>On Infant Baptism

Conversations and thoughts concerning baptism have been engaging me in the past few months –particularly, weeks– which have encouraged me to study more.

Let me, first, build a bit more in regards to context, and then, I’ll share some summative thoughts from John Wesley’s “A Treatise on Baptism”.

At our church, we have a student who –along with his mother– has been asking me about baptism. He has never been baptized and would like to know more concerning it’s meaning, significance, importance, etc. What’s more: In our church, there is a baby who is just a few months old, whose parents have asked that he be “dedicated”. Upon further inspection, I have come to realize that the parents are expecting H2O to be involved in the service of dedication, which –in my mind– constitutes baptism. After all, water plus “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” equals Christian baptism, right? What’s even more: Lindsey and I are expecting our fourth baby to arrive in the next few weeks, perhaps even days. Each of our children have been baptized as infants (no, not to escape ‘limbo’). And yet more [This is getting lengthy, I know.]: We have another couple in the church expecting a newborn in a few months. Neither of their two older children were baptized as infants, one being a young boy, and the other being a since-baptized, teenaged young lady.

Needless to say, in the past few months or so, I have, on several occasions, been asked quite a number of questions about my thoughts concerning baptism in general and infant baptism in particular.

Okay, so, now, onto the good stuff… Wesley’s summative thoughts concerning the Christian baptism of infants:

To sum up the evidence: If outward baptism be generally, in an ordinary way, necessary to salvation, and infants may be saved as well as adults, nor ought we to neglect any means of saving them; if our Lord commands such to come, to be brought unto him, and declares, ‘Of such is the kingdom of heaven;’ if infants are capable of making a covenant, or having a covenant made for them by others, being included in Abraham’s covenant, (which was a covenant of faith, an evangelical covenant,) and never excluded by Christ; if they have a right to be members of the Church, and were accordingly members of the Jewish; if, suppose our Lord had designed to exclude them from baptism, he must have expressly forbidden his Apostles to baptize them, (which none dares to affirm he did,) since otherwise they would do it of course, according to the universal practice of their nation; if it is highly probable they did so, even from the letter of Scripture, because they frequently baptized whole households, and it would be strange if there were no children among them; if the whole Church of Christ, for seventeen hundred years together, baptized infants, and were never opposed till the last century but one, by some not very holy men in Germany; lastly, if there are such inestimable benefits conferred in baptism, the washing away the guilt of original sin, the engrafting us into Christ, by making us members of his Church, and thereby giving us a right to all the blessings of the gospel; it follows, that infants may, yea, ought to be baptized, and that none ought to hinder them.

-paragraph 10 of section IV from “A Treatise on Baptism” in The Works of John Wesley, Volume 10 (p 198)

About Adam Godbold

husband, father, pastor, and more View all posts by Adam Godbold

4 responses to “>On Infant Baptism

  • Marshall

    >Amen to that!Marshall

  • Emily

    >So, just a question:If baptism is a symbol of dedicating oneself to the Lord, and since infants have no say in whether they get baptized or not, is it more of a symbol for the parents, to remind them that their child is now committed to the Lord? Just throwing stuff out there…

  • Adam Godbold

    >Well, Wesley understood baptism not to be a symbol of dedication but, rather, "the initiatory sacrament, which enters us into covenant with God… a means of grace…" which was "instituted in the room of circumcision." Here, he was in agreement with the Church universal before and during his time.So, just as there are plenty of other decisions made in behalf of a child, particularly in the infantile stages of life, so should baptism be, for baptism is about us receiving the grace of God, not about us proclaiming our faith in God.The anabaptists (Zwingli and others) entirely disagree, here.

  • Emily

    >I like that. "Baptism is about us receiving the grace of God, not about us proclaiming our faith in God."So, can the baptism of the Holy Spirit happen before baptism of water, or is baptism the open door for the Holy Spirit to come and sanctify?

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