Table of Contents
James Buchanan Office and Work of the Holy Spirit is a reformed work on the work of the Holy Spirit touching on infant baptism and salvation because of parents, etc.
The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit
by James Buchanan
Table of Contents of Office and Work of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit’s Work in the Conversion of Sinners
1. The Necessity of a Great Spiritual Change
2. General View of the Agency of the Spirit
3. General View of the Process of a Sinner’s Conversion.
4. The Work of the Spirit in Enlightening the Mind
5. The Work of the Spirit in Convincing the Conscience
6. The Work of the Spirit in Renewing the Heart
7. The Result of the Spirit’s Work in Conversion
8. The Regeneration of Infants
9. The Philippian Gaoler: Acts 16.19-34
10. The Dying Malefactor: Luke 23.32-43
11. Paul: Acts 9.1-22
12. The Ethiopian Treasurer: Acts 8:26-40
13. Cornelius: Acts 10
14 Lydia: Acts 16.13-15
15. 2Timothy: 2 Timothy 3:14, 15
16. Conversions at Pentecost: Acts 2
17. Revivals: Acts 2:17, 18 The Work of the Spirit in the Edification of His People
18. The Work of the Spirit as the Spirit of Holiness
19. The Work of the Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption
20. The Work of the Spirit as the Spirit of Prayer
21. The Work of the Spirit as the Comforter
Sample Chapter 8. The Regeneration of Infants
VIII. The Regeneration of Infants
IT is a doctrine of the Confession of Faith, that ‘elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth;’ and again, ‘That baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life;’ that ‘not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized;’ that ‘although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated;’ and that ‘the efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.’ And in the Articles of the Church of England we read, ‘Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened; but it is also a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the Church, the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, faith is confirmed, and grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.’ And ‘the baptism of young-children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.’
Such is the doctrine of the Churches of England and Scotland, and indeed of the Reformed Churches generally,  on the subject of regeneration in the case of infants. The importance of the subject is apparent at once, when we reflect that one-half of all the children that are born into the world die in early life, and before they have reached the full standing of members in the Christian Church. No reflecting mind can contemplate this fact without being prompted to inquire, whether any, and what provision has been made for the spiritual life and eternal welfare of these children, and without being impressed by the vast interests which that
question involves. And its importance is not diminished, but rather enhanced, by the errors, both doctrinal and practical, which prevail to a lamentable extent on this subject at the present day.
It is evident, that if any provision has been made for the spiritual welfare of infants, and if that provision be included in the covenant of grace, they must be dealt with substantially on the same principles which are applicable to other sinners, and yet there is a peculiarity in the case which renders it worthy of distinct consideration. Let us review the points both of resemblance and of diversity betwixt the two. They resemble each other, in that children as well as adults are fallen, guilty, and depraved. This is expressly declared by our Lord, when he affirms, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh;’ by David, when he confesses, ‘I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;’ by Paul also, when he says, ‘By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.’ ‘Death reigned even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression;’ and it is significantly implied in the ordinances of circumcision and baptism, for why were children circumcised on the eighth day, in token of their spiritual separation from the corrupt mass, if they needed no separation? and why are children baptized, in token of their spiritual cleansing, if they be not naturally defiled? If children resemble adults in respect of that natural corruption, from which, as a polluted fountain, all actual sin proceeds, then are they also placed in such a relation to God, and so subjected to his curse, as to stand in need of salvation. Another point of resemblance betwixt the two cases consists in the oneness of the salvation which is common to both; they must be saved substantially in the same way, there being one only method of salvation for all sinners; they must be saved according to the terms of the covenant of grace, through the redemption of Christ, and the regeneration of the Holy Ghost. It is equally true of young and old, that ‘there is no other name given under heaven whereby they can be saved, but the name of Jesus;’ and that ‘except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ This also is expressly declared in the doctrine of Scripture, and is significantly intimated in the ordinances of the Church, for when a child is baptized, it is ‘baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; it is baptised into 0the name of each
person in the Godhead, and not simply as they are distinct subsistences in the undivided Trinity, but as they are officially concerned in the recovery of lost souls; in other words, it is baptized into the name of ‘God in Christ,’ the Father, the Saviour, the Sanctifier. And thus is significantly represented to us the identity of that salvation which is common to the infant and the adult members of his spiritual Church.
But, on the other hand, there is a marked peculiarity in the case of infants, and a difference betwixt their case and that of adults, which cannot be overlooked. For not only is there, in the case of infants, no actual sin, such as has been contracted by every one who has reached the age of distinct personal responsibility, but there is at first no capacity of thought or understanding, such as could render them fit subjects for the operation of that truth which is, in the case of adults, the instrument by which the Spirit of God carries on his work in the heart; and hence some, supposing the Spirit’s grace to be inseparably connected with the belief of the truth, have been led to question whether infants be capable of regeneration at all; while others have been content to leave them to God’s general mercy, perhaps with an unavowed, and, it may be, an unconscious feeling, that it would be unjust in him to cast them off. But this is no proper subject for indifference: it involves the question of their salvation; for if saved at all, they must be born again; and unless they be capable of the Spirit’s grace, they are incapable of the Gospel salvation. And seeing that they are not yet capable of forming a correct apprehension of the truth, nor of being enlightened and sanctified by its instrumentality, as adults are, it becomes us to inquire, with reverence indeed, and deep humility, but still with that ardent and tender interest which natural affection itself might prompt, whether they be, in any sense, capable of the Spirit’s grace, and admissible into the kingdom of God?
That children, however young, even infants in their mothers’ arms, are fit and capable subjects of divine grace, may be evinced by various considerations. Several of these considerations afford a presumption in favour of the expectation that some provision would be made in the scheme of grace on their behalf; while others of them afford a positive proof that such a provision exists, and is available
for their benefit.
The presumptive proofs are such as these. When we examine the constitution of the human race, we find that it differs materially from that of the angelic race, of whom it is written, ‘that they neither marry, nor are given in marriage,’ each of these being created distinctly, and standing on his own personal and independent responsibility from first to last; whereas in the case of men, the family institute has been adopted, in virtue of which every human being comes into the world closely connected with others, liable to be affected for good or evil by the influence of their opinions and habits, and left, during the years of infancy, as in trust in their hands. He is not, in the first instance, independent, nor able to think or to act for himself, but grows up gradually into a state of personal responsibility. Now to this, which is the actual constitution of human nature, the scheme of revealed truth adapts itself. It reveals God not merely as the God of individuals, but as the ‘God of families,’ ‘the God of ages and generations,’ and in all his dealings with men, as having respect to the hereditary constitution which he has given to the human race, ‘visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love him and keep his commandments.’ Distinct from this family institute, yet admirably adapted to it, as the scheme of revelation is in all other respects to the constitution and course of nature, is the federal system, by which men are placed under Adam as the head of the legal, and under Christ as the head of the evangelical dispensation; so that, as from the one they inherit the fruits of revolt, from the other they receive the fruits of redemption. Now, as God has constituted two distinct heads, the first and the second Adam, and as, in fact, children are found to be included along with their parents in the one, and share, in consequence, in the ruinous effects of the fall, a strong presumption arises hence, that children may be included also along with their parents in the other, and’ so included as to share in the blessed effects of the redemption. And as to their being incapable at their tender years, and while their minds are yet immature, of any participation of the divine nature which is
imparted by the Spirit, surely it cannot be thought that they are less capable of this than they were of being infected by the virus of original sin.
These are presumptions, I admit, and nothing more; but they may have their use in clearing away those unfounded and injurious prejudices with which too many come to the study of the question, and in preparing them for giving to it a dispassionate and impartial consideration. And if they be sufficient for this end, they serve the chief purpose for which they are adduced, while the positive proof on the subject will be found to afford ample evidence for affirming, that in the actual scheme of grace provision has been made for the case of infants, and that they are fit and capable subjects of the Gospel salvation.
That proof consists chiefly
in express doctrinal statements on the subject;
in recorded instances of sanctified infancy;
in the analogy of the typical dispensation; and
in the ordinance of baptism, as applicable to infants in the Christian Church.
Of the express doctrinal statements on this subject, I shall only select one, which being accompanied with a most significant action, performed by Christ himself on little children, appears to me to be sufficient of itself to determine, not the question of infant baptism, but the prior and more important question of their interest in the kingdom of God. We read (Luke 18:15)that ‘they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them,’ or, as it is in the parallel passage of another Gospel, ‘that he would put his hands on them and pray;’ but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them (the infants 0), and said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ It is added (Mark 10:16),’And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.’ Now, be it remembered that these words were uttered, and this act was done, not as a mere
expression of personal tenderness, such as every benevolent mind must feel towards these helpless, and, just because they were helpless, these most interesting children; the words were uttered, and the act was done, by him in his official character as Redeemer, and in the exercise of his public ministry as the Prophet of the Church; and while the former declare that of such (of such in point of age as well as of disposition) is the kingdom of God, that is, his own church, whether on earth or in heaven, is in a great measure composed, the latter (I mean his act when he put his hands on them, and blessed them) implies that they are the objects of a Saviour’s love, and capable of receiving a Saviour’s blessing; nay, that they are fit subjects of the Spirit’s grace, for the imposition or the laying on of hands was the usual sign by which the communication of the Spirit was shadowed forth. And can we doubt, then, that infants, however young, who are fallen in Adam, may be saved by Christ? How his blessing operated we know not; but is there any parent whose mind is so sceptical, or his heart so cold, as to imagine that the putting on of the Saviour’s hands, and the pronouncing of that blessing on these little children, could have no efficacy, or that it was an idle ceremony, a mere empty form?
Of the recorded instances of infants who were the subjects of the Spirit’s grace, I might mention, first of all, ‘the Holy Child,’ the infant Jesus himself, whose body was prepared, and his human soul filled with the Holy Ghost, so as to be wholly ‘without sin;’ but as this is a peculiar and unparalleled instance, seeing that he descended not from Adam by ordinary generation, but was conceived of a virgin by the power of the Holy Ghost, I shall not dwell upon it here, although it is fraught with profound instruction to all, 0but shall select the case of his illustrious forerunner, of whom it was predicted by the angel, that ‘he should be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb;’ and the case of Jeremiah under the Old Testament, of whom it is written, ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.’
The analogy of the typical dispensation affords another proof. The
ordinance of circumcision, which was given to Abraham, and continued under Moses and the prophets, was in itself, considered as a sacrament of that dispensation of the scheme of grace, an evidence that the children of believers had then an interest in God’s covenant; for it was appointed to be observed on the eighth day, and it was to Abraham and his seed a ‘seal of the righteousness which is of faith.’ But when that dispensation is regarded in its typical aspect, as designed to prefigure or foreshadow the better things which were still in reserve for the Church under ‘the ministration of the Spirit,’ the argument is so strong as to be altogether irresistible in favour of the interest of infants in the scheme of grace and redemption.
And, finally, the proof is completed by the ordinance of baptism in the Christian Church, if that ordinance be applicable to children; I say, if it be applicable to children; for there are some who deny that it ought to be administered to them, and to such the argument derived from the rite of baptism, in favour of the interest of children in the provisions and promises of the covenant of grace, will appear to have no force or validity, until it is first proved that the ordinance was intended for them. On the proof of this it is not my present purpose to enter;  we can forego the use of this proof when speaking to those who object on this ground, seeing that the interest of infants in the covenant of grace is established on other and independent considerations; and instead of arguing from the institution of baptism to the interest of children in the covenant, I would rather argue from the latter to the former, and seek to impress their minds, in the first instance, with the precious truth that infants have an interest in the covenant, and that they are fit and capable subjects of divine grace; whence it would naturally follow that they are capable also of receiving the sign and seal, and ought to receive it, if there be the slightest reason to believe that they have not been excluded by divine authority from all participation in that holy ordinance.
On these grounds, I think it must be evident that infant children are fit and capable subjects of divine grace, and that they are included in the covenant of redemption. It may be difficult for us to understand in what way the Spirit of God operates on their minds, or through
what medium they obtain a participation of the blessings of salvation, which are said to be ‘by faith.’ The regeneration of infants may be ascribed to a direct operation of the Spirit on their minds, and in this respect may be said to resemble what is supposed by some to be in every case the primary influence of the Spirit, under which the soul is passive, and by which, without the intervention of any instrumentality, he effects a permanent change, ‘predisposing it to receive, and love, and obey the truth.’ By this direct operation he may implant that principle of grace which is the germ of the new creature, that incorruptible seed, which may lie long under the furrow, but will sooner or later spring up, and produce the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Our older divines were wont to distinguish between the principle or habit of grace, and the exercise of grace,  and to maintain that the principle might exist in children who were as yet incapable of the exercise, and that grace in such was real and saving.  It may be generally connected, too, with the faith of the parent, in whom, during the period of nonage, the infant is federally included.  But is sufficient to say, in the language of the Westminster Confession, that ‘they are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth,’ – for ‘the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ And to him who objects to the regeneration of infants on the ground of its mysteriousness, may we not say that the natural birth of a child is full of mystery: ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them;’ and in the preacher’s words, ‘As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.’
But there is another explanation of the subject which has obtained extensive currency; I refer to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
If baptism be designed, as we have no doubt it is, for the benefit of infant children, it has appeared to many that this precious ordinance affords the readiest explanation of the means by which the Spirit of grace executes his gracious work, by imparting to them the germ of a new spiritual life, and engrafting them into the Church of Christ. On no subject is it more necessary to speak with caution, and to think with accuracy, especially in the present day, when the most opposite errors are current respecting it; some representing baptism as a mere ceremony, a naked sign, or an empty form; while others are strenuously contending that in every case in which it is administered, it necessarily implies regeneration, and that no other regeneration is to be looked for. The language of the Westminster Confession is equally opposed to each of these pernicious errors; and while it unfolds the spiritual import of baptism in all its fullness, by the use of scriptural terms, which may almost seem at first sight to imply all that the advocates for baptismal regeneration contend for, it singles out with the strictest discrimination, and condemns with the utmost explicitness, the groundless opinions which have been mixed up with that doctrine, so as at once to confirm the truth and to correct the error.
Let us briefly unfold the doctrine of the Confession on this subject.
It proceeds on the supposition that children are fit and capable subjects of divine grace, and that they have an interest in the covenant prior to their baptism. They do not acquire an interest in the covenant by being baptised; they are baptised because they have an interest in the covenant. This distinction is of great practical value in many points of view; it utterly subverts the doctrine, that none are regenerated who have not been baptised, and thus serves to comfort the heart of many a bereaved parent, whose child may have died before that sacred rite could be administered, and enables us to say with the utmost freedom, that while we contend for infant baptism, we are under no necessity of unchristianising the children of our Baptist brethren, who from conscientious conviction refrain from the use of that ordinance. It will be found also to throw considerable light on the proper nature and use of baptism itself. Now that an
interest in the covenant of grace is presupposed in baptism must be evident to every one who inquires into the ground of his warrant to apply for that ordinance on behalf of his children, as yet unbaptised. Abraham had first an interest in the covenant, and then circumcision was added as a sign and seal of his interest in it; for it was ‘the seal of the righteousness of faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised;’ and so, in like manner, the children of believing parents have an interest in the covenant, and they receive baptism as the sign and seal of that interest which they had, being yet unbaptised.’ Their prior interest in the covenant lies in the terms of the promise, – ‘the promise which is unto us and to our children’ – ‘I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee,’ and depends on the relation in which they stand to believing parents; for if either father or mother be a believer, the children are recognised as having a title to baptism, and that, too, by virtue of their having an interest in the covenant, according to the expressive words of the apostle (1 Corinthians 7:14): ‘For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they holy.’ For ‘if the root be holy, so are the branches.’ (Romans 2:16).
The children of believing parents having a prior interest in the covenant, receive baptism as a sign and seal of their engrafting into Christ, – of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of their engagement to be the Lord’s. That all this is included in that sacred ordinance will be evident, if we simply read over those passages of Scripture which have an express bearing on the doctrine of baptism: ‘Know ye not that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.’ (Romans 6:3). ‘In the days of Noah, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.’) (1 Peter 3:20, 21) ‘By one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.’
(1 Corinthians 12:13). ‘In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.’ (Colossians 2:11, 12). ‘Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.’ (Acts 2:38, 39). These passages are sufficient to show that there is a profound significancy in baptism; and that it is neither a naked sign nor an empty form, but a true sacrament, and real channel of grace. And in interpreting this symbolical institution, we are free to present it in all the fullness of its meaning to the faith of the church, and to show what efficacy is in it when it is made effectual. But you will observe that the apostles, when they used these expressions, were speaking of baptized men, who had been admitted into the Church on the profession of their faith in Christ, and that they thus spoke of the efficacy of their baptism on the supposition that their profession had been sincere, and that their faith was real. In such a case, there can be no doubt that baptism was both a sign and a seal of saving grace, any more than that, if such persons had died after their conversion, and before their baptism, they would have entered into glory, like the poor unbaptised malefactor on the cross. But having been spared to receive that external sign and seal of the covenant, the apostle refers to it as the token and pledge of their salvation. And so, had he spoken of the children of these same men, but still on the supposition that the parents were true believers, he would have used the same language in regard to them, seeing that the children are included with, or rather in, their parents, in the provisions and promises of the covenant, and had an interest in it, being yet unbaptised.
Viewed in this light, the ordinance of baptism is fraught with the richest instruction and encouragement. It embodies all the fundamental principles of the Gospel, and exhibits every truth that is necessary to salvation. In baptism, the name of each person in the
Trinity is pronounced over us, not merely to mark the distinction of these persons, but to intimate their harmonious co-operation in the scheme of grace, and the official relation in which they stand to us in the covenant of redemption. We are baptised into the name of each, into the name of the Father, as our Father, into the name of the Son, as our Saviour, into the name of the Holy Ghost, as our Sanctifier; we are washed, and thereby declared to be naturally unclean; we are washed with water, as a sign of the blood of Christ, which cleanseth away the guilt of sin, and as a sign also of ‘the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost;’ and thereby we are taught at once the possibility of God’s entering into covenant with an unclean thing, and the means by which its uncleanness may be taken away. And when a child is thus baptised on the strength of a parent’s faith, we see the federal principle, which pervades the scheme of grace as well as the covenant of works, and the parent is impressively reminded of his responsibility, as being answerable to God for his child, at least during its infancy or nonage. Whether, therefore, we consider baptism as a sign of grace, or as a seal of the covenant, or as a visible witness for the truth, or as an intelligible symbol of spiritual blessings, it is fraught with profound instruction; and not less fraught with encouragement to faith, since it is a true sign and a real seal, and ought to be regarded by every parent as a pledge of his child’s interest in the covenant of grace, and as a motive and stimulus to hope, and pray, and labour for its everlasting salvation.
In what respects does this view of the nature and efficacy of baptism differ from the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, as it is taught so generally in modern times? It may seem, at first sight, to differ from it chiefly in two respects. The latter doctrine is understood to mean, that every one is regenerated who is regularly baptised, and that no one is regenerated who is not baptised. The Westminster Confession, while it unfolds the doctrine of baptism in all its fullness, carefully guards against these inferences from it; and declares, ‘that although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed to it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are
baptised are undoubtedly regenerated.’ But I apprehend that there is a far more important difference betwixt the two systems of doctrine: the one represents regeneration as an inward spiritual change, wrought in the mind and heart by the power of the Spirit of God; while the other speaks of it as a mere external or relative change, which has no necessary and no uniform connection with any degree of spiritual renovation.  The latter system speaks of every baptised person as regenerated, while it admits that many of them may be and are unrenewed. Did the question relate only to the right use of a term, or to a distinction betwixt one term and another, it might be of little consequence in most cases, though not in this, where the sense attached to regeneration would go far to nullify the import of many precious texts of Scripture; but the evil is greatly increased when, having attached this meaning to the term, it is contended that no other regeneration is to be sought or hoped for,  and that all are alike regenerated, whether elect or non-elect, and whether ultimately they be saved or lost. Considered in this light, our divines have generally opposed the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. ‘Regeneration does not consist,’ says Owen, ‘in a participation of the ordinance of baptism, and a profession of the doctrine of repentance. This is all that some will allow unto it, to the utter rejection and overthrow of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the dispute in this matter is not whether the ordinances of the Gospel, as baptism,’ do really communicate internal grace unto them that are, as to the outward manner of their administration, duly made partakers of them, whether ex opere operato, as the Papists speak, or as the federal means of the conveyance and communication of that grace which they betoken and are the pledges of; but whether the outward susception of the ordinance, joined with a profession of repentance in them that are adult, be not the whole of what is called regeneration? The vanity of this presumptuous folly, destructive of all the grace of the Gospel, invented to countenance men in their sins, and to hide from them the necessity of being born again, and therein of living unto God, will be laid open in our declaration of the work itself.’  ‘The error of baptismal regeneration,’ says Irving, whose ideas of the spiritual import of baptism were sufficiently high, ‘consisteth not in holding that the true children of God are
regenerated at their baptism, and from thence should date their admission into the household of faith, – which, with all my orthodox fathers in the Church, I hold to be the only true doctrine, – but in holding that every person who is baptised doth virtually thereby become regenerate, and possessed with the Holy Spirit; or, to speak the language of theologians, that the inward grace is so connected with, or bound to, the outward ordinance, that whosoever receiveth the one doth necessarily become partaker of the other. This is an error of the most hideous kind, bringing in justification by works, or rather by ceremonies, destroying the election of the Father, the salvation of the Son, and the sanctification of the Holy Ghost, – and exalting the priest and the ceremony into the place of the Trinity.’  And the judicious Scott sums up the received doctrine in these five propositions: –
Baptism is truly the sacramental sign and seal of regeneration, as circumcision was under the Old Testament, and not regeneration itself, nor inseparably connected with it.
Adults, sincerely professing repentance and faith, are already regenerate, and in baptism receive the sign and seal of the righteousness of faith which they had, yet being unbaptised.
The event, as to each baptised infant, must determine whether it was, or was not, regenerated in baptism.
Baptism is not universally and indispensably necessary to salvation, but regeneration is.
Ungodly and wicked persons, who have been baptised, need regeneration, even as all wicked Israelites needed the circumcision of the heart, and the Jews, in our Lord’s days, needed regeneration.’ 0
But while we guard against extreme opinions on the one hand, it is equally necessary to guard against extreme opinions on the other; and there is reason to fear, that if by some the efficacy of baptism is unduly magnified, it is by many more unduly depreciated, or
altogether disbelieved. We have seen that children are fit and capable subjects of the Spirit’s grace, and that the ordinance of baptism is a sign and seal of ‘engrafting into Christ.’ In the case of an adult, where there is no faith, it is devoid of efficacy; and in the case of a child, where there is no faith on the part of the parent, through whom alone the child has a claim to this ordinance, it may be equally ineffectual; but this hinders not that in either instance it may be a real channel, as well as a visible symbol of grace, where faith is exercised in the covenant promise. And I cannot help thinking that the administration of baptism to an infant child is fraught with rich encouragement to the parent, and with profound instruction to the child himself when he arrives at a riper age; for in baptism there is, as it were, a visible application made to that child individually of the sign and seal of all the grace which the covenant contains, such an application as gives a special and personal direction to all the invitations, and calls, and promises of the Gospel; and it is alike fitted to nourish the faith and hope of the parent, and to call forth, at a later period, the grateful acknowledgments of his offspring, or to impress them with a very solemn sense of the responsibility under which they lie. And although I cannot agree with those who seem to argue that there would be no ground for Christian education, unless regeneration were included in baptism,  yet it seems very clear that education may be stimulated, and conducted too, on a better principle, by reason of the truths which baptism unquestionably implies. The parents knowing that, on the ground of his faith, his children are declared to be ‘holy,’ and, as such, have been admitted to the privilege of baptism, should feel that he is thereby encouraged to regard them as fit and capable subjects of the Spirit’s grace, and as having such an interest in all the privileges and promises of that covenant as affords ample warrant for the exercise of faith, and hope, and prayer; and the children, as they grow up, should be frequently reminded that they were dedicated to God, that they were baptised into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and they received baptism as a privilege for which they must give in an account. And when, at any time, in after-life, they have any doubt as to their interest in the covenant, they may look back to the personal application of the seal of the covenant to themselves
individually, while as yet they were unconscious infants, and draw from it a precious assurance of the perfect freeness of the Gospel. To believing parents, again, who have lost their children in infancy, the truths, which have been illustrated, are fitted to impart a consolation such as the world can neither give nor take away.
We have purposely reserved the case of infants for distinct consideration. To some it may appear that it would have been a more natural course to consider the effect of baptism in the first instance, and thereafter to develop the course of the Spirit’s operation, when children grow up to a capacity for knowing and believing the truth. But as the work of the Spirit is spoken of in Scripture chiefly with reference to adult persons, and as in their case only can we trace it in its visible manifestations and actual fruits, we have drawn our illustrations from their experience. And it deserves to be remarked, that even those who hold the highest views of baptismal regeneration, should not on that account object to a detailed illustration of His subsequent operations on the mind and heart, since they admit that whatever grace may be imparted at baptism, there must be an internal and spiritual change of mind and heart, a change wrought by the agency of the Spirit and the instrumentality of the truth in riper years, before any man can enter the kingdom of God.
More theWord modules on the Works and Office of the Holy Spirit
- Anthology on the Holy Spirit
- Austin-Sparks Crisis of Pentecost and & Significance of Holy Spirit’s Coming
- Austin-Sparks Dispensation of the Holy Spirit
- Austin-Sparks Holy Spirit
- Austin-Sparks Holy Spirit the Church and the Nations
- Austin-Sparks Life of the Spirit
- Bonar Works of the Holy Spirit
- Bonar Works of the Holy Spirit
- Buchanan-Office and Work of the Holy Spirit
- Cambron – Bible Doctrines that Matter
James Buchanan Office and Work of the Holy Spirit is a reformed work on the work of the Holy Spirit touching on infant baptism and salvation because of parents, etc.
|Date:||July 10, 2020|
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