Reflections on Christian Baptism
Believer's Baptism, Household Baptism, & Infant Baptism
"And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptised, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'. ... Those then who had accepted his word were baptised;" (Acts 2:38-41).
In recent years, as I came to appreciate the ministry of Charles Henry Mackintosh, I wondered why it had fallen out of favor among the Christians with whom I gathered for many years. I learned that a disagreement over the truth of baptism was largely responsible for this. John Nelson Darby wrote, "I have no doubt as to infant baptism of the children of a Christian." (Letters of J. N. Darby, volume 2, page 47) whereas C. H. Mackintosh wrote, "I have for thirty-two years been asking, in vain, for a single line of scripture for baptizing any save believers or those who professed to believe." See On Baptism, from "Things New and Old". Yet it is evident that Frederick Edward Raven, Joseph Pellatt, and other Christian brethren at the time valued both of these brothers and their teachings. At a 1902 Bible conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, after J. N. Darby and C. H. Mackintosh had departed to be with Christ, these remarks were made:
This conversation appears in Ministry by F. E. Raven, New Series, volume 17, page 247. These brothers clearly regarded J.N.D.'s and C.H.M.'s ministries as beneficial, and noted that we can continue in their doctrine and have fellowship with one another in their doctrine.
Through a series of events that I believe were ordered by God, my wife and I have come to realize that C. H. Mackintosh's teachings concerning baptism were Biblically accurate, and that what certain others had taught among Christians with whom we fellowshipped was not consistent with the truth of Scripture but was rather based on the traditional teachings of men. See Mark 7:13. During recent years, we have had time for "searching the scriptures if these things were so" (Acts 17:11) and finding "the knowledge that cometh of reflection" (Proverbs 8:12), to work through this exercise with the Lord. We once believed that infants in a Christian household should be baptised, but we now realize that this teaching is not Scriptural.
Let us consider what Jesus taught concerning baptism, then let us test what others have taught in the light of the Holy Scriptures.
In an article entitled "The remainder of Mr. J. Kelly's letter, ..., with some notes in reply by Mr. J. N. Darby", J. N. Darby writes:
Jesus' words at the end of the gospels, as well as C.H.M.'s article on baptism and this comment of J.N.D.'s, have helped adjust our thoughts concerning baptism, and we have proved what Jesus said: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." John 8:32.
Noted below are some additional teachings which we have tested in the light of Scripture. Some of them agree with Scripture and some do not, but reviewing them in the light of Scripture has further confirmed us in our exercises.
J. N. Darby wrote, concerning Matthew 28:19:
J.N.D.'s view of this passage is clearly too limited; and this is amply demonstrated by what took place in Acts 2:5-41 and Acts 10:34-48. In the first instance, a large number of "... Jews, pious men, from every nation of those under heaven" believed the gospel preached by Peter and were baptised. In the latter instance, in Cornelius' house, Peter says, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him." These Gentile persons, who received Peter's preaching of the gospel and upon whom the Holy Spirit fell, were baptised. In both of these passages, we see Peter answering to what the Lord Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Note the references to "every nation" in both Acts 2:5 and Acts 10:35.
F. E. Raven's comments at a Bible conference in 1900 are also troubling:
This conversation appears in Ministry by F. E. Raven, New Series, volume 14, pages 232 and 233). The full text of the referenced verse, Revelation 11:2, reads, "And the court which is without the temple cast out, and measure it not; because it has been given up to the nations, and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty-two months." Why would brother Raven speak of baptism bringing a person into a place which, in the very verse he quotes, is referred to as being "cast out?" How is this a good thing in God's sight?
In these remarks, F.E.R.'s teaching shows the influence of unbiblical Anglican church teachings and practices as to baptism:
At Newcastle, Australia, in 1936, brother James Taylor ministers rightly as to baptism:
At Rochester, New York meetings in 1941, J. Taylor said this:
This passage, "They were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Corinthians 10:2), cannot be used to justify including infants in household baptism because God was then dealing with the children of Israel nationally as His people, whereas in our dispensation, the day of grace, the people of God are believers — those who are "sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
Later, at Indianapolis meetings in 1943, an unnamed brother helps J. T., to a degree, as to the truth of baptism. First, J. T. says he would not baptise a person [who had been sprinkled] again, but after the brother reminds him of the truth of baptism relating to burial, J. T. says that he would have no difficulty doing it — indeed he adds "by all means do it" if it is necessary for a good conscience. Here is the reference:
This conversation appears in Ministry by J. Taylor, New Series, volume 81, pages 407-408).
Two years later, at a Summit, New Jersey Bible reading in 1945, a sad departure from the Scriptural truth of baptism is evident:
This conversation appears in Ministry by J. Taylor, New Series, volume 56, page 269). One wonders why J.T. would say, "It is not that infants are of importance". Certainly if the infants of Christians are holy (which they are, according to 1 Corinthians 7:14), then they are important in God's sight! Here J.T. downplays the importance of infants whom he justifies including in household baptism. And when J.T. says that it is not infant baptism that is being advanced, is he not playing with words? When an infant in a Christian household is baptised, of course it is infant baptism (even if the teaching of baptismal regeneration does not accompany it)! It is also sobering to consider the evil that arose in J.T.'s family1 several years earlier in light of his comments about most of the leading brothers putting household baptism "on the shelf", refusing it, and suffering for it.
After reading even a few attempts to justify baptising infants in Christian households, I can see why C. H. Mackintosh wrote, "For my own part — seeing the question has been thus forced upon me — I can only say I have for thirty-two years been asking, in vain, for a single line of scripture for baptizing any save believers or those who professed to believe. Reasonings I have had, inferences, conclusions, and deductions; but of direct scripture authority not one tittle."
May God bless those who read this article with an honest and good heart.
Affectionately in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1 See Letters of James Taylor, volume 2, pages 164 and 172.
Published by Stephen Hesterman, Barnegat, New Jersey, USA. Search.
Christian Baptism - Believer's Baptism