And when she was baptized, and her household, she sought us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord…
I. Although from the earliest days infant baptism has been practised, THERE ARE SOME WHO DENY ITS SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY.
1. At first sight their position seems to be a strong one, when they say, "Where is there any command for it?" In reply to this it is only necessary to say that Christians consider many things as most important for the support of which no such authority can be claimed. Where is it written, "Thus saith the Lord, Christians must observe the day of the Saviour's resurrection"? or, "Thus saith the Lord, Women must receive the Communion"? or, "Thus saith the Lord, Christian people must have family prayer, and establish Sunday Schools, and support missionary societies"?
2. It is also urged that no one ought to be baptized who does not believe, and that as infants are incapable of believing, so also they are improper subjects of baptism (Mark 16:16). The unfairness of such a conclusion may be shown in various ways.
(1) Take the apostle's injunction, "If any will not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Does St. Paul mean to extend this to infants, or the sick or the aged? Plainly not. He is only speaking of those who are capable of working. And so, too, our Saviour's language in regard to the subjects of baptism should be applied to none but those who can exercise faith, and who enjoy the privilege of being taught their duty. The ease of infants is in no way connected with these passages.
(2) Again, if this verse proves that infants ought not to be baptized, it proves also that they cannot be saved. I need hardly say that the plain and undoubted sense of the passage repels so monstrous a conclusion. Our Lord was announcing that the door of entrance to His kingdom was now thrown open to all who chose to come in; and He sets forth belief and baptism as two distinct conditions of salvation. Adults, who are capable of belief, are expected to bring this qualification; but it is not looked for in infants, who cannot exercise faith. Baptism is a solemn form of adoption into God's family — the Church. So much for the popular objections against the practice of infant baptism.
II. LET US SEE, NOW, WHAT CAN BE SAID FOR IT.
1. We claim that it is right and proper to baptize infants, because they are naturally included in the broad commission which our blessed Lord gave to His apostles (Matthew 28:19). Suppose the proper authorities in this country should issue a command that a census be made: who would be included in it? Would it merely embrace the adults, or would it give an account of the number of children also? And so, when our Saviour sends forth His servants to bring all nations into covenant with their Creator and Redeemer, the most natural construction of the commission makes it include both old and young. To expect that in promulgating His covenant He would make mention of infancy or adult years would be an absurdity. The physical and the personal has nothing at all to do with the spiritual covenant.
2. That our Lord regards with favour the bringing of little children into covenant with Him is seen from the fact that He showed such kindness towards them during His sojourn upon earth (Matthew 19:13; Luke 18:15; Mark 10:13-16). The phrase, "Kingdom of God," means the Church. And does not every word in the passage just quoted go to prove that our Saviour regarded little children as fit subjects for His kingdom? , who wrote during the apostolic age, remarks: "All infants are valued by the Lord, and esteemed first of all."
3. We are obliged to believe that children are entitled to the privilege of holy baptism, because they are distinctly included in the promises (Acts 2:38, 39). The Jews who heard these words of St. Peter's had always been accustomed to have their children enjoy the privileges of Church membership; and if it had been his purpose to tell them that this rule must now be changed, this was a very curious way of doing it! And slow progress Christianity would have made had it closed its doors more completely than Judaism had done!
4. The apostles baptized whole households. Not long after the baptism of Lydia's household, that of the jailor was baptized (vers. 31, 32). Here is an item from St. Paul's own journal — "I baptized the household of Stephanas" (1 Corinthians 1:16). The Syriac version of the New Testament, which was completed early in the second century, renders the verse concerning Lydia and her household as the baptism of Lydia and her children. And so, too, in the case of the jailor and his household, and the household of Stephanas.
5. Even those most opposed to infant baptism agree that when these little innocents die they are fit to be received into heaven. And if fit for the Church triumphant, why not for the Church militant?
6. Note the resemblance which infant baptism bears to circumcision. By this rite, children, when eight days old, all unconscious of what was done for them, were brought into covenant with God. When, in the course of Divine Providence, the seal of circumcision was changed to that of baptism, the Christian sacrament sanctioned all that the Jewish rite would have secured, had it continued to be observed. The conclusion follows, therefore, most naturally, that as children were made members of God's Church under the old dispensation, they are entitled to the same privilege under the new.
7. We enter our protest against those who oppose infant baptism, and we insist that it is a practice in accordance with God's will, because it is nowhere forbidden. Does the Word of God command that children shall be shut out from His kingdom? And when we remember that nineteen-twentieths of the Christian world practise infant baptism, is it likely that the one-twentieth can be right?
8. It was practised in the Church from the days of the apostles, for a period of nearly fifteen hundred years, without a dissenting voice. The only question in regard to infant baptism which ever arose in the early ages of Christianity was whether, as baptism had taken the place of circumcision, it should be put off to the eighth day.
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.