Saturday, September 18, 2010

Vedder on Infant Baptism

No, not Eddie Vedder, Henry Clay Vedder (1853-1935) whose book is currently providing me with some light and entertaining reading.  His arrogance and bombast is really quite charming as long as you remember he is writing over a century ago. He proceeds with the assurance of someone who is preaching to the choir and sometimes makes some painfully half baked remarks.  Sometimes, however, he gets it spot on:

No scholar pretends that the baptism of infants is taught in the Scriptures; they are absolutely silent on the subject; yet from this silence certain inferences have been made.  It is sometimes assumed that a continuity of life unites the Old Dispensation and the New.  As children were by birth heirs of the promises through Abraham, so they are assumed to be by birth heirs of promise through Christ.  In this view the New Dispensation is organically one with the Old; baptism merely replaces circumcision, the church replaces the synagogue and temple, the ministry replaces the priesthood, while the spirit of all continues unchanged.  It appears to Baptists, on the other hand, to be clearly taught in Scripture that the New Dispensation, though a fulfilling and completion of the Old, is radically different from it.  Under the Old Dispensation a child was an heir of promise according to the flesh, but under the New Dispensation natural birth does not make him a member of the kingdom of God; he must be born from above, born of the Spirit.  The church has for its foundation principle a personal relation of each soul to Christ, and not a bond of blood; a child might be born a Jew, but he must be born again to be a Christian.  (Short History, 26)

Just when infant baptism began is uncertain; scholars have disputed long over the question without arriving at any decisive proof . . . It is tolerably certain, however, that by the time of Tertullian the practice was common, though by no means universal.  We know, for example, that Augustine, though the son of the godly Monica, was not baptised in infancy, but on personal profession of faith at age thirty-three.  Gregory of Nazianzum and Chrysostom are two others.  Similar cases were frequent without a doubt, though from this time on they became more rare, untill after the sixth century the practice of infant baptism was universal, or nearly so.  Nothing in the history of the church did so much as this departure from apostolic precedent to prepare  the way for the papacy.  It introduced into the church a multitude whose hearts were unchanged by the Spirit of God, who were worldy in aims and in life, and who sought for the worldy advancement of the church that thus their own power and importance might be magnified.  This consumation was doubtless aided and hastened by the rapid contemporary growth of the church in numbers and its increase in worldly prosperity. (Short History, 50)

There now, wasn't that fun?  :-)

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