Chapter 12 - Baptism in Relation to Children

We have learnt, then, four things as to baptism which are in direct opposition to our brethren's contention:-

First, that it is to Christ's death, not to show that one was dead with Christ before.

Secondly, that (as a figure) it saves, not expresses the thought of having been saved before.

Thirdly, it is the demand for a good conscience, not the answer of one already good.

Fourthly, that it is for the remission of sins, not the sign of their having been remitted.

All this is in clear consistency with the thought of it as one of the keys of the kingdom, a kingdom not yet set up in power, nor yet spiritual in such sort as to require to be born again to see it or enter into it. On the contrary, it is the kingdom of God in man's hand, so entirely that the Lord represents that- "So is the kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. . . . But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." (Mk. iv. 26-29.)

How unlike this to a kingdom into which God alone introduces by new birth ! Oh, it is said, that is the "outward aspect,"- that is, "as men see it,- when they have just told us that it is so spiritual that not one can "see" it, except by being born again, nor one enter it except by a door safely guarded by God's own hand. On the contrary, if men sleep, the tares spring up in it in plenty.

But the Church, you say, has not that the two aspects? Yes; because the Church is not only the body of Christ, into which the Spirit baptizes, but also the house of God, which bad builders may extend unduly (i Cor. 3. 12, sq.) But the history of the body of Christ has never been written; and it is never said, and could not be said, The body of Christ is like a field in which an enemy sows tares! Once make the kingdom of God what the body of Christ is, and such views of it become wholly and forever impossible. But now as to baptism in relation to children.

A babe newly born has no "sins" as yet to be remitted. True; though, alas, that difficulty soon passes away. But the true answer lies a little deeper. For the Christian, remission of sins has in view the evil of the old nature and the practical frailty belonging to us all. And it applies, therefore, not as men soon began to think, to the past merely, but to the present ever, as the future comes continually into it. A Christian always has the forgiveness of sins, for it is according to the riches of a grace at all times sufficient for us. Thus the objection will be found, after all, a superficial one.

As to all else that may be objected, the answer has been already virtually given. The parent, by his God-given place, represents the child, and is distinctly accepted of the Lord in bringing his child to Him,- that being the "coming" which the disciples were bidden to "suffer." It is amazing that our baptist brethren can interpret this coming as "believing." It is really an interpretation scarcely respectable enough to deserve serious answer. Whas it their believing - that the disciples were hindering?- and was it that that called forth the Lord's displeasure when He said, "Suffer them to come unto Me, and forbid them not"? We have surely good right to feel that there is a veil over the eyes of those who can argue in this way. Why, if anything is clear, it is so that it is the parent's desire that the Lord is meeting, on the part of those who were young enough, at any rate, to be taken up into the Saviour's arms. Are there any who will read this who need to be told what this desire was? And it is to justify His granting it that He adds, as to the babes, "of such is the kingdom of heaven." There was, of course, no baptism; for the kingdom was not yet; nor, therefore, baptism into it. When this should come, then baptism for them would express in His own personal absence, what as present He here gives them assurance of! It is as if He said, I accept them in this relation to Me which you desire for them. They are Mine : you, as delegates for Me, bring them up for Me. That is what the baptism does: it formally admits them into the school of Christ,- disciples them. The baptism of the household expresses this. It is the precious pledge of the absent Redeemer's love, which is to be answered by the faith that says, in the sense of the responsibility it implies, "Lord, they are Thine, and they shall be Thine." Answer is easy, therefore, to the question, why not baptize all babes? Why only believers' households? Why, because only believers' households can be, in fact, "discipled." Only those who have come to Christ can bring to Christ, or therefore bring up for Christ. And this governs all right practice, and shows clearly how household baptism is the only consistent form of infant baptism: to those for whom baptism is to be real "discipling," clear and simple as the day

And this, too, shows, as to those in the household, the rule that should govern us. The "atheist" son, of whom C. speaks, for instance, if old enough and developed enough to be such, has clearly passed from under his father's authority and care. If, in any case, the reins of authority have dropped out of the parents' hands, how can one treat the one of whom this is true as any longer of the household? As for servants, and in a clay such as this, the thought of baptism, if any entertain it, is beyond my comprehension. Let baptism be discipling,- a thing identified with and implying the Lord's yoke for those baptized,- and the practice is simple as it is holy: only holy thus.

But the kingdom is the sphere of profession? Yes; I believe so. But how can a little child profess? It is not meant that it does, or necessary that it should. It is under authority, according to God's order in the world; and, in this sense, in professed subjection, though it be the father's will, and not the child's. The term is, however, not applied in Scripture directly to the kingdom, and if thought unsuitable need not he pressed. Yet the household baptized is professedly Christ's, and "HOLY." I do not believe in holiness by "birth," even "of a Christian parent." The baptism is that setting apart to God, which alone gives in Scripture the applicability of such a title. "The child," it is said, "is already set apart by the will of God to the care of its Christian parents, and is not to be put away as unclean, even if one parent be unconverted." Every child is set apart by the word of God to the care of its parents, which only confirms what Nature already teaches. But this does not make it holy, that is, set it apart to God. The unbelieving wife or husband is sanctified only in the other partner, so as to make the child clean; but that does not make it "holy." The unbelieving wife is "clean"; that is, does not defile the believing husband: she is not "holy,"- set apart to God.

C. mistakes entirely the meaning here, and certainly seems to charge me with practising deception. Will he allow me to assure him that I thought everybody knew what he has explained to us - that to sanctify is to make holy? The argument is that, while the wife or husband is looked at as holy only "in" another, in such a sense as not to defile the issue of the marriage, the children are not merely clean, they are holy; and the relationship to Jewish law intimated is quite instructive. In Judaism every one knows that the children were brought into covenant relationship to God by circumcision. In the case of marriage with one of the prohibited nations, this would so defile the Jew contracting it as to deprive the child of the right to circumcision. Christianity reversed this, sanctified (so far as the marriage was concerned) the unbeliever, looked at both as (in this respect) within the covenant; and showed it did so by accepting the children of the marriage.

Thus the " holy '' comes with special force,- not merely clean. "Clean" would not express for the Jew the thought conveyed by holy; that is, "consecrated, dedicated, or sanctified to God "; and hagios is the word which would be used in Greek for expressing this. To have said "clean" would have been enough to have proved the lawfulness of the marriage. The "sanctified" and "holy" were both needed in order to express the thought of relationship to God. The use of the two words, therefore, here, is every way significant.

It is true that circumcision was connected with a nation after the flesh. That was, then, how the promises were entailed. But surely even here the spiritual relation was that ever insisted on; and apart from this the other was nothing, or brought only condemnation. How even for the Jew does the apostle press the meaning of circumcision; and that that was not truly such which was merely outward in the flesh! (Rom. ii. 28.) How, then, can one make the fleshly relation rule, as if it were the whole thing? That was, indeed, the form taken at the time by the kingdom of God. 'I'he form has passed, but the kingdom of God remains; and, according to the Lord's express assurance, the children brought in their parents' faith to Him have still their place in it. Strange it would have been if He had cut them off!

It is a little bold, then, to say that " no Scripture shows that the family of the believer comes in with him." In both these places the Scripture does so.

(GREEK) two words appear here which my keyboard cannot render.

The baptism of households is, then, a thing of course; and our finding it only confirms what should be already clear to us. The word used for household in every case of this kind is the regular one where a man's own children are in question, ozxoc; and the apostle seems to put these households in a class distinct from those baptized as believers, and so naturally coming into the assembly. (i Cor. i. i6.) Let us note again the argument, as our brethren take no proper notice of it.

There were divisions at Corinth; and because baptism is discipling, the apostle was glad to think that he had baptized but two out of the whole number, Crispus and Gaius,- too few for a party, or to allow people to think that he had been making disciples of his own. This he thanks God for: "I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius." He adds (lest any, it would seem, should demur to such a statement) that he had baptized the household of Stephanas; for the rest, he did not know that he had baptized any other. The natural inference here, and especially in view of all that we have seen already,- the argument is cumulative: it gathers strength as it goes on,- is, that here are two classes of the baptized. Of those in the assembly he had only baptized two; of the households (in which the numbers would soon mount up) he had baptized one certainly, perhaps more, though he was not aware of it. We can see how consistent all this is, if he is speaking of families: it was of no consequence that he should remember the number he had baptized among these: they were not the promoters of division in the assembly.

Our brother C. suggests that the family of Stephanas was away from Corinth, because Stephanas himself had been; but his coming to the apostle as a messenger from the assembly was very recent, and it is very little likely that he carried his household with him. Journeys were journeys in those days of old. Nor would that have hindered their being essentially a part of the assembly, if away at the time he wrote. Neither does this explain the doubt of the last words. The household of Stephanas," mentioned in the last chapter of this epistle, who had addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints, has been always the ready argument against those before spoken of being children. An effectual one, too, it is, if the households are the same. But a different word is used here (ozxza, not ozioza), which, it is contended, is nol the word for children of a family, nor for the household baptized. But this is in question. C. contends that they are used interchangeably. We ought to be able to see if this is true.

If we turn, then, to the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), and look first of all at what is clear, we find that wherever we have undoubted reference to the children of the family,- to blood relationship,- ozxoza, not ozxici, is the word used. Thus for Noah's house saved in the flood (Gen.vii. i) the souls of the house of Jacob that came into Egypt with him, and which are enumerated as those that came out of his loins (ch. xlvi.), the house of Israel (the nation), the house of Joseph, etc. (the tribes), the fathers' houses into which these were divided, the house of Eli, condemned for their iniquity, the houses of Saul and of David, rivals for the throne, the house of Jeroboam, smitten for his idolatry, of Baasha, of Ahab, similarly judged, of Rechab, commended for obedience, and many more that could be named,- all these (without exception that I know) are ozxoc, ozxza never once. How many occurrences?

Speaking roughly, we may say, about four hundred. Is not this a number sufficient to establish pretty well the force of this word in doubtful cases?

Take now ozxza. Here we have the eldest servant of Abraham's house; Jacob tells Laban he has been twenty years in his house,- where he was treated like a servant; Potiphar's wife speaks to the men of her house about Joseph; and although the lamb of the passover is taken according to the ozxo of their fathers, the measure of eating is a lamb for an ozxza, because the servants must be included here: Joshua's "as for me and my house (ozxua), we will serve the Lord," naturally includes the servants.

The word is used (both words are) more for a material building-house, in that sense - than for the inmates. The latter sense has naturally grown out of the former; and one would expect to find, therefore, in this fundamental meaning of the words something of the difference attaching to them in the higher one. I think no one who examines with any care will fail to realize that there is a distinction, and that they are not, by any means, used indifferently. Thus, for the house of God the word is always ocxici, never ozxza; and the latter seems to have always a lower character. Thus, for the house of the sparrow (Ps. lxxxiv. 3) and the stork (civ. 17), the word is ovita; and this is generally used for the houses of a town, or when there is nothing noteworthy about them; while for house as implying home, or as the better class of abode, it is generally ozxoc. I say "generally," for there are, naturally, apparent exceptions,- which, however, seem often to carry their reason in their face. These things it would take too long to go into in detail; but there seems, plainly, a difference even in this respect, which corresponds with the difference in the higher meaning.

When we come to the New Testament, which is inspired and perfect, the use of these words corresponds, even in their lower signification.There is one apparent exception, however, which at. first sight may seem absolutely unaccountable, bnt which we must look at directly. The house of God is still always (word), and there are here nineteen occurrences. For kings' houses the word is ozxos (Matt. xi. 8); so with the high priest's (Luke xxii. 54); and the ruler's (Mark v. 38); SO where home is emphasized (Mark v. iv VIll. 26; Luke i. 23; V. 24; viii. 39; ix. 6i; xv. 6; John vii. 53; i Cor. Xi. 34; XIV. 35; I Tim. V. 4). Except " my servant lieth at home '' Matt. viii. 6), where it is ozxza; as it is iii "the servant abideth not in the house forever'' (John viii. 35), and where a man "left his house, and gave authority to his servants" (Mark XIII. 34). Oixza is, again, the general term for houses.

To all this there is, however, as I have said, one objection, which, at first sight, might seem insuperable. When the Lord says to His disciples, "In my Father's house are many mansions," the word used for ''house'' is ozmaa. (John XIV. 2.)

Yet for temple, or tabernacle, and the Father's house, when meaning this, it is oixoc that is used; and, of course, when it is said " whose house are we" (Heb. iii. 6), it is still ozxoc.

And is not this the explanation ? If so, a precious witness of the Lord's value for His people, that the higher term is thus reserved for them! The "many mansions" are, after all, only the Father's dwelling-place in a lesser and external sense. The Church of God is what He counts and calls His house- ozxoc. For the rest, it is still the latter word that is used for the house of Israel, house of David, house of Jacob,- twelve occurrences; the elders are to " rule their own houses well, having their children in subjection with all gravity." (i Tim. iii. 4.) So, too, the deacons are to rule their children and (or "even ") "their own houses well" (ver. 12). The baptized households are similarly ozxoc. And if five in one house (ozxoc) are divided, they are given as father and son, and mother and daughter, and daughter-in-law. (Luke xii. 52, 53.)

But we must hear now the protests of our brethren. J. J. replies that if ozxza "includes the servants," as I had put it in my former tract, it does not exclude the children: "Will F. W. G. say that when the ozxia ate the lamb, the children were excluded?" No; F. W. G., as may be seen, has no such thought. But yet the term, as contemplating the servants, would naturally be used where only they might be intended; and if i Cor. xvi. i6 does not in itself exclude the children, the first chapter implies their exclusion.

J. J. S.'s argument that Joseph being governor over "all the house of Pharaoh" (Acts vii. io), where the word is ozxoc, "clearly refers to servants only," is, after all, not so clear. 'Thou shalt be over my house," says the king, "and according to thy word shall all my people be ruled; only in the throne will I be greater than thou. . . . Without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." Can J. J. S. say just how far such power extended ?

But the deacons ruling their children and their own houses well! "Here, also, the word for house is ozxoc, and is definitely linked on to servants"! Not at all.

The elders show rather the reverse, as the requisitions are otherwise so similar; and the emphasis on "their own houses" similarly shows the ground of the repetition. Their ability to care for the houses of others must be shown by the care given to their own. The "and" may just as well be "even."

C. finds great fault with my appeal to the house divided against itself; but he is wrong. "Five in one house" is peculiar to Luke; and Matt. X. 36, is different. Here the Lord says, "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household,"- words not repeated in the other gospels. Here the word is ozxzako, derived, of course, from ozxza; and which is used again, quite in accordance with the significance of oziza in the 25th verse of the same chapter in Matthew: '' The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord: it is enough for the disciple to be as his master, and the servant as his lord." If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household"? Now in the 35th verse there is no reason to limit this to those specified in the preceding. " Five in one" would be very different. It is the parallelism of words that we are examining, and not of texts. All the rest of his remarks I have already answered.

Few words will now suffice as to the "households," and our brother C. will give us all the arguments. In the case of the jailer he tells us that "having believed" could not be plural. Of course the form of the word shows it could not: I do not know what else. It is, certainly, "he rejoiced," and he having believed. The adverb iravotxi is hard to put in English and that is why, I suppose, translators generally accept "with all his house" as an equivalent. But 1 do not see how "all-householdly " would authorize this any more than "domestically." It would rather imply, I think, ''over" or "as to all his house." But the remark in ver. 31 is still more strange. "It was not said 'you now, and your house by and by.' " No; there is neither the "now" nor the "by and by." But the salvation of his house is connected with his own faith, whether it were now or by and by; and just as much in the former case as in the hatter. Why, then, call it " sentimentality,' or ''sacramentalism," to accept the connection of such blessed words with the doctrine which runs through Scripture of the connection, in God's design, of blessing to a man's house because of his faith? Is it easier to believe that God should do this once in the way and of a sudden for the jailer here, than that he should imply his desire to do it for every believer? Is it good, by making this a special and exceptional thing, to take it away from any significance that one can see for any one else? Had the jailer even expressed any desire for his children? And if he had, what would save it from "sentimentality" in his case, when it seems it would be only that in ours?

As to the case of Lydia and her house, I think there is nothing that needs more reply, as far as I am concerned. Nor do I find anything of importance elsewhere. We may here, therefore, bring this discussion to an end.

In conclusion, only, it is well to observe that the divine word tests us often by what may seem to us the triviality of a positive institution. Wherever we can show what is manifestly moral in a command, the idea of the morality comes so to enforce the precept as sometimes to overshadow it as aprecept. If I obey only where I know the why of the command, that is not obedience, properly. If duly obedient I can no longer question as to what I know to be of God. Thus the whole temper and spirit of my life may reveal itself in the breach of some command which to me may seem - and just because it does seem to me trivial -a small matter, whether in this particular I do His will or not. Cannot I present my child to God, apart from baptism? I can, surely; but is my way or His the best ? Cannot I remember the Lord's death apart from the symbols of bread and wine? As to how much, may we not argue similarly ? But, after all, the simple acceptance of Christ's word will be found the way of surest blessing. If the baptism in itself be little enough, at how much shall we value the Christ who is behind it?