Jake Griesel on the biblical rationale behind infant baptism

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The Biblical Rationale behind Covenantal Infant Baptism

INDEX

I. Introduction

II. God’s relationship with man has always been in covenant

III. God’s covenantal dealings with man have always been signified and sealed with visible signs

IV. The corporate nature of the covenant of grace in the Old and New Testaments

V. The correlation between Circumcision in the Old Testament and Baptism in the New Testament

VI. A summary of the argument thus far

VII. Historical evidence

VII. Conclusion

I. Introduction

Is the baptism of infants legitimate? Is it founded on the Bible? Ought one to continue to baptize infants, and, if so, which infants? These are questions of doctrine and of discipline which have occupied much of the theological attention of the Church over the last couple of centuries, as they still do today, and they confront us with a problem of the utmost importance. Many opponents of infant baptism claim that it is an errant Papist tradition that has crept into the church a long time ago. While it is true that infant baptism can be traced in church tradition as far back as the early church, Reformed Protestant Christians cannot be content with merely this, since it would compromise our doctrine of sola scriptura, that is, that Scripture is the final and only authority for all doctrine and praxis, regardless of church history and tradition which nonetheless carries great value. The testimony of church history and tradition can have great value for Reformed Christians, but only after the biblical foundations have been brought into prominence. In a question of this importance a tradition merely “ecclesiastical” or “Reformed” establishes and justifies nothing. “It would be a very poor and miserable refuge,” says John Calvin, “if, in defending the baptism of little children, we were obliged to have recourse to the bare and simple authority of the Church; but it will become plain that this is by no means the case.” (Inst. IV.viii.16). Therefore I will argue for the validity of infant baptism from Scripture (in its entirety – both Old and New Testament) before in any way referring to church history or tradition. An objection may already be given at this point – that there are no explicit references to infant baptism in the Bible. I answer that neither are there any references to the Holy Trinity in Scripture, yet it is a fundamental and distinguishing doctrine of true Christianity. Just as the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not explicitly taught in Scripture but is deduced by good and necessary consequence, so in the same way Reformed Protestant theology derives its position on infant baptism from Scripture by good and necessary consequence. Says the Westminster Confession of Faith: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men” (WCF 1.6.). It is my desire to remain true to this confession, and therefore I will argue the case for infant baptism from Scripture alone before considering church history and tradition.

 II. God’s relationship with man has always been in covenant

We first see a covenant of works administered with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Upon Adam’s failure, God established the covenant of grace in the promised seed Genesis 3:15, and shows his redeeming care in clothing Adam and Eve in garments of skin — perhaps picturing the first instance of animal sacrifice. The specific covenants after the fall of Adam are seen as administered under the overarching theological covenant of grace. The Noahic covenant is found in Genesis 8:20-9:17. Although redemption motifs are prominent as Noah and his family are delivered from the judgment waters, the narrative of the flood plays on the creation motifs of Genesis 1 as de-creation and re-creation. The formal terms of the covenant itself more reflect a reaffirmation of the universal created order, than a particular redemptive promise. The Abrahamic covenant is found in Genesis 12, 15, and 17. In contrast with the covenants made with Adam or Noah which were universal in scope, this covenant was with a particular people. Abraham is promised a seed and a land, although he would not see its fruition within his own lifetime. The Book of Hebrews explains that he was looking to a better and heavenly land, a city with foundations, whose builder and architect is God (11:8-16). The Apostle Paul writes that the promised seed refers in particular to Christ (Galatians 3:16). The Mosaic covenant, found in Exodus 19-24 and the book of Deuteronomy, expands on the Abrahamic promise of a people and a land. Repeatedly mentioned is the promise of the Lord, “I will be your God and you will be my people” (cf. Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12), particularly displayed as his glory-presence comes to dwell in the midst of the people. This covenant is the one most in view by the term Old Covenant. The Davidic covenant is found in 2 Samuel 7. The Lord proclaims that he will build a house and lineage for David, establishing his kingdom and throne forever. This covenant is appealed to as God preserves David’s descendants despite their wickedness (cf. 1 Kings 11:26-39; 15:1-8; 2 Kings 8:19; 19:32-34), although it did not stop judgment from finally arriving (compare 2 Kings 21:7; 23:26-27; Jeremiah 13:12-14). Among the prophets of the exile, there is hope of restoration under a Davidic king who will bring peace and justice (cf. Ezekiel 37:24-28). The New Covenant is anticipated with the hopes of the Davidic messaih, and most explicitly predicted by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:34). At the Last Supper, Jesus alludes to this prophecy, as well as to prophecies such as Isaiah 49:8, when he says that the cup of the Passover meal is “the New Covenant in [his] blood.” This use of the Old Testament typology is developed further in the Epistle to the Hebrews (see especially chapters 7-10). Jesus is the last Adam and Israel’s hope and consolation: he is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17-18). He is the prophet greater than Jonah (Matt 12:41), and the Son over the house where Moses was a servant (Hebrews 3:5-6), leading his people to the heavenly promised land. He is the high priest greater than Aaron, offering up himself as the perfect sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 9:12, 26). He is the king greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42), ruling forever on David’s throne (Luke 1:32). The term “New Testament” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek New Covenant and is most often used for the collection of books in the Bible, but can also refer to the New Covenant as a theological concept.

III. God’s covenantal dealings with man have always been signified and sealed with visible signs

A) The Covenant with Adam had the visible sign of the Tree of Life (Gen 3:22)

B) The Covenant with Noah had the visible sign of the rainbow (Gen 9:12-17)

C) The Covenant with Abraham had the visible sign of circumcision (Gen 17:9-14)

[After this inaugural sign of covenant inclusion was given to Abraham, it remained in force after the Sinaitic and Davidic Covenants were brought in to supplement it, neither of which was provided with a similar sign of inclusion, God thereby making manifest that there remained for his people a participation in the first Covenant of Promise made with Abraham and his Seed, which the later covenants, coming afterwards, could not nullify; what is of utmost significance, therefore, is the eventual replacement of this sign by the sign of a newer and greater Covenant which did indeed fulfill the Abrahamic Promise as the Covenant of Moses had not been able to do.]

D) The New Covenant has the visible sign of Baptism (Mat 28:19)

 IV. The corporate nature of the covenant of grace in the Old and New Testaments

In the Old Testament, we can see a corporate nature to the covenant in which it is not only offered to individuals, but also to their posterity or “seed” in their generations. Genesis 17:7, 9 “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee… And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations”. We see the same concept later in the second of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:5-6 “for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments”. As already shown, this corporate nature of the covenant in which God’s covenantal promises apply not only to believers but also to their children and the generations after them, continued throughout the Old Testament, as part of the everlasting covenant (Exodus 17:7) promised by God.

In the New Testament, the New Covenant is firstly shown to be the perfect fulfilment of the Abrahamic Promise (Galatians 3:13-18). Secondly, it is shown that the New Covenant replaces the Mosaic Covenant, which was shown to be impotent to fulfil the Abrahamic Promise, (Galatians 4:21-31; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6-13). And so, we who are in the New Covenant are heirs of the Abrahamic Promise (Romans 4:9-16; Galatians 3:5-9, 26-29; Ephesians 2:11-22, 3:6). We can see its continued corporate nature in the New Testament in places such as Acts 2:39 “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call”, Acts 16:30-31 Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”,  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”.

 

Let us bring this into the discussion by showing the history of God’s dealings with children and infants in their familial solidarity:

 

a)      From the beginning of creation, God has dealt with all humans in solidarity with their first federal and seminal head, Adam.

(Rom 5:12-21; 1Co 15:22; Gen 3:20)

 

b)      Immediately after the Fall, when God established his own people of covenant grace in the midst of the Serpent’s people of the world, the two contrary Kingdoms grew largely through familial generation.

(Gen 4:16-26; Gen 5:28-32)

c)       When God confirmed his Covenant with Noah, of Seth’s godly line, he likewise saved his whole family, although it was he alone who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord”

(Gen 6:8-13; Gen 6:17-18)

d)      When God established his eternal covenant with Abraham, which was foundational to all redemptive history following it, he explicitly included his offspring, and demonstrated this by giving the covenant-inclusion sign of circumcision to all, adults and children alike.

(Gen 17:9-14)

e)      When God revealed himself climactically to Moses, he spoke of generational solidarity both among the saved and unsaved.

(Exo 33:17-23; Exo 34:4-9)

f)       When God later established his covenant with David, his offspring was likewise explicitly included.

(2Sa 7:12-17)

g)      Malachi urges covenant faithfulness between spouses with the intent that their offspring might therefore be holy to God.

(Mal 2:14-15)

h)      When Jesus was on earth, he healed and raised many people because of the vicarious faith of another related person.

(Mat 8:13; Mat 9:2; Mar 5:35-42; Mar 9:21-27)

i)        When Peter preached the first sermon announcing the inauguration of the New Covenant, in full continuity with all redemptive history preceding, he framed it in terms of “you and your children”.

(Act 2:38-39)

j)        When God began to expanded his promised redemptive Kingdom, he typically brought in whole families, who all received baptism together.

(Act 16:14-15; Act 16:31-34; 1Co 1:16)

God’s redemptive love is fully displayed to children, most especially the children of covenant believers:

a)      Samuel was a chosen vessel of God from childhood, due to the faith of his mother, Hannah.

(1 Sam 1:11, 19-20, 24-28; 3:1-10)

b)      David was given faith in God from the womb.

(Ps 71:5-6; Ps 22:9-10)

c)       David was confident, because of God’s grace, of a blessed reunion with his first child from Bathsheba.

(2 Sam 12:23-24)

d)      Jeremiah was known and sanctified by God from the womb.

(Jer 1:5)

e)      John the Baptist was regenerate from the womb, and leapt for joy in the presence of his Saviour.

(Luk 1:41-44)

f)       Jesus clearly taught that his eternal Kingdom belongs even to infants whose parents bring then to him.

(Luk 18:15-17)

g)      Paul taught that the children of even one believing parent are holy  to the Lord.

(1 Cor 7:14)

h)      Although Paul himself was wickedly opposed to Christ for a time, yet because of his birth into the covenant community, and God’s grace in bringing the grace of his covenant to bear upon his life in a conversion experience, he was able to say that he had served God, not just from infancy, but from his ancestors.

(2 Tim 1:3; Gal 1:13-16)

i)         Paul proclaimed that Timothy knew the scriptures from infancy, and had always possessed that faith which had first dwelt in his mother and grandmother.

(2 Tim 1:5-6; 3:14-15)

j)        In fact, all the elect remnant who are born  into the Covenant of Grace  have been carried by God and preserved by his sanctifying influences from the womb to old age.

(Is 46:3-4)

God’s punishment is also displayed in children of the wicked, by virtue of familial solidarity:

a)      When God flooded the world for its wickedness, even infants were destroyed with all the rest.

(Gen 6:17)

b)      When God destroyed Sodom for its wickedness, all the infants were likewise destroyed.

(Gen 19:24-25)

c)       In the premier Old Testament example of God’s redemptive purpose, all the firstborn of Egypt were killed because of the impenitence of their parents.

(Ex 11:1-10; 12:29-30)

d)      When Korah and his followers rebelled against the Covenant, they were all swallowed up by the earth, even with their wives and infants.

(Num 16:27-35)

e)      When Joshua first entered the Promised Land and was hindered in capturing the city of Ai because of the sin of Achan, he destroyed Achan’s wife and children together with him.

(Jos 7:19-26)

f)       When God brought Israel into the Promised Land, he told them repeatedly to kill all of its inhabitants, including the infants.

(Num 21:2-3; Deut 7:2, 20:16-17; Jos 6:17; 1 Sam 15:1-3)

God’s secret election is at work  among covenant infants, so as to preserve some in grace and harden others in apostasy; but he still commands the sign of covenant inclusion to be given to all covenant infants alike:

a)      Isaac was chosen and Ishmael cast out, but both received the sign of circumcision.

(Gen 17:23-27, 21:1-4, 9-14; Gal 4:21-31)

b)      Jacob was loved and Esau was hated, but both received the sign of circumcision.

(Gen 25:21-26; Mal 1:2-3; Rom 9:10-16)

In sum, throughout redemptive history, God has never dealt with his people as mere individuals. A denial of God’s pattern of viewing certain persons in solidarity with another related person is tantamount to denying the very gospel, which teaches that, every individual is guilty by virtue of his relation to Adam, and all who come to be corporately joined to Christ are redeemed [see again Rom 5:12-21; 1Co 15:22].

 

V. The correlation between Circumcision in the Old Testament and Baptism in the New Testament

 

Circumcision was instituted,

1)      That it might be a sign of the grace of God to the posterity of Abraham and that for two reasons; because God would receive into the covenant those that believed on account of the Messiah, which was to come; and also, because he would grant them the land of Canaan, and there give his church a sure resting place until the Messiah would make his appearance.

2)      That it might be the means of binding Abraham and his posterity to gratitude, or to repentance and faith, and thus to the observance of the whole law.

3)      That it might be a badge of distinction between the Jews and other nations and religionists.

4)      That it might be the sacrament of initiation and reception into the visible church.

5)      That it might signify that all men are unholy by natural generation, and remind them of their natural uncleanness, and of the importance of guarding against all forms of sin, especially those which are in opposition to the law of chastity (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4).

6)      That it might be a sign to declare unto them that the way of deliverance from sin, would be through Christ, who would be born of the seed of Abraham (Gen. 22:18).

Why circumcision was abolished

It was abolished because the thing which it signified became real; and also because it had been instituted for the purpose of separating the Jews from all other nations, which state of things ceased after the coming of Christ (Rom 2:10; 3:29; 4:12). It became necessary, therefore, that the type of circumcision should be abolished, when the Messiah made his appearance, and the nations of the earth were no longer to be separated, as they had been; for it is the part of a wise law-giver when certain causes are changed, to modify and change those laws and institutions which are depending upon these causes.

What there is in place of circumcision

Baptism occupies the place of circumcision in the New Testament (Col 2:11-13). One sacrament succeeds another, when the one is abolished, and the other takes its place, in such a way as to signify the same thing by different rites, and to have the same design and use. This can be shown in the following:

a)      Baptism and circumcision both signify true faith and regenerate hearts

 

Deu 10:16; Deu 30:6; Jer 4:4; Jer 9:26; Rom 4:11 [Circumcision is here explicitly said to be sign of true faith, and yet it was commanded to be given to infants still too young to give a credible profession of faith; it therefore necessarily nullifies any argument that, if baptism signifies true faith, it must not, because of that reason, be given to infants who cannot give a credible profession of faith.]; Act 16:30-34; Tit 3:5 [It is likely that baptism is referred to here as a sign of regeneration, which truly purifies the heart as waters cleanse the body]; 1Pe 3:21 [Baptism is here called “an appeal to God,” and thus signifies true faith, as did Abraham’s circumcision (Rom 4:11).]

 

b)      Baptism and circumcision were both applied to adult converts who had previously been out of God’s Covenant.

 

Exo 12:48; Act 8:34-38

 

c)       When circumcision or baptism was first given to hitherto un-Covenanted persons, it was customarily given to families/households, not simply to individuals.

 

Gen 17:23-27; Act 2:38-39; Act 16:14-15; Act 16:31-34; 1Co 1:16 [although the cases of household circumcision clearly include infants and the cases of household baptism are ambiguous, the striking fact is still true that, insofar as the scriptural witness reveals, the canons of inclusion functioned in precisely the same manner; which gives warrant for believing that those canons of baptismal inclusion which are not addressed by definite scriptural example would likewise be identical with clear canons of circumcision-inclusion]

 

d)      Circumcision and baptism are explicitly identified in such a way that the latter, in this era, fulfills precisely the same function as the former had previously.

 

Col 2:11-13

VI. A summary of the argument thus far

a)      God’s relationship with man has always been in covenant

b)      This covenant has always been corporate, including both adult believers as well as their posterity

c)       God’s covenantal dealings with man have always been signified and sealed with visible signs

d)      In the Old Testament this sign and seal (i.e. sacrament) was circumcision, in the New Testament it is baptism.

e)      Baptism is rightfully to be administered to infants based on the corporate nature of God’s covenant of grace, as has been shown from Scripture.

f)       Covenantal infant baptism is therefore shown to be soundly deduced from Scripture.

It is therefore plain that, when considering Scripture as a whole, and the theological trajectories presented in it, that infant baptism is soundly deduced from it by good and necessary consequence. The rationale behind infant baptism therefore is evidently and unquestionably biblical.

VII. Historical evidence

Now that we have thoroughly considered the biblical support for infant baptism, we may now turn our attention to the historical evidence.

The first explicit evidence of children of believing households being baptized comes from the early Church—where infant baptism was uniformly upheld and regarded as apostolic. In fact, the only reported controversy on the subject was a third-century debate whether or not to delay baptism until the eighth day after birth, like its Old Testament equivalent, circumcision! (See quotation from Cyprian, below; compare Leviticus 12:2–3.) Only in the 16th century would Anabaptists, and later their spiritual descendents, Baptists, object to infant baptism. For over 1500 years, therefore, the entire church was in consensus with regards to the validity of infant baptism.

Consider, too, that fathers raised in Christian homes (such as Irenaeus) would hardly have upheld infant baptism as apostolic if their own baptisms had been deferred until the age of reason.

For example, infant baptism is assumed in Irenaeus’ writings below (since he affirms both that regeneration happens in baptism, and also that Jesus came so even infants could be regenerated). Since he was born in a Christian home in Smyrna around the year 140, this means he was probably baptized around 140. He was also probably baptized by the bishop of Smyrna at that time—Polycarp, a personal disciple of the apostle John, who had died only a few decades before.

a) Irenaeus (c. AD 140 – 202)

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment34 [A.D. 190]).

b) Hippolytus (AD 170 – 235)

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

c) Origen (AD 184/185 – 253/254)

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).

“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

d) Cyprian of Carthage (c. AD 200 – 258)

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).

“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).

e) Gregory of Nazianzus (AD 329 – 389/390)

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 [A.D. 388]).

“‘Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” (ibid., 40:28).

f) John Chrysostom (c. AD 347–407)

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

g) Augustine (AD 354 – 430)

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).

“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).

“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).

“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412]).

h) Council of Milevis (AD 416)

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration” (Canon 3 [A.D. 416]).

i) Council of Carthage (AD 418)

Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians” (Canon 7 [A.D. 418]).

VIII. Conclusion

We see therefore that infant baptism isn’t some errant papist doctrine and practice that entered the church during the Middle Ages, but on the contrary, has its roots firmly in the Bible itself, and from there it flowed from the Apostles to the early church, from where it has continued by God’s grace and providence up to the present day. Perhaps its meaning became twisted by the papacy during the Middle Ages, and a number of superstitions were invented which robbed infant baptism from its biblical foundation, but during the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers went back to Scripture and the early church, just as I have done here, and rediscovered its true biblical meaning and significance. Today still, the rationale behind infant baptism in Reformed churches is the same as that which I have presented above. Let us therefore praise and thank God for the wonderful covenant of grace He has made with us and our children, and for baptism, the divine sign and seal of this covenant which He has in his infinite wisdom instituted for us.

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