Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
By Rev. Arthur Allen
BEFORE we enter into the consideration of the objections of the antipaedobaptists to the Sacrament of Baptism being administered to infants of believing parents, we desire it to be clearly understood that we recognise as fellow-Christians all who trust in Christ for their salvation, but maintain that their Christian profession is imperfect in proportion as they depart from the doctrines of Holy Scripture. While drastic means may be necessary to expose error, such means should not be used to measure our Christian affection to the household of faith.
The Sacrament of Baptism administered to infants of believing parents is vigorously rejected by the antipaedobaptists (pedo, meaning infant). The Reformed Churches are charged with "perpetuating a lie." Dr. T. T. Shields, of the Independent Baptist Church of Canada, condemns such reformers as John Calvin and John Knox, for carrying the "curse of infant baptism" into the Reformed Church. Such strong language is born of ignorance, and is maintained by a misrepresentation of the Holy Scriptures; and, while it is the common boast of the antipaedobaptists that they believe the Bible to be the very Word of God, they repudiate its instruction by remaining silent on those Scriptures that do not support their own peculiar ideas. In support of the above charge, we shall consider some of the objections raised by the antipaedobaptists.
The antipaedobaptists object to the rite of Baptism being administered to children, because they are incapable of conscious experience, and therefore cannot exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We would ask the following question: Seeing that faith is the recognition of Christ as Saviour and Lord, and that "faith is the gift of God," why cannot infants recognise Christ as Lord and Saviour?
We are told that the whole question is unreasonable, as the child is incapable of conscious experience. We are not dealing with human reason, but Divine revelation. We are interested in what God has revealed and not what the antipaedobaptist thinks or the conclusions of human reason; therefore, we are not prepared to substitute the reasonings of the antipaedobaptists for the Inspired Word of God. "Nothing is more senseless than the attempt to modify the results of the inspiration of Jehovah in conformity with human reason." (Hodge.)
The Holy Scripture reveals emphatically and conclusively that an infant is capable of recognising Christ as Saviour and Lord. If we turn to 1st Chapter of Luke's Gospel, we find the unborn John recognised his yet unborn Lord and Saviour. "When Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb," and Elizabeth, being "filled with the Holy Ghost," said, "the babe leaped for joy."
The antipaedobaptists inform us that such a thing is impossible; as the unborn John was incapable of conscious experience. But the Holy Spirit declares that the recognition actually occurred, and we are prepared to accept the Word of God rather than the reasoning of men. We believe and are persuaded that all things are possible with God. It should be remembered that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is hidden from human observation (John 3: 8.) The Angel of the Lord, speaking to Zacharias concerning John the Baptist, said, "and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost; even from his mother's womb." (Luke 1: 15.) In the light of this text alone, the proselyting activities of the antipaedobaptists stand condemned so far as the above objection is concerned, that "infants of believing parents should be refused the rights of membership in the Church of Jesus Christ because they are incapable of conscious experience."
In the 2nd Book of Samuel, 12th Chapter, we have an account of the death of David's infant son, and in the 23rd Verse the words of David are recorded. "But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." If David is to be reunited with his son, it must be in heaven, and his infant son could only enter into heaven by the sacrificial death of Christ, and the regeneration by the Holy Spirit. David, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, makes it quite emphatic that he would go to be with his son. The antipaedobaptists forbid David's son from passing through the gates into the City of God, because he was "incapable of conscious experience."
Infants, as well as adults, need to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit before the gift of God, which is eternal life, can be realised. Paul, writing to the Romans, says, "Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." The reference to "those who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" is to infants. To quote Dr. Chalmers on the text: "Death reigned even over infants who were incapable of sinning as Adam did when the appetite prevailed in its contest with the sense of known duty, and with the fear of known consequences." The text makes it clear that infants as well as adults are wholly dependent upon the sufficiency of the sacrificial death of Christ for salvation; for "death reigned over them."
The antipaedobaptists must reject the clear statement of God's Word if they lay the charge of actual sin against infants. Infants cannot be Covenant Breakers. When God makes known the Covenant of Grace through His servant, Peter, saying, "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 2: 39), it is abundantly clear that the children of believing parents are embraced in the promise, and infants present on the occasion of Peter's sermon were undoubtedly baptised with their parents and received into the membership of the Church.
The favourite text of the antipaedobaptists is Mark 16: 16: "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved"; and the usual course of their argument is that infants are incapable of conscious experience, therefore they are incapable of believing, and should not be baptised; as believing is essential to baptism. But, as usual, they remain silent on the remaining part of the text, which reads: "but he that believeth not shall be damned"; thus, according to the reasoning of the antipaedobaptists, all children dying in infancy are damned. To quote the Rev. Malcolm MacKay: "Now let us turn the reasoning of the baptists upon themselves. They say, infants cannot believe, therefore they must not be baptised, but the verse continues, 'he that believeth not shall be damned.' Infants cannot believe, therefore they shall be damned."
This is indeed a pernicious doctrine, for which there is not the slightest evidence in Holy Writ; it is purely a human invention. According to this doctrine, God is dependent upon the child reaching the state of conscious experience before He can save the child; thus making God subject to the individual's mental development; and the antipaedobaptists, on this ground, refuse children membership in the Church of Jesus Christ.
The sacrificial death of Christ has made provision for all the little children that will adorn the streets of New Jerusalem; those who died in infancy and had not "sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression," even as David declared concerning his own son.
The Lord Jesus Christ confirms all that has been said concerning the regeneration of little children. Our Lord was "much displeased" with His disciples when they sought to hinder those who brought the little children to Him, and said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God." When the little infants were brought to Christ, it implies faith on the part of the parents that brought them. Our Lord did not preach to the little children; He did not wait until they made a profession of faith, but He received them, "And He took them up in His arms, and put His hands upon them, and blessed them." (Mark 10: 16.) The blessing of Christ is regeneration. Christ not only received the little children as members of His Church, but declared, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." The Lord anticipates the objection of the antipaedobaptists, on the ground that a little child should not be received into the membership of the Church of Christ, because the infant is incapable of conscious experience; as in Luke 18: 15, the Greek word used is "Brephe" meaning "Little Infant."
For further Scriptural evidence against the antipaedobaptists' objection that an infant should not be received into the membership of the Church because the infant is incapable of conscious experience, we would direct our readers' attention to Isaac, whose regeneration was assured while the aged Sarah laughed within herself. For God said unto Abraham: "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." And Paul states that, "Isaac was the son of promise." (Gal. 4: 23.) To Jacob, whom Rebekah knew was the favoured of the Lord, before he was born, "the elder shall serve the younger." (Gen. 25: 23.) To Joseph, and the revelation made known to him while he was yet a child. (Gen. 37.) To Moses, hid for three months by his parents, by faith. (Heb. 11: 23.) To Samuel, whose regeneration was assured while his mother yet prayed to God for a son. "And Eli answered and said, go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him." The Inspired Word informs us that "Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child." "And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord and also with men." (Ist Samuel 2: 26.) To John the Baptist, who was "filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." (Luke 1: 15.)
The Sacrament of Baptism is the sign and seal of membership in Christ's body, which is the Church; and little children embraced in the Covenant Promise of God are entitled to the sign and seal of the Covenant. It is not only unjust, but a violation of trust, on the part of believing parents (whose children come within the Covenant Promise) to deny their children the status of membership in Christ's Church on earth; such an act must be accompanied with great spiritual loss to the parents and their children, regardless of how devoted the parents may be, their children are, by the attitude of the parents, left with the impression that they are outside the Church of the Living God and therefore strangers and foreigners to the Covenant of Promise. To leave such an impression in the mind of a child is contrary to the Spirit of Christ, who said, "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God."
We feel that sufficient has been said, and sufficient references to the Holy Scriptures given, that those who have held the objection that infants must be refused the sign and seal of the Covenant in Baptism, on the ground that such infants are incapable of conscious experience, must withdraw their objection or stand opposed to the Inspired Word of God.
THE antipaedobaptist asserts that there is no reference to Infant Baptism in the New Testament, but to such an assertion we cannot agree; for it is clearly stated in Acts 16: 15, that Lydia was baptised and her household. Acts 16: 33. The Philippian jailer was baptised, he and all his. Acts 18: 8. Crispas with all his house were baptised. 1st Cor. 1: 14. Paul declares he baptised the household of Stephanas. But, before giving further consideration to household baptism, we will deal with the antipaedobaptist's form of objection.
The antipaedobaptists tell us that the above texts are not sufficient to warrant Infant Baptism, but that they require the specific terms, "Infant Baptism," to appear in the Holy Scriptures before they are prepared to accept Infant Baptism as a sacramental rite to be administered to the children of believing parents.
We have already turned the antipaedobaptists' reasoning against themselves with regards to "Conscious Experience" (see previous issue). We shall now see to what nonsense and confusion the antipaedobaptists' methods of interpretation lead us.
The doctrine of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, is not found in an express statement in the Holy Scriptures, but it is clear from necessary inference. To adhere to the method of interpretation adopted by the antipaedobaptists with reference to Infant Baptism, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity must be denied. There is not any specific text in the New Testament for women to partake or be admitted to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Must we, therefore, conclude that women are not to be permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper? Simply because the term "Infant Baptism" does not appear in the New Testament, the infants of believing parents are denied the sacramental rites of baptism by the antipaedobaptists; but when it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, they conveniently drop their principle of interpretation, and ignore the fact that there are not any specific terms in the New Testament with reference to the Holy Trinity or of women partaking of the bread and wine of the Sacrament. They accept the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and allow women to come to the Lord's Table because the inference is clearly set forth in the Scriptures, but they repudiate necessary inference with regards to Infant Baptism. We have here a glaring case of distorting the Holy Scriptures.
In the New Testament, there is no express command or reason given for observing the Christian Sabbath. According to the antipaedobaptist method of interpreting Infant Baptism, the desecration of the Sabbath is a meaningless phrase. The antipaedobaptist applies the method of necessary inference with regard to the Holy Trinity, the Lord's Supper to be partaken of by women, and the observance of the Sabbath Day; but completely disposes of this method of interpretation when it comes to the question of Infant Baptism. To repudiate necessary inference when it does not dovetail in with the preconceived ideas of the antipaedobaptists is little better than the Modernist's approach to the Holy Scriptures, and leads to such distortion that the fundamentalists among the antipaedobaptists would be forced to discredit it.
We shall now return to our consideration of household baptism. In the New Testament, we have six references to a number of people, up to 3000 in one day, being admitted to the membership of the Church by baptism. Acts 2: 41. Following Peter's sermon, "Then they that gladly received His word were baptised; and the same day there were added unto them about 3000 souls." Acts 8: 12. Following Philip's ministry in the city of Samaria, it is recorded "when they believed Philip's preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women." Acts 10: 48. The Apostle Peter and certain brethren from Joppa went to Caesarea, and, after the Apostle had addressed a meeting, "He commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord." Acts 18: 8. It is recorded that "Crispas, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptised." Acts 19: 5. Certain disciples at Ephesus, who had been ignorant of the sacrament instituted by our Lord, were instructed by Paul, and "when they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus." We also have a reference to Crispas and Gaius in 1st Cor. 1: 14.
In all the above references, we notice that a meeting had been organised or conducted, and, following the meeting, the sacrament of Baptism was administered. If the above were the only reference to Baptism in the New Testament, we would be justified in refusing to administer the Sacrament of Baptism only in the church, that is, when the church was assembled in one place. But we have other references to Baptism.
We have two references to baptism being administered to individuals. Acts 8: 38. Philip was instructed to go to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, where he would meet an Ethiopian, and on the Ethiopian's confession of faith, Philip baptised him by the roadside. Acts 9: 18. Ananias is instructed to go to the house of Judas, in the street called Straight, in Damascus, and enquire for "one, Saul of Tarsus." Ananias, having found Saul, addressed him as "brother Saul," explained his mission, "and immediately there fell from his (Saul's) eyes as it had been scales; and he received his sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptised." Thus we have the warrant of Holy Scripture for administering baptism to individuals without taking into consideration time or place. Therefore, whatever objection may be raised against baptism being administered outside the church, that is, apart from the assembled church, under certain circumstances, is contrary to the Holy Scripture.
It is equally contrary to Holy Scripture to object to Infant Baptism; as we have three references to family baptism; and, if we include the house of Crispas, Acts 18: 8, we have four. Acts 16: 15. When Paul was at Philippi he met Lydia, a seller of purple, who received the word spoken by Paul. "And when she was baptised and her household," she offered Paul and his companion accommodation. Acts 16: 33. Paul and Silas, having spoken unto the Philippian jailer the word of the Lord, and to all that was in his house, "He took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes, and was baptised, he and all his straightway." In 1st Cor. 1: 16, Paul says, "And I baptised also the household of Stephanas."
It would prove a very difficult task to find a more suitable term to entitle little children of believing parents being received into the membership of the Church by baptism, than the term "household" or "family." The term includes the babe in its mother's arms and the other members of the family, in varying stages of development. The term makes provision for the infant as well as the teenager, which, in the early church, was so necessary. It is also evident that the term "household" is used to meet the objection of the antipaedobaptists; as we have no reference in Holy Scripture of a child of believing parents, on reaching the age of conscious experience, being baptised, for the simple reason that they were baptised as infants.
The infants in the household, being members of the church, would enjoy the privilege of being brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This is supported by Paul, when he says, concerning Timothy, "that, from a child, thou hast known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith, which is in Christ Jesus." Timothy's mother, Eunice, was a Christian, his father probably a heathen. Our mind immediately turns to the word of the Apostle to the Corinthians, "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." We also have the Apostle confirming the baptism of the household of Stephanas. 1st Cor. 16: 15. "I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanas that it is the first-fruits of Achaia)."
We have already noticed that there are six general references to baptism in the New Testament. Two references to individuals being baptised; and the four references to household or family baptism.
Although we have only six references to general baptism, tens of thousands were baptised in the early church, of which we have no references in the Scriptures. We do not have any reference in the New Testament of Christians being baptised in the Church of Antioch, Iconium, Rome, Thessalonica, or Colosse. Would the antipaedobaptists have us conclude that baptism was not administered in these churches? We know that baptism was administered in these churches; it is a necessary inference from the general references to baptism.
We have four references to household baptism, therefore the sacrament of baptism must have been administered to great numbers of households, of which we have no reference in Scripture. Therefore the objection of the antipaedobaptists to Infant Baptism is carried to an extreme when they suggest, rather, insist, that infants were excluded from every household that received baptism, or that children were not included in forming part of the household. The antipaedobaptists inform us that the words in Acts 16: 32 are addressed to adults; therefore infants were excluded from the household of the Philippian jailer. If we adopt the same method of interpretation to Exodus 12: 4, then there would not be an infant in all the households of Israel on the night of the Passover. Such conclusions are not only unjustified, but nonsense.
The antipaedobaptists have no justification to allow their imagination to suggest that little children did not form part of the household in the references referred to in Scripture; not only is there the necessary inference, but the very term itself, "household" or "house," embraces little children. In the light of the evidence produced, the onus is upon the antipaedobaptists to produce a reference or necessary inference, where the children of believing parents were refused baptism.
The Antipaedobaptists raise the objection that many who receive the Sacrament of Baptism as infants, when they grow to manhood and womanhood, live lives of infidelity and godlessness. We do not deny this fact; nevertheless, such objection rebounds with renewed force against the Antipaedobaptist; as many in their community who have received the rite of Baptism as adults have violated their solemn vows, and in their godlessness cast reflections on the Antipaedobaptists, who make much of the term, "Believer's Baptism," implying, of course, that they only baptise "Believers." It is quite evident that such Antipaedobaptists are indifferent to the implications of such terms, as we shall see later.
The parents, who bring their children for baptism in the Reformed Church are required to give a credible confession of faith, and so far as it is known, their conduct is in keeping with such a profession. Beyond this, the Reformed Church will not go, as her ministers repudiate any claim to a Divine revelation as to the spiritual state of the parents.
The objection of the Antipaedobaptists to Infant Baptism on the ground that some will depart from the faith in later life, gives no assurance that those baptised as adults will hold fast to the faith "once delivered to the saints." The term, "Believer's Baptism," which we meet with so often in Antipaedobaptist's circles, is indeed most presumptive in the light of the baptism of Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8: 13), and the rebuke administered by the Apostle Peter (Acts 8: 20-23). We ask, Would the Antipaedobaptist refuse to baptise Simon the Sorcerer, and on what ground? Do they presume to have a deeper spiritual insight than Philip, and those present on that occasion? It is evident that Simon the Sorcerer was destitute of true faith, and his profession at his baptism was hypocrisy.
The Antipaedobaptists, who put so much emphasis upon their presumptive term "Believer's Baptism," imply that they possess a power of spiritual penetration that was denied Philip and the Apostles. The Holy Scripture makes it very clear that others besides Simon the Sorcerer received the Sacrament of Baptism by false profession (1st John 2: 19), "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." We, therefore, submit that the objection that some baptised in infancy may in later life fall away, is really no objection at all: but rather a condemning statement against the Antipaedobaptists, who use terms that imply that all they baptise are believers, when even the Apostles could not make such a claim.
Little children are embraced in the Covenant of Grace; otherwise infants would not be redeemed. To refuse the right of membership in the Church of Jesus Christ to little children is contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture. Our Lord was "much displeased" with those who would prevent parents bringing their little children to Him, and said, "Suffer little children to come to Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10: 14-16). The Scriptures teach plainly enough that children of believing parents, dying in infancy, or before reaching a state of conscious experience, are saved, therefore regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Their salvation being wholly dependent upon the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The reference to little children in Rom. 5: 14 - "Who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression," nevertheless death reigned over them, although they had not been guilty of actual sin, Christ's sacrificial death met the penalty of their inherited sin. The reference to David, after death, being re-united with his infant son (2nd Samuel 12: 23) "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." Our Lord's reception of the little children already referred to (Mark 10: 14-16), and the inspired statement of the Apostle in 1st Cor. 7: 14. The unbelieving partner in marriage being sanctified by the believing partner, "else were your children unclean; but now they are holy." These, with many other references that could be made, are our Scriptural warrant that little children are members of Christ's Church, and no mere man should deny to them the right to receive the Sacrament of Baptism as a sign and seal of their membership in the Church.
Provided the Church assumes her responsibilities, in Worship, Government and Discipline, and the parents fulfil their solemn obligations, the children of such parents, baptised in such a Church, the efficacy of Baptism will be applied "and conferred by the Holy Ghost according to the counsel of God's own will in His appointed time." (see "Confession of Faith," chapter 28). In this matter we make no concessions to the Antipaedobaptists. God the Holy Spirit determines the occasion of His own activity, and as parents, earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, we have a holy confidence in the promises of God to our children. "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." God's sovereignty will not permit the promise embodied in the Sacrament of Baptism administered to our children to be cancelled.
The efficacy of Infant Baptism is not resolved by human reason, but by revelation. When parents brought their children to Christ while He was on earth, Christ received them and said, of "such is the kingdom of God." Shall the Lord Jesus refuse the parents of this generation who bring their little ones to Him in faith ? When the inspired Apostle states that the children of one believing parent are holy, are such children less holy in our day? Does the Antipaedobaptist maintain that there are varying degrees of possibility in God's promises?
The efficacy of Baptism does not depend upon the water that is sprinkled or the formula pronounced by the minister, but upon the Holy Spirit that honours the promise contained in the formula; and the operations of the Spirit are made known by revelation, not human reason (Jn. 3: 8). We are wholly in agreement with Fotheringham when he writes "Not for a moment do we ascribe any potency to consecrated water; but the Holy Spirit has chosen this as the means and occasion of His own activity. His operation does not submit itself to any of the senses; it does not come within the sphere of consciousness at all, but we have the assurance of God's promise, which faith rests upon, that the two factors in the Sacrament are inseparably joined together, so that the part we see is a testimony to the reality of the operation which we cannot perceive. The mystery cannot be eliminated without destroying the sacramental character of the ordinance" (Princeton Review).
That there are those who after being baptised live godlessly to the end of their days, we know; but we also know that the promises of God have not been broken in His rejection of them.
The objection that some in later life live godlessly, is no objection to Infant Baptism at all. The objection rather exposes the shallowness of the Antipaedobaptist's presumption in the use of the term "Believer's Baptism," when so many have received so-called "Believer's Baptism" by false profession. This statement is supported by the fact that Dr. T. T. Shields, perhaps the most outspoken Antipaedobaptist in the world today, has withdrawn from the regular Baptist community and formed an independent Baptist Church in Canada? Why?
Baptism is a Sacrament, ordained by Christ for admission to the membership of the Church, as a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace, regeneration, and the remission of sins. Seeing that it has already been established from the Holy Scriptures that infants are capable and actually have received these blessings, the Antipaedobaptists, in refusing little children the right to membership in His Church, do so against the explicit direction of our Lord and the practice of the Apostolic Church.
The antipaedobaptists maintain that the sign of circumcision used in the Old Testament dispensation represents something altogether different from the sign of baptism in the New Testament dispensation.
Baptism is the sign of the Covenant of Grace and the solemn admission of the person baptised into the visible church of God; therefore, if the Holy Scriptures clearly teach that circumcision is a sign of the Covenant of Grace and the admission of the person circumcised into the visible church of the Old Testament dispensation, it is established that both signs are used to signify the same things, and that Christ has instituted the sign of baptism in place of the sign of circumcision. At present we are not considering the reason for the change in the sign, but that baptism has taken the place of circumcision.
Circumcision was the sign of the Covenant of Grace used in the Old Testament dispensation. In Genesis 17, we read that God established His covenant with Abraham, and we submit that the inspired Apostle is better equipped to interpret this passage of Scripture than the Antipaedobaptists. Paul positively identifies Christ, and Christ alone, as the seed referred to in the covenant established with Abraham: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ." Gal. 3: 16. The Apostle definitely states that the covenant is not made with many, but with one; to Christ. The covenant described in Jeremiah 31: 33, and Hebrews 8: 10, is simply an expanded form of the promise recorded in Genesis 17: 7. "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."
The Covenant of Grace originated with God, and goes back until the past is exhausted and we meet eternity. In Micah 5: 2 Christ is represented as the One "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Prov. 8: 23, "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was made"; also see Matt. 25:34, 2nd Tim. 1: 9, Titus 1: 2, 1st Peter 1: 20, Rev. 13: 8. While the Covenant of Grace goes back to all eternity, it is referred to as the New or Second Covenant because it became operative after the Covenant of Works was broken, through the weakness of the flesh: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. It is also called the New Covenant because of its stability in relation to the Covenant of Works (Heb. 8: 6-13). On the heavenly side the party to the covenant is God, essentially considered as the Father, upholding the Majesty and Authority of the Godhead. The Son of God, Christ, is the party representing man. He is a person of infinite merit and perfection. Thus the promises are made with Christ as the representative of man.
The following promises given by God and recorded in the Old Testament are typical or emblematical of the Covenant of Grace, and it should be carefully noted that the promises are made with parents, as representatives of their descendants. The promise made with Noah with reference to destruction by flood, Genesis 9:9, "Behold I will establish my covenant with you and with your seed after you." The covenant established with Abraham, Genesis 17. The covenant regarding the priesthood made with Phinehas, Num. 25: 12, 13. The covenant made with David with reference to the establishment of his kingdom, 2nd Sam. 7: 12.
The promises of the Covenant of Grace are made with Christ as the Head and Representative of His people; therefore the covenant was established with Abraham and recorded in Genesis 17: 7. "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." It cannot be disputed that this is the Covenant of Grace, the promises made to Abraham's seed, which is Christ, Gal. 3: 16-17. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made." "And this I say that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." The token or sign of the Covenant of Grace given to Abraham, and to all those the covenant embraced in the Old Testament dispensation, was circumcision: "And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and thee." Gen. 17: 11. The Apostle Paul emphatically declares that circumcision was the sign of righteousness imputed to all who by faith embraced the covenant; "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet; being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe. Rom. 4: 11. Thus in the Old Testament we have set before us the sign of circumcision as the sign and seal of the Church of God on earth.
The promises are to Abraham and his seed, which is Christ, and therefore must not be confined to the natural descendants of Abraham; for the blessings received and bestowed upon all who believe are called "the blessings of Abraham"; "That the blessings of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Gal. 3: 14. Therefore the sign of circumcision must not be considered as a badge of national distinction, as it was not confined to the natural descendants of Abraham; "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed." Gen. 17: 12.
The whole significance of the sign, circumcision, was the greatest of all blessings; the promise was, "I will be a God unto thee and thy seed." Thus we have the Church set before us in the Old Testament dispensation and the sign or token of circumcision was the right of admission into its membership, "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." Gen. 17: 14. It is also evident that we must acknowledge the spiritual character and significance of circumcision, as explained by the Apostle. "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly: neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." Rom. 2: 28-29.
We feel that sufficient has been said to show that circumcision was the token of the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament dispensation, or as Paul has said, it was the seal of justification by faith and union with God. Our Lord Jesus Christ has seen fit to change the sign, but not the things signified by the sign. Baptism has been substituted for circumcision. In the New Testament baptism is the token of the Covenant of Grace, the seal of justification by faith and union with God. In the Old Testament dispensation circumcision was the rite by which the individual was received into the Church of God. In the New Testament dispensation baptism is the rite by which the individual is received into the Church of God.
The Antipaedobaptists know very well that circumcision was the initiatory rite of the former dispensation of admission to the membership of the visible Church; and they also know that this rite was applied to adults and to infants eight days old - that is, infants born within the Covenant received the sign of the covenant, and the blessings of the covenant, and the privileges of the covenant. The infants were received into the Church by God's appointment, and the reception of infants within the covenant has never been repealed. Let the Antipaedobaptists show us either by precept or example from the Holy Scriptures where God has changed His mind concerning the reception of infants within the covenant into His Church.
The blessings sealed and signified by circumcision are identical with the blessings sealed and signified by baptism. Paul in his letter to the Colossians said: "And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead." Col. 2: 10-12.
The Antipaedobaptists in refusing the rite of baptism to infants of believing parents, refuse them the right of membership in the visible Church of God, when by God's appointment they, the infants, were received into the Church by the sign of circumcision at the age of eight days. Without any warrant from the Holy Scripture the Antipaedobaptists are prepared to set aside God's appointment, and by their presumptuous action imply that the infants of today, within the covenant, are excluded from the privileges of the Church which the infants of the Old Testament age enjoyed. Are we to conclude that God is less gracious today than He was then? We repudiate any such suggestion. If parents bring their infants in faith to receive the sacrament of baptism, the seal and sign of the Covenant of Grace, God will fulfil His promise: "I will be a God unto you and your children."
Arthur Allen (1902-1958) was the youngest of five sons born to Robert Allen of Gairloch, Scotland. He was accepted as a student for the ministry in 1933, and completed one year at the University of Edinburgh, secured the Diploma of the Scottish Institute of Anthropology, and completed the normal three year course at the Free Church of Scotland College. With a small group in the Presbyterian Church of Victoria including Prof John Gillies and F M Bradshaw (q.v.), he founded the Calvinist Society of Victoria in 1939, and was a founder and first editor of the Reformed Theological Review in 1942. This article on Infant Baptism was published monthly, in four parts, in the Australian Free Presbyterian from July to October, 1953. A minister in the PCEA, Arthur Allen was survived by his able wife (d.1985) and a son.