THE BAPTISM OF CHILDREN.
view of the fact that the rights of children, so called and real, are being
discussed more and more at teachers' conventions, mothers' meetings,
neighborhood clubs, federations of woman's clubs, and in countless other
organizations, it seems almost like an anachronism to hear the objection to
children's baptism voiced time and again with great emphasis and bitterness.
there is, first of all, the plain command of Christ with reference to children.
"Make disciples of all nations," He says, Matt. 28, 19, and He
mentions Baptism as the first method, not without a very good reason. There is
His command to baptize the children, for they surely make up a considerable part
of the nations. If the objection is made that children are not specifically
named, we may ask: Are the women specifically named? And was it so self-evident
in the days when the women were largely regarded as chattels that they should be
placed on an equality with the men of the nation, presumably the representatives
of the nation? The Apostle Paul says, Col. 2, 11: "Ye are circumcised with
the circumcision made without hands." And in verse 12 he explains this:
"Buried with him in Baptism." But if Baptism is to take the place of
circumcision by such a close analogy, it follows that it is to be administered
to children also. In his great sermon on Pentecost Day, Peter tells the
multitude: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you…. For the promise is
unto you and to your children," Acts 2, 38. 39. Again a plain command to
include the children in the blessings of Baptism.
is, furthermore, the fact that children can believe and do believe, which is an
urgent reason for baptizing them. Christ says: "Except ye be converted, and
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven….
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me," Matt. 18,
2. 6. There can be no clearer words than these to show that Christ regards them
as believers in Him, and without faith in Him it would be impossible for them to
enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again He says: "Suffer the little
children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of
God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a
little child, he shall not enter therein," Mark 10, 14. 15. Human language
can hardly be made plainer.
are, in the next place, the facts of Scriptural history in support of the
baptism of children. It would be doing outrage to the common understanding of
the term, if the word "household," Acts 16, 15, or the expression:
"He was baptized, and all his," Acts 16, 33, cp. verses 32 and 34,
should exclude the children. There are, finally, the facts of the history of the
early Church, which make child baptism appear as a custom which had always been
practiced in the congregations. There was a difference, of course; those
converted in adult life receiving Baptism at that time, and since that was the
case in most of the mission-stations, it follows that adult baptism was more
prevalent in the early centuries than child baptism. But it seems to have been
the custom from the very first to baptize the children of Christian parents. A
few examples will suffice to show this truth. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in the
second century, says that infants and little ones, boys and youths, and aged
persons are baptized. Origen, who lived a little later, writes that the Church
had received the tradition to give Baptism to infants from the apostles.
Accordingly, a council held in the city of Carthage, A. D. 253, declared that
Baptism should be denied to no human being from his birth. This answer was given
with reference to the question whether children should be baptized before the
eighth day, or on that very day. Tertullian's objection to infant baptism, at
the end of the second century, shows that the practice was universal. Gregory of
Nazianz, in the fourth century, demanded that infants be baptized at once,
especially if there were any danger of their not living.
children belong to Christ, and to Him we bring them in Baptism. 212)