Elder Beebe: —Will you give your views on the subject of what is usually called Infant Salvation, or on what Bible grounds they are saved. There is much said on the subject here, but I desire to know what are your views. If I know my own heart, I am your
Reply: - The Bible, as we read and understand it, shows but one way of salvation for any of the fallen sons of Adam, and that is by and through our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh to the Father but by him. He is the only Mediator between God and men, and independent of his mediation no sinner, young or old, can possibly be saved; for there is no other name given under heaven or among men whereby we must be saved. As it is written, “I am God, and beside me there is no Savior.” God’s method of saving sinners is by grace; for, “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast,” etc.
Every principle and every provision involved in God’s way of salvation is alike applicable to all who are saved, whether young or old. All who are saved by grace are saved from sin, death, and hell; Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance - to save that which was lost. As all have sinned, so condemnation and death have passed upon all, and none who are condemned by the righteous law of God can be delivered from sin, death and wrath, only by the blood and righteousness of him who bore their sins in his own body on the tree.
All for whom he gave himself a ransom are redeemed from the condemnation, wrath and dominion of the law, and all such are freely justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. By his one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified, or set apart, being sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus, and called.
Redemption from sin, and from the curse of the law of God is not all that the gospel reveals of the grace of God in the salvation of his people; for if it were possible to remit all our sins, that alone would not make us spiritual, nor qualify us for communion and fellowship with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. To meet the stern demands of God’s eternal justice every jot and tittle of the law is required to be fulfilled, and every particle of its penalty endured and cancelled. This being fully, finally and forever accomplished by the holy life, bitter death and sufferings of him on whom the iniquities of all his people were laid, all who were thus redeemed, set free from sin, wrath and condemnation, were prepared to be partakers of the resurrection life and immortality of their risen Savior. This spiritual eternal life and immortality which was with the Father (I John 1:2), was given to those whom Christ came to redeem in him before the foundation of the world. See I John 5:11,12 and Ephesians 1:4. And this spiritual, immortal, eternal life which is hid with Christ in God is implanted in his redeemed people, and they are brought unto a personal reception and experience of it when they are quickened and born of the Spirit. Hence the indispensable necessity of our being born again; for “except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Even though a man or child were redeemed from the curse of the law, yet that redeemed vessel of mercy must be quickened with spiritual life before he can see the kingdom of God, or know the things of the Spirit of God. Therefore the Savior has said, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
This doctrine applies alike to all who are saved. None who are not lost can be saved. None but sinners are redeemed. None but the redeemed are freely justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. And none others shall reign with Christ in glory.
We can make no distinction, for the Bible makes none between infants and adults.
If infants are not sinners in the eye of the divine law, they cannot die; for “the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law,” for sin is the transgression of the law, and the penalty of sin provided by the law is death. All the human family were not only sinners and transgressors of the law of God from their earliest infancy, but a long time before they were born of the flesh; for we are expressly told that as soon as sin entered into the world, and death by sin, that death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned, and this was before a son or daughter of Adam had been born. If we of the present day and generation were not sinners when Christ died for us, how could our sins have been laid on him? “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Romans 5:8,10).” If then we were sinners and enemies to our God when Jesus bore our sins upon the cross, how can it be denied that we were conceived in sin, born in sin, and were sinners in our nature, from the time our nature became defiled with guilt in Adam? Our earthly, depraved nature is Adam, in us, and in it all have sinned; not only all who have been and all who are now upon the earth, but all of Adam’s posterity that are yet unborn. In Adam we all sin, and in Adam we all die. Where then shall we make a discrimination in favor of infants, or any other class? Are they not all mortal? Do they not all die? And is not death the wages of sin?
Having, as we trust, shown by irrefragible testimony that all who are capable of dying, or that are mortal, or that death has dominion over, are sinners, and that there is but one way or name given under heaven whereby sinners can be saved, we will now endeavor to relieve our Well Wisher’s mind in regard to the perfect suitableness and adaptation of God’s method of salvation to infants, and to all classes of men, women and children who are chosen unto salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
It will be found on a careful examination of this subject that the doctrine of the gospel, as held and preached by all consistent and sound Old School or Primitive Baptists, is the only doctrine which, if true, will admit the possibility of the salvation of infants who die in infancy. Let us seeThe Mother of Harlots, and most of her daughters, hold, or profess to hold, that infants are made “members of Christ, heirs of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of God,” by baptism, and that sprinkling or rantizing is baptism. But Christ, the Eternal Judge, whose decision is final, declares that “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;” and that none can enter it except they be born again, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. In the most heaven-daring contradiction of all divine testimony to the contrary, they assert that the children of believers (that is, believers of their unscriptural doctrines) are in their fleshly birth partakers of the faith of their parents, and have a right to baptism and membership in the pales of the church.
1. If we suppose for argument’s sake that this theory were a true and faithful statement of God’s method of saving infants, it would involve a necessity for a different way of salvation for infants from that provided for adults. Whereas the God of heaven declares there is but one way.
2. It would palpably contradict the declaration of the Holy Ghost wherein it is affirmed that salvation is alone by grace, and as positively said that it is not of works. Not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God that sheweth mercy.
3. If their doctrine be true, then all infants who are not sprinkled are lost, for this theory makes works, and not grace, effectual in salvation.
4. An infant, dying with no other passport to the skies than the wet finger of a priest or prelate snapped or rubbed on its little unconscious face, according to this theory, passes into heaven, to grow up there in all the elements of a carnal, unrenewed, human nature; but as all the joys of God’s right hand are purely spiritual, none who are not born of the Spirit can participate in or enjoy them.
But it is sufficient for us to know that this anti-christian theory, though a main pillar on which Babylon rests, is not only without the least particle of support in the Scriptures, but in direct contradiction of all that God has taught in his holy word upon the subject. We feel fully warranted by the sacred record which God has given to testify, in the face of all the sprinkling tribes of anti-christ, that upon this theory it is impossible for a single infant or adult to be saved.
Nor is there any other doctrine, except that alone which is held by us Old School Baptists, that can possibly save an infant.
Suppose we try the Arminian heresy, which claims that God has made provisions for the conditional salvation of everybody, but for the positive, unconditional salvation of nobody. All, according to this theory, who will accept the terms, and comply with the conditions, shall be saved if they will hold out faithful till they get to heaven. Allowing this abominable heresy to be true, what power has the unconscious infant of an hour, a day, or even a year, to consider the propositions, comply with the terms, close in with the overtures, or strike the bargain?
Nothing can be more certain than the conclusion, if the salvation of any class is based on conditions, and the conditions are such as those to whom they are made are unable to comply with, that salvation on any such terms is impossible. To avoid this difficulty, a very large and learned portion of the Arminian Conditionalists profess to believe that although the infant cannot comply with the terms of salvation while in infancy, their parents, or sponsors in what they falsely call baptism, can perform the conditions for them, until they become old enough to assume the responsibility for themselves. Should parents, or god-fathers and god-mothers, fail to do what they pledge themselves to do, the contract is broken, and the infant is lost for the sins or unfaithfulness of his securities; but if they faithfully perform, and the infant is saved, his salvation is effected by his sponsors, and not by our Lord Jesus Christ. But as God himself declares that “He is God, and beside him there is no Savior,” it is impossible for any infant or adult to be saved only by God himself.
Others there are who seeing this difficulty and wishing to avoid it, assert that Christ, in the atonement made by him, removed all original sins and therefore all infants are born pure and holy, and dying in that infant purity, go to heaven, not as sinners saved by grace, but because they are born holy, and die in a state of innocence. This theory seems so plausible that it is accepted and relied on by thousands, and this class are so wedded to their delusion that they will denounce and charge any who deny this theory as consigning all who die in infancy to hell. But the fallacy of this doctrine is at once exposed by the undeniable fact that infants die, and death is always the evidence of sin. None but sinners can die. Because of the sinfulness of our fleshly nature, even Christians must at the appointed time lay off the earthly house of their mortal tabernacle.
We may examine all the theories of men upon the subject of infant salvation which have ever been propagated, and not one of them all can show a possibility of saving a single infant, all are not only without scriptural support, but all are in opposition to the direct testimony which God has given in the Scriptures.
After all the false charges against the Old Order of Baptists of preaching infants in hell, it will be found that the doctrine of the Old School or Primitive Baptists is the only doctrine which provides for the certain salvation of either infants or adults. The doctrine of the Bible, as held by us, is that “Salvation is of the Lord,” and that “God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.” And the salvation of our God, being unconditional, and wholly of grace, is perfectly adapted to the helpless state and condition of infants, idiots, or insane persons. It is readily admitted by us that the infant is totally incapable of doing anything to procure his own salvation; and it is affirmed by us that the adult sinner is equally helpless and as powerless, and perfectly passive in his salvation, as the merest infant is. Instead of the infant being required to attain to years of maturity to assume the responsibility and meet the supposed terms, the oldest sinner must be converted and become as a little child, or he can in no case enter the kingdom of heaven.
But let it be understood that neither adults nor infants can see or enter the kingdom of God without first being “born again.” This new, spiritual birth, which is an indispensable prerequisite, and which alone can qualify any, young or old, to enter the kingdom of God, cannot be effected by the power of men. Born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; but of God. God himself must be the author of that birth, by which we are brought into his family as sons of God. Born, not of a corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. In this spiritual birth, as in our natural birth, that which is born is passive. It can no more be produced by any power or effort of ours than our first creation could have resulted from our own wills or works. If by any effort of ours we could have produced our first or second birth, we should have been our own fathers, and not the children of God. If we are born of God, it is because, as the Scriptures testify, that, “Of his own will begat he us, by the word of his power.” This is the doctrine of the new birth, as taught in the Scriptures, and how preposterous to say that an adult has more power to produce it, or that an infant has less, when if the birth be of God both old and young are perfectly passive; and if it be not of God it can bring us into no relation to God, nor secure to us any birth-right privileges in the house of God, nor make us heirs of God, nor joint-heirs with our Lord Jesus Christ.
The notion that infants go to heaven without being born again, or on the ground of infant innocence or irresponsibility, is a contradiction of the express declaration of the Savior. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” even if it were ever so pure, it would still be flesh, and not spiritual; the infant taken to heaven, if that were possible, in its fleshly nature, would cry after fleshly enjoyments; it would still be fleshly in all its propensities, and without spiritual capacity to enjoy God, or heaven, or spiritual things. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
As without an earthly birth we could never have seen the earth, or the things of this natural world, so without being born of the Spirit we could neither see or know the things of the Spirit. The natural man, the subject only of a natural birth, however wise, or prudent, or learned, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. None can have spiritual discernment until they are born of the Spirit.
Infants cannot be saved merely because they die in infancy; there is no virtue in their mortality to save them. We have shown that their mortality proves conclusively that they are sinners by nature, and although they have not developed the depravity of their fleshly nature, they are nevertheless sinners. And as sinners they must be redeemed, washed, cleansed, and born again, made spiritual; and as this is the work of God, in which the subject is helpless and passive, it is perfectly adapted to the state of the helpless infant, and also to the helpless adult; and the promise of this salvation is unto you, who are quickened and pricked in your hearts, as were those at Pentecost, to whom these gracious words were spoken, “and to your children, and to all them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Whether all that die in infancy are redeemed, and born of God, and prepared for immortal glory or not, we are not prepared to say; for God has not revealed that secret to us, and we have no light on the subject, except what God has revealed in his word; but certain we are that if they are not, their living on earth a· thousand years would have no effect to change their destiny. All that the Father gave to Christ shall come to him, and shall never be cast out, whether they die in infancy or old age. Whom our God foreknew, at whatever age or condition, them he did predestinate, and call, and justify, and glorify. It was the will of the Father that of all whom he gave to Christ, none should be lost. And he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. It is also the will of our adorable Redeemer, for he says, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory,” etc.
It has not pleased God to inform us whether all who die in infancy are saved, for then we might on that subject walk by sight. Nor did it please God to tell Abraham that he would certainly prevent the actual sacrifice of his darling Isaac, but kept the secret from him for the trial of his faith. How meaningless would have been the offering if Abraham had been told that an angel of deliverance should descend from heaven for the rescue of Isaac, so that the lad should not die. We are instructed by this and many other lessons to trust in God. If he calls away our infants before they are able to give us any evidence of their spiritual state, shall we murmur and distrust him? If we ourselves are reconciled to God, our faith will rather lay hold and rest upon the seal of God’s foundation, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” Our faith must be tried by all the afflictions our Holy Father sees fit to lay upon us. It would be folly in us to think ourselves better qualified to retain our infants, or that we could do better for or by them. Having all confidence in God, and no confidence in the flesh, we should with due submission bow to his will, knowing as we do that our God doeth all things well, we cheerfully commit all to his disposal, who said, “suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
December 15, 1867.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 110 – 117