"Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration, or the new birth. The dedication or baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church." Scriptural references: Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 8:12; Mark 10:47, 16:15; and Psalm 51:2.
The Article dates from 1553, but in the revision of Elizabeths reign, the last paragraph was rewritten and the language relating to infant baptism was considerably strengthened.
There is nothing in the Confession of Augsburg or in the thirteen articles of 1538, however, relating to the matter of the baptism of infants.
The object of the article is to state the Churchs teaching on Holy Baptism in view of the errors of the Anabaptists, who maintained (1) an utterly unspiritual view of the sacrament, and (2) denied that Baptism ought to be administered to infants and young children.
Zwingli and the Anabaptists admitted that "Baptism is.. .a sign of profession." The book of Common Prayer states: "Baptism doth represent unto us our profession; which is to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto Him; that as He died and rose again unto righteousness; continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living."
This view of Baptism is based directly on the language of Paul in Romans 6:4, "We were buried with Him through baptism unto death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might in the newness of life." Paul also writes in Colossians 2:12: "Having been buried with Him in Baptism, wherein ye were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."
It is a mark of difference whereby Christian men are discerned from others or non-Christians. Just as circumcision was a mark distinguishing the Jew from all others, so also Baptism distinguishes Christians from non-Christians. It is an initiatory rite by which one enters into the fellowship of the Christian Church.
It is a demonstration to the world of an act of grace done in the heart by the Holy Spirit working the work of salvation. The rite of Baptism declares that that individual in whose heart a work has been accomplished is crucified to the world and the world to him. He is still in the world but not of it. He has to obey the injunction of II Corinthians 6:14, 17 "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers...,Wherefore come out from among them (the non-Christians) and be ye separate saith the Lord."
Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, Baptism everywhere appears as the rite of admission into the Church. Our Lords charge after His resurrection has been, "Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, etc. (Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16). From the day of Pentecost onward that command was obeyed, and those that received the word were forthwith "baptized." See Acts 2:38, 41, 8:12, 9:18, 10:47, 16:15.
The article implies that baptism is that moment in a believers life when salvation becomes a reality, and it title deed is made over to us as we follow out Romans 10:9, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God bath raised Him from the dead thou shalt be saved."
Many teach that salvation is not truly complete until the rite of Baptism has been experienced and they have considerable scriptural support. Paul is an excellent example. The Lord Jesus met Paul on the Damascus road and Paul acclaimed His Lordship (see Acts 9:5-6) but not until the time of his baptism were his sins washed away, for the words of Ananias to Paul in Acts 22:16 are recorded: "And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on His name."
On the day of Pentecost, when peoples hearts were pricked and they cried out, "what shall we do," Peter replied (Acts 2:37-38); "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
With these passages before us there can be no doubt that the Church is right in thus connecting, as she has ever done, the promise of forgiveness of sin with the ordinance of Baptism.
Baptism is also the rite of adoption. We are all children of God by Creation, and Christ alone is Gods Son by natural and eternal generation. Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 8:15-16 state, "Ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba Father. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him. Paul infers this through the rite of Baptism when he states in Galatians 3:26-27, "Ye are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ."
So the rite of Baptism is a sign to the world of our regeneration through a new birth, and whereby we are engrafted into the Church. Through this act the Holy Spirit visibly signs and seals the promise of the forgivenss of sin and our adoption as sons of God. John says I was told that I would recognize the Son. Upon whom the Spirit would descend in baptism, that would be the Messiah. So the Holy Spirit through Baptism declares that we have received Him and are therefore now, also, the sons of God.
Infant Baptism or Dedication begins or has its roots in Judaism. The Talmud lays down the express rule that infants were to be baptized with their parents. If, then, the apostles were accustomed (1) to circumcision, and (2) in the case of proselytes to Infant Baptism, it can hardly be doubted that to them it seemed natural to include infants, and to admit them into the new covenant by means of the rite enjoined for "making disciples."
When John 3:5 and Mark 10:13-16 are connected, the inference that children are proper subjects for Baptism appears irresistible, "Excepts a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God "and they brought with Him young children, that he should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it He was much displeased, and said unto them, suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of god as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And He took them up in His arms put His hands upon them, and blessed them."
Christ instituted the rite of Baptism for admission into the Church. He Himself laid down no limits of age. He asserts that innocent children are a part of His kingdom and teaches that they are capable of receiving spiritual blessings.
Nothing is said directly in favor of it in the Acts and the Epistles, but it is also true that nothing is said against it. However, there are several inferences in its favor. Whole households were baptized in Acts 16:15, 33, the household of Lydia and that of the Philippian jailer. It cannot be proved that these particular households contained children, nor on the other hand, is there the slightest evidence that they did not.
There is sufficient evidence from the early church Fathers to show that they were familiar with the idea and practice of Infant Baptism.
Justin Martyr, about AD 150, speaks of "many both men and women of sixty or seventy who had been Christs disciples from childhood, but also compares baptism with circumcision, and speaks of it as the Spiritual circumcision. These facts are found in Justins "dialogue with Trypho."
Irenaeus, in AD 180, writes, "He came to save all by Himself--all, I say, who are regenerated by Him unto God, infants and little children, and boys, and young men, and those of older age.
Tertullian, writing in AD 200, argues against infant baptism, strongly urging that the rite be postponed until the recipients of it are growing up. But the whole force of his words defend the fact that Baptism was actually being administered to infants and young children when he wrote.Origen in AID 220, states in his commentary on the Romans that it was an Apostolic tradition, "to administer Baptism to little children."
The final witness we will cite is Cyprian in AD 250. In his day we find that the analogy of circumcision was so rigidly pressed, that it was questioned whether it was lawful to administer Baptism before the eighth day after birth. The question is considered by him, and decided in the affirmative.
We could quote many other writers of the first and second century. However, we believe that sufficient testimony has been given to prove that the practice has been carried on in the church from the very days of the origin of the Church itself.
In conclusion I would like to quote from the writings of John Wesley concerning Baptism..."What is baptism? It is the initiatory sacrament, which enters us into covenant with God. It was instituted by Christ, who alone has power to institute a proper sacrament, a sign, seal, pledge, and means of grace, perpetually obligatory on all Christxans....The matter of this sacrament is water; which as it has a natural power of cleansing, is the more fit for this symbolical use. Baptism is formed by washing, dipping, or sprinkling the person, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who is hereby devoted to the ever-blessed trinity. I say, by washing, dipping or sprinkling; because it is not determined in Scripture in which of these ways it shall be done, neither by any express precept, not by any such example as clearly proves it....By baptism we enter into covenant with God...By Baptism we are admitted into the Church, and consequently made members of Christ, its head. The Jews were admitted to fellowship by circumcision, so are the Christians by Baptism. We read in Galatians 3:27, 'As many as are baptized into Christ," (in His name) "have thereby, put on Christ" (that is, are mystically united to Christ, and made one with Him. (See I Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:12).
Wesley states, "Baptism is not the new birth, they are not one and the same thing. Many indeed seem to imagine that they are just the samc....What can be more plain, than that one is an external, the other an internal work; that the one is visible, the other an invisible thing, and therefore wholly different from each other? the one being an act of man, purifying the body; the other a change wrought by God in the soul; so that the former is just as distinguishable from the latter, as the soul from the body, or water from the Holy Ghost."