Such is the title of a small pamphlet sent to us through the mail recently. The pamphlet’s author is not mentioned by name. No particular church denomination is indicated on the cover as distributer of the pamphlet. All that is indicated is that it is distributed by the Publishers of Quotations and Reflections, Post Office Box 507, Grand Rapids 2, Michigan, and a postscriptum at the conclusion of the pamphlet is signed with the initials K.W.
The author informs us in the postscriptum that the occasion for the pamphlet was a friendly discussion, on the subject of infant baptism. He claims that he was urged to set forth his views in writing for a more deliberate perusal.
As appears from the first part of the pamphlet, the views of especially the Baptists and the Christian Reformed Churches came into the discussion. The author insists that he does not agree with either of these churches.
The pamphlet is not so much concerned with the “mode” of baptism as it is with the “objects” of it. In respect to the latter we are told “Baptism is a sacrament of the Covenant of Grace, for the New Testament dispensation. Baptism does not convey grace, it is a sign and seal of it.”
“A person may have grace, and not the sign of it, like the thief on the cross. A person may have the sign, and not the grace, like Simon Magus. A person may have neither sign nor grace, like Pilate. And a person may have both grace and the sign of it, like Lydia.”
“The only baptism that conveys grace is administered by Christ Himself, who baptizes His people with the Holy Ghost and with fire . . . .
“Baptism is a sacrament of the Covenant of Grace. The disagreement with the Baptists (and for that matter also with the Chr. Ref. people) flows from their conception of the covenant. They think and speak of the Covenant of Grace, only as it is in its essence, but they overlook the fact that the Covenant of Grace is not only essential, but also has a form in which it is ministered: they identify ministration and essence.
“To explain the difference between the covenant as essential and as a ministration it will be necessary to call attention to the fact that from the beginning the Lord has shown that He included many in the ministration of the covenant that did not belong to it, essentially considered. God has also revealed that in His dealings with mankind creature (not with angels) He had respect to family ties, both in His blessings and in His punishments; in other words, in His dealings with man God had regard to the solidarity of the family . . .”
At this point, the author to great lengths produces examples from Scripture, from both the Old and the New Testaments, to prove his point. And then he continues:
“After this lengthy introduction (necessary to give ample proofs from Scripture of the solidarity of the family) I’ll come to the point in question. I’ve remarked that both, Baptists and the Chr. Ref., disagree with us as a result of their conception of the Covenant of Grace. The Baptists go to one extreme, and the Chr. Ref. go to the opposite extreme.
“While the Chr. Ref. say that believers and their children belong to the Covenant of Grace, in other words, are in the covenant, essentially considered, the Baptists hold that only those who believe and are baptized are in the covenant and will be saved. — Campbellites with their baptismal regeneration, go a step farther than the Chr. Ref. with their presumptive regeneration, but both, Campbellites and Chr. Ref., consider the children of believers to be in the state of grace, while the Baptists believe that the children of believers are in the state of nature. And they are right: Paul says of the Jews, the covenant people, ‘By nature ye are the children of wrath, even as others.’ No one isborn in a state of grace, or brought into it by baptism. These words of Christ to Nicodemus apply to all ‘Ye must be born again.’
“Why do the Baptists refuse to baptize infants? They consider that the infants are not believers and consequently are not entitled to the sacrament.
“But what do Scripture events teach us regarding the ministration of the covenant of grace. ( ?)
“When the Lord established the covenant with Abraham, He gave him the sacrament of circumcision, called in Rom. 4:11, ‘the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith which he had.’ Who received it? Abraham did. Was he entitled to it? Certainly, he was a believer, and as such he should receive the sacrament. But (and here is where the difficulty for the Chr. Ref. and for the Baptists comes in) God commanded that on the very same day that Abraham received the sacrament, it was also to be administered to Ishmael and to the 318 or more men of his house, born in his house, and bought with the money of the stranger. Ishmael and all these men received the ‘seal of the righteousness of faith.’ Were they all believers? Scripture does not say a word of the faith of any of these men other than Eliezer, the steward of Abraham’s house. But suppose all these men believers, Ishmael was not, and God commanded him to be circumcised. Why? Because it pleased the Lord to include Ishmael and the men of Abraham’s household in the ministration of the covenant. And if God wants the members of our household to be included in the ministration of the covenant, we have no right to exclude them . . .
“The Baptists and others will say, ‘We are not living in the Old Testament days.’ True, but is it, in the New Testament days different in regard to the solidarity of the family and the ministration of the covenant? I have quoted some portions of the New Testament, which instances prove that in baptism as well as in circumcision, the Lord deals with families, and includes in the ministration of the covenant all that belong to the household of a believer.
“If the question is asked, ‘Are infants also to be baptized? our answer is, Yes, they are, because:
1. they are with their parents included in the ministration of the Covenant of Grace;
2. by the sign of the covenant they must be included in the instruction and discipline of the Church;
3. they must be distinguished from the children of unbelievers, and be told that Christ is their Lord, but that in order to be saved and to be enabled to serve and to love Him, He must also become their Savior.”
So far the pamphlet. There is more in the pamphlet which we do not have space to quote, nor is it important that we quote the rest. From what is quoted above, however, we make the following notations:
1. I am not so sure that all of the Christian Reformed people will agree with the author’s presentation of their conception of the necessity of infant baptism. I have a feeling that if ministers in the Christian Reformed Church also received this pamphlet, there may also be some replies forthcoming. I know that there is also among the Christian Reformed considerable difference of opinion on the subject. and the author of the pamphlet surely expresses the view of many in that church.
2. It is clear from what is quoted above that the author of the pamphlet should also be set straight on a few things in connection with the sign of baptism and its application to infants, children of believers. We gather from his explanation that he would separate the sign from the thing that is signified and sealed. It also appears that he conceives of the ministration of the sacrament to infants conditional. Does he also believe that in the ministration of baptism to infants God promises salvation to them all and that this promise is realized in them when they come to years of discretion and accept the promise? He does not say this in so many words, but are we right in making this conclusion from the very last part of the quotation above?
3. We therefore are sending to the publisher of the pamphlet “The Biblical Ground for the Baptism of Infants” written by Reverend Herman Hoeksema for his perusal and instruction. Maybe he will have to write another pamphlet on the subject after he reads it.