article upon this celebrated passage, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, for November, 1949, in which he shows, by a careful and extensive collation of passages from Irenæus, that the expression “regenerated unto God,” has no reference whatever to baptism, but to the general fact, that by the incarnation of our Saviour the whole race was placed in a condition to be regenerated ; in other words, tht the incarnation has a regenerative power applicable to all persons, whether young or old. The idea that the redemptive work of Christ is intended for a universal blessing, and that it places all mankind in a new and advantageous position with reference to salvation, is a favorite one with Irenæus. This, both from the context and the peculiar mode of expression, is most obviously his meaning in this frequently quoted passage : * Omnes venit per semitipsum salvare, omnes inquam, qni per eum renascuntur in Deum," etc. We may add, that in all the writings of Irenæus, rich in evangelical thought, and touching upon almost every point of Christian doctrine and duty, there is not a word which, by fair interpretation, can be construed in favor of infant baptism.