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TRACTS FOR THE PEOPLE-N0. XXVIII.
REVIEWS OF DR. KURTZ AND REV. MR. HALL.
Having in the preceding essay, given a specimen of the evils of infant baptism, in four very striking and comprehensive particulars, it remains, in order to complete our original plan, that we specially attend to that show of New Testament authority which the more evangelical and plausible Protestant writers have alleged in favor of it, both as it respects the subject and the action.
In our preceding reviews of some of these works, we have already attended to a portion of their plea drawn from the Jewish institu. tion, or from the supposed identity of the Jewish and Christian institutions. But what remains, are a few passages selected from the apostolic writings almost universally alleged by Pedobaptist writers in favor of insants, and which have had more influence on the im. perfectly instructed readers of the New Testament than any other arguments urged by the advocates of this ancient rite.
The first of these is found in the discourses of our Lord as reported by some of the Evangelists. It is in the following words: “There were then brought to him little children, that he would put his hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children and forbid them not to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matth. xix. 13, 14. This important incident is also reported by Mark, and in the words following, to wit:—"And they brought young children that he should touch them, and his disciples rebuked them that brought them. But when Jesus saw it he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come to me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily, I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” Mark xvi. 13-16. So important is this incident, that it is also noticed by Luke in the words following, viz.—"And they brought unto him also infants that he would touch them; but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him and said, Suffer 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, shall in no wise enter therein.” Luke xviji. 15–17. We have given the common version of this important incident, SERIES I11.- VUL. V.
because this is due to those who argue from it, and because it gives to them all the advantages they can claim.
The first point made on this passage is that it is thrice repeated in the New Testament.
The second is that the inspired writers did not use the word pais, but paidion; because, as they allege, the former word (pais) indicates a young man and a servant of mature age and reason; whereas the latter (paidion) denotes an infant, a very young child, a speechless babe. So also the word brephos is used once in Luke.
The third point is that the Lord declared the kingdom of God to be composed of such. Therefore, infants have a right to baptism and to consequent admission into the kingdom of God or the New Testament church. That I have done justice to the Pedobaptists, I will quote Rev. Edwin Hall, A. M., of Connecticut-1810-one of the most recent and learned writers on the subject:
"Some parents once brought little children (infants, says Luke, xviii. 15) to Christ, that he should lay his hands on them and bless them. His disciples forbade them. They understood that Christ's kingdom was to rest upon faith in the soul, and upon the intelligent obedience of men to his precepts; but how could children have this faith or this knowledge! They appear to have come to the same conclusion concerning bringing little children to Christ that he might touch them, that many in these days arrive at concerning the baptism of little children;-“What good can it do to an unconscious babe?” At all events, they forbade these parents to bring their infants to Christ for this purpose. But Christ rebuked them; he called the little children to him; he took them in his arms; he blessed them; he said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” He meant by the kingdom of heaven, either his earthly church or his heavenly; it matters not which for the argument. If the heavenly church is, in part, made up of such; then this was a sufficient reason for Christ why he should take them in his arms and bless them; and rebuke those who would forbid them to be brought to him. It is the very reason that he alleged: and he himself drew these conclusions from the reason. What an argument for bringing little children to Christ now--that he may seal them as his own; and that visibly as he did when he took them in his arms? But if by “kingdom of heaven” he meant his earthly church, then the argument is at an end: they are to be baptized on this express warrant.
Those who wish to prevent this passage from bearing on the question at issue, say, that by the words “of such,” our Lord meant -pot of such infants, but of such “simple-hearted and humble persons" is the kingdom of heaven. This would be a good reason why “simple-hearted and humble persons” should not be forbidden to come to Christ;- but the fact that “simple-hearted and humble": ar'ults belong to the kingdom of God, is no reason why Christ should take infants in his arms and bless them.
It is said, we forget that Jesus did not baptize them. No, we do not forget that "Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.” It is not necessary for us to assert or to suppose that these infants were baptized at all. Christ's disciples were sent at first to preach, not a redemption completed, but to preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Their final commission was after the resurrection of our Lord; and at that time he instituted his baptism; which appears to be essentially different from the baptism practised before. The disciples of Christ baptized newly made disciples before this, but it seems to have been John's “baptism of repentance,” Acts xix. 4, and not the baptism instituted by Christ as the new seal of his covenant. Grant it, if our brethren please, that these infants were not baptized. This conduct of Christ, and this rebuke which he administered to those who would forbid infants would at least teach his disciples no more to reject infants from the blessings of the Christian religion, under the notion that infants cannot believe. It would teach them no more to forbid parents to bring them to Christ for his blessing. It would teach them to be cautious how they forbade infaits from te privileges which God had chartered to them in his covenant. It was designed to teach how Christ regarded infants; and the remembrance of this would necessarily bear upon the interpr tation which they would give with regard to the application of the new seal, whether to apply it to infants or not."
This is justly regarded an important incident reported by three of the four Evangelists. But as it was spoken before Christian baptism was instituted, it can have no logical nor rational bearing on that subject. 1st. And, indeed, the avowed object of those who brought these children to the Saviour is declared to be not to receive an ordinance, but to obtain a blessing. Jesus did lay his hands
upon them and bless them, or pray for them; and, therefore, the intention of those who brought them was gained; which was not baptism, but a blessing.
But, in the second place, as to the words used to indicate the age of those children, they are alleged to be terms indicative of perfect infancy, such as brephos and paidion. But while these terms do, sometimes indicate very young children, they are also used to represent those of some years—indeed, of years capable of learning the scriptures. Timothy, while a brephos, or child, says Paul, knew the holy scriptures. For this is the word selected by him when speaking of the early attainments of Timothy, 2d epis. Tim. iii. 15:“From a brephos, a child, thou hast known the holy scriptures." Such a brephos is, with us, a proper subject of baptism. The same is true of pardion, often translated a "little child;" but John and the other Apostles call adult persons, as well as stripplings and damsels, paidia. . Jesus says, "Behold I and the children, paidia, whom God
has given me. This term, with him, indicates all the family of God. Indeed, a girl, said by Mark to be twelve years old, is called a paidion. See chapter v. 39, 43. Many such instances could be given, but surely these will suffice to show what fallacious guides these are who would lead the people to imagine that these were speechless babes and senseless infants brought to Jesus to be blessed-when children from one to twelve years and more are so denominated!!
But there are in these passages themselves evident indications that they were not babes-perfect infants. "Suffer little children to come to me.” He does not say carry them to me, but let them come. Again, in Mark and Luke he says, “Suffer the little children to come to me.” They were, then, capable of hearing, learning, and coming to him.
Yet he does not say that ‘of them is the kingdom of heaven;" but * Of such!”—of those as humble, docile, and ingenuous as they-of such is the kingdom of God. Abraham, and Moses, and David, the Prophets and Apostles, are in character and spirit as teachable and subordinate as babes-and so are all the children of God.
But more than enough has been said to show how entirely inapposite to the case before us are these quotations from the Evangelists which have respect to the imposition of the Saviour's hands and his benedictions on children, before Christian baptism was at all instituted, as all agree that Christian baptism was instituted aster the resurrection of Christ. We, therefore, proceed to another, yet a somewhat similar argument, deduced from a passage in Acts of Apostles, chap. ii. ver. 38, 39. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you”—“for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord your God shall call.”
On this Rev. Benjamin Kurtz, of Baltimore, says“Observe here, that the children spoken of were 'little children;" according to Mark x. 16., they were so young that our Saviour 'took them up in his arms;' and in Luke xviii. 15., they are expressly called “infants They must accordingly bave been children not only in temper, docility, &c., but also and emphatically in age and stature. Notice next, that our Lord positively affirms respecting them, that, 'of such is the kingdom nf heaven; that is, of such little children is the kingdom of heaven,-to them it belongs, or theirs this kingdom is. “It is well known,' says Professor Smucker, ‘to those ac. quainted with the phraseology of the New Testament, that the expressions 'kingdom of God' and kingdem of heaven' are familiarly used to designate the church of God under the New Testament economy: Thus, John the Baptist preached, saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaveu is at hand. It will not be supposed that
heaven was literally descending to the earth and had almost arrived amongst us; but the Saviour evidently meant, that the time for remodelling his church into its New Testament form was at hand.? Robert Hall, a distinguished and learned Baptist minister, explains this phrase in the same manner. His words are, "The kingdom of God, a phrase which is constantly employed in scripture, to denote that state of things which is placed under the avowed administration of the Messiah.' If, then, the expression, ‘kingdom of heaven, signi. fies the visible church of God, as distinguished both from the heathen world and the old economy, and the church, as Christ declares, is composed in part of little children,' or embraces them as members, then, of course, they are entitled to baptism as the sign of their membership
“It is worthy of notice that the Apostle here uses the definite article the,-not a, but 'THE promise, that is, the promise of God to Abraham, “to be a God unto thee and unto thy seed after thee,' is equally ‘unto you and to your children.' Now in order to decide what Peter meant by the expression, 'your children,' it is only necessary to ascertain the import of the words 'thy seed' in the promise referred to. It is universally admitted, and has never been denied, that the latter comprises small children 'eight days old,' and hence it follows with all the clearness and certainty of a mathematical demonstration, that the former embraces the same description of individuals. Every one knows that the word seed means children; and that children means seed; and that they are precisely the same. The promise, then, in which God engages to be our God and to constitute us his people, extends equally to our children; and, of course, gives them as well as us, a right to the privileges of his people. And if they have a right to those privileges, what further argument need we to show that they are entitled to the outward token and seal of those privileges?
“It will avail nothing here to inform us, that texna, children, means posterity;suppose it does, sperma, seed, also means posterity; but both include our earliest as well as our latest posterity, our youngest children as well as our most distant successors. Admitting that the word children does not always signify infants, the question is, whether it can mean anything else but infants in this passage? Peter speaks to all who were capable of understanding him. These he calls you. Now, whom can he possibly mean by the children of these hearers but the infant offspring which they either had or might have? And if the promise to the adults be a reason for submitting to be baptized, it must also be a reason for baptizing the children; since the promise is said to be equally to both; and this is made the foundation of their baptism.”
By what law or laws of interpretation Dr. Kurtz could make "the promise," here named “the covenant of circumcision," or the promise to be a God to Abraham and his seed after him, and make it to children of eight days, I confess my entire inability to perceive. To my mind no assumption in any system, Pápal or Protestant, is more destitute of any form of even specious proof. SERIES III. - VOL. v.