"It is objected. 'Belief should always go before Baptism. Does
not the Evangelist Mark say: 'He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be
saved.'? (Mark xvi. 16.) Infants cannot believe; therefore they ought not to be
Well, that half text, so often quoted, really proves nothing whatever against Infant Baptism. Take the text as it stands, only take the whole of it, and take the context with it; and the meaning is perfectly plain. It refers to the Gospel being preached 'in all the world,' the great heathen world beyond the bounds of Israel. It is to be preached and heard under solemn sanctions. It carries with it 'a savour of life and of death.' Everywhere it calls for faith, and confession of faith before men. 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.'
The promise and the warning apply only to the case under consideration. You can no more rightly infer from these words, it is purely a matter of inference at the most, that the infants of believers should not be baptized, than that they cannot be saved, because they cannot believe. Yet 'He that believeth not shall be condemned.' You might just as well argue from the Apostle's rule: 'He that will not work neither let him eat,' that because infants do not work they should get nothing to eat. In both cases, the words apply to those only in reference to whom they are spoken. And the historical situation makes it perfectly clear how the first disciples would understand Christ's command about 'discipling the nations.'
If we are asked: 'Why baptize unconscious babes?' our answer is: Because it is in accordance with Scripture principle, and Scripture precedent in the Church of God from the days of Abraham to the days of Christ. If unconscious babes were circumcised, as we know, according to the will of God, on the ground of their parents' faith, why should they not be baptized on the ground of their parents' faith? 'If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.' 'For to you is the promise,' Peter said, speaking to devout Jews and Gentile proselytes, 'and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him.' (Gal. iii.29) The Saviour 'called the babes unto Him, and took them up in His arms and blessed them,' when brought to Him in the arms of believing mothers. 'He was much displeased' with the disciples, who, with the best intentions, would have forbidden them to be brought for the blessing, because they were but unconscious babes, who could neither understand nor believe. Is there no danger of a like mistake being made in our time by those who, with the best of motives, would act in a similar way?'
From the rare bound photocopy by Douglas
Bannerman, Difficulties About Baptism (1898) ($12.95-65%=4.53 from SWRB). In this book (of 86 pages) Bannerman
deals with the nature of the difficulties raised by questions arising from the
Baptist view of baptism, in the context of the Christian church generally, both
Scripturally and historically.
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