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vision has the nature of penalty and of dam-
nation proceeding from sin." * Is there
more than a verbal difference here ? At all
events, whatever difference exists is a dif-
ference not in the doctrine of the state of
unbaptized infants after death, but in the
doctrine of the fall. In deference to the
language of fathers and councils and popes,
this natural paradise is formally assigned to
that portion of the other world designated
" hell," but in its own nature it is precisely
the Pelagian doctrine of the state of unbap-
tized infants after death. By what expedi-
ent such teaching is to be reconciled with
the other doctrines of the Church of Rome,
or with its former teaching on this same
subject, or with its boast of semper eadem,
is more interesting to its advocates within
that communion than to us.f Our interest
as historians of opinion is exhausted in
simply noting the fact that the Pelagianiz-

* Compend, 1861, i., 494, No. 590.

t See some of the difficulties very mildly stated in Hurter,

loc. cit.


ing process, begun in the Middle Ages by
assigning to infants guilty only of original
sin liability to poena damni alone, culminates
in our day in their assignment by the most
representative theologians of modern Rome
to a natural paradise.

4. It is, no doubt, as a protest against the
harshness of the Romanist syllogism, " No
man can attain salvation who is not a mem-
ber of Christ ; but no one becomes a mem-
ber of Christ except by baptism, received
either in re or in voto,"* that this Pelagian-
izing drift is to be regarded. Its fault is
that it impinges by way of mitigation and
modification on the major premise, which,
however, is the fundamental proposition of
Christianity. Its roots are planted, in the
last analysis, in a conception of men, not as
fallen creatures, children of wrath, and de-
serving of a doom which can only be escaped
by becoming members of Christ, but as
creatures of God with claims on him for
natural happiness, but, of course, with no
claims on him for such additional supernat-
ural benefits as he may yet lovingly confer
on his creatures in Christ. On the other
hand, that great religious movement which
we call the Reformation, the constitutive

* The words are Aquinas's (p. 3. q. 68, art. 1) ; see them
quoted and applied by Pkrrone, Compend., ii., 253.


principle of which was its revised doctrine
of the Church, ranged itself properly
against the fallacious minor premise, and
easily broke its bonds with the sword of the
word. Men are not constituted members of
Christ through the Church, but members
of the Church through Christ ; they are
not made the members of Christ by baptism
which the Church gives, but by faith, the
gift of God ; and baptism is the Church's
recognition of this inner fact. The full
benefit of this better apprehension of the
nature of that Church of God membership
in which is the condition of salvation, was
not reaped, however, by all Protestants in
equal measure. It was the strength of the
Lutheran movement that it worked out its
positions not theoretically or all at once, but
step by step, as it was forced on by the logic
of events and experience. But it was an in-
cidental evil that, being compelled to ex-
press its faith early, its first confession was
framed before the full development of Prot-
estant thought, and subsequently contracted
the faith of Lutheranism into too narrow
channels. The Augsburg Confession con-
tains the true doctrine of the Church as the
congregatio sanctorum ; but it committed
Lutheranism to the doctrine that baptism
is necessary to salvation (Art. IX.) in such a


sense that children are not saved without
baptism (Art. IX.),* inasmuch as the con-
demnation and eternal death brought by
original sin upon all are not removed except
from those who are born again by baptism
and the Holy Ghost (Art. II.) — i.e., to the
doctrine that the necessity of baptism is the
necessity of means. In the direction of
mollifying interpretation of this deliverance,
the theologians urge : 1. That the necessity
affirmed is not absolute but ordinary, and
binds man and not God. 2. That as the as-
sertion is directed against the Anabaptists,
it is not the privation, but the contempt of
baptism that is affirmed to be damning. 3.
That the necessity of baptism is not intended
to be equalized with that of the Holy Ghost.
4. That the affirmation is not that for orig-
inal sin alone any one is actually damned,
but only that all are therefor damnable.
There is force in these considerations. But
they do not avail wholly to relieve the
Augsburg Confession of limiting salvation
to those who enjoy the means of grace, and
as concerns infants, to those who receive
the sacrament of baptism.

It is not to be held, of course, that it asserts
such an absolute necessity of baptism for
infants dying such, as admits no exceptions.

* " Or outside the Church of Christ," as is added in ed. 1540.


From Luther and Melanchthon down, Lu-
theran theologians have always taught what
Hunnins expressed in the Saxon Visitation
Articles : " Unless a person be born again"
of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into
the kingdom of heaven. Cases of necessity
are not intended, however, bij this.''' Luther-
an theology, in other words, takes its stand
positively on the ground of baptism of in-
tention as applied to infants, as over against
its denial by the Church of Rome. " Lu-
ther," says Dorner,* " holds fast, in general,
to the necessity of baptism in order to salva-
tion, but in reference to the children of
Christians who have died unbaptized, he
says : ' The Holy and Merciful God will
think kindly of them. What he will do
with them he has revealed to no one, that
baptism may not be despised, but has re-
served to his own mercy ; God does wrong
to no man.' " \ From the fact that Jewish
children dying before circumcision were not
lost, Luther argues that neither are Chris-
tian children dying before baptism ;J and he
comforts Christian mothers of still-born
babes by declaring that they should under-
stand that such infants are saved. 8 So

* Hi.-/, of Protestant Theology (E.T.), i., 171.
t Opp., xxii., 872 (Dorner's quotation).
X Com. in Gen., c. 17.
§ Christliche Bedenken,


Bugenhagen, under Luther's direction,
teaches that Christians' children intended for
baptism are not left to the hidden judgment
of God if they fail of baptism, but have the
promise of being received by Christ into his
kingdom. * It is not necessary to quote later
authors on a point on which all are unani-
mous ; let it suffice to add only the clear
statement of the developed Lutheranism of
John Gerhard (1610-22) : f " We walk in
the middle way, teaching that baptism is,
indeed, the ordinary sacrament of initiation
and means of regeneration necessary to all,
even to the children of believers, for regen-
eration and salvation ; but vet that in the
event of privation or impossibility the chil-
dren of Christians are saved by an ex-
traordinary and peculiar divine dispensation.
For the necessity of baptism is not absolute,
but ordinary ; we on our part are obliged to
the necessity of baptism, but there must be
no denial of the extraordinary action of God
in infants offered to Christ by pious parents
and the Church in prayers, and dying be-
fore the opportunity of baptism can be given
them, since God does not so bind his grace
and saving efficacy to baptism as that, in

* See for several such quotations brought together, Lau-
rence, Bampton Lectures, 1804, ed. 1820, p. 272. Also Ger-
hard as in next note.

t Ed. Cotta, vol. ix., p. 284.


the event of privation, he may not both wish
and be able to act extraordinarily. We dis-
tinguish, then, between necessity on God's
part and on our part ; between the case of
privation and the ordinary way ; and also
between infants born in the Church and out
of the Church. Concerning infants born
out of the Church, we say with the apostle
(1 Cor. v. 12, 13), ' For what have I to do
with judging them that are without ? Do
not you judge them that are within ? For
them that are without God judgeth.'
Wherefore, since there is no promise con-
cerning them, we commit them to God's
judgment ; and yet we hold to no place in-
termediate between heaven and hell, con-
cerning which there is utter silence in Scrip-
ture. But concerning infants born in the
Church we have better hope. Pious parents
properly bring their children as soon as pos-
sible to baptism as the ordinary means of re-
generation, and offer them in baptism to
Christ ; and those who are negligent in this,
so as through lack of care or wicked con-
tempt for the sacrament to deprive their
children of baptism, shall hereafter render
a very heavy account to God, since they have
' despised the counsel of God ' (Luke vii.
30). Yet neither can nor ought we rashly
to condemn those infants which die in their


mothers' wombs or by some sudden accident
before they receive baptism, but may
rather hold that the prayers of pious par-
ents, or, if the parents are negligent of this,
the prayers of the Church, poured out for
these infants, are clemently heard and they
are received by God into grace and life."

From this passage, too, we may learn the
historical attitude of Lutheranism toward
the entirely different question of the fate
of infants dying outside the pale of the
Church and the reach of its ordinances, a
multitude so vast that it is wholly unreason-
able to suppose them simply (like Christians'
children deprived of baptism) exceptions to
the rule laid down in the Augsburg Confes-
sion. It is perfectly clear that the Lu-
theran Confessions extend no hope for them.
It is doubtful whether it can even be said
that they leave room for hope for them.
Melanchthon in the Apology is no doubt
arguing against the Anabaptists, and intends
to prove only that children should be bap-
tized ; but his words in explanation of Art.
IX. deserve consideration in this connec-
tion also — where he argues that " the prom-
ise of salvation" " does not pertain to those
who are without the Church of Christ, where
there is neither the Word nor the Sacra-
ments, because the kingdom of Christ exists


only with the Word and the Sacraments."
Luther's personal opinion as to the fate of

heathen children dying in infancy is in
doubt ; now he expresses the hope that the
good and gracious God may have something
good in view for them ;* and again, though
leaving it to the future to decide, he only
expects something milder for them than for
the adults outside the Church ;f and
Bugenhagen, under his eye, contrasts the
children of Turks and Jews with those of
Christians, as not sharers in salvation be-
cause not in Christ. J From the very first
the opinion of the theologians was divided
on the subject. (1) Some held that all in-
fants except those baptized in fact or inten-
tion are lost, and ascribed to them, of course
—for this was the Protestant view of the
desert of original sin — both privative and
positive punishment. This party included
such theologians as Quistorpius, Calovius,
Fechtei, Zeibichius, Buddeus. (2) Others
judged that we may cherish the best of hope
for their salvation. Here belong Dann-
hauer, Hulsemann, Scherzer, J. A. Osian-
der, Wagner, Musaeus, Cotta, and Spener.
But the great body of Lutherans, including
such names as Gerhard, Calixtus, Meisner,

* Cf. Dorner, Hist. Prof. Theol., i., 171.
t Cf. Laurence, Hampton Lectures, p. 272.
X Ibid.


Baldwin, Bechmann, Hoffmann, Hunnius,
held that nothing is clearly revealed as to
the fate of such infants, and thev must be
left to the judgment of God. (3) Some of
these, like Ilunnius, were inclined to believe
that they will be saved. (4) Others, with
more (like Hoffmann) or less (like Gerhard)
clearness, were rather inclined to believe
they will be lost ; but all alike held that the
means for a certain decision are not in our
hands.* Thus Hunnius says :f " That the
infants of Gentiles, outside the Church, are
saved, Ave cannot pronounce as certain, since
there exists nothing definite in the Scrip-
tures concerning the matter ; so neither do
I dare simply to assert that these children
are indiscriminately damned. . . . Let us
commit them, therefore, to the judgment of
God." And Hoffmann says :J; " On the
question, whether the infants of the heathen
nations are lost, most of our theologians pre-
fer to suspend their judgment. To affirm
as a certain thing that they are. lost could
not be done without rashness."

This cautious agnostic attitude has the
best right to be called the historical Lu-
theran attitude. It is even the highest posi-

* This classification is taken from Cotta (Gerhard's Loci, ix.,
t Qitcest. in cap. vii. Gen.
$ See Kbatjth, Conservative Reformation, p. 433.


tion thoroughly consistent with the genius
of the Lutheran system and the stress which
it lays on the means of grace. The drift in
more modern times has, however, been de-
cidedly in the direction of affirming the sal-
vation of all that die in infancy, on grounds
identical with those pleaded by this party
from the beginning — the infinite mercy of
God, the universality of the atonement, the
inability of infants to resist grace, their
guiltlessness of despising the ordinance, and
the like.* Even so, however, careful mod-
ern Lutherans moderate their assertions.
They may affirm that "it is not the doc-
trine of our Confession that any human
creature has ever been or ever will be lost
purely for original sin ;" f but they speak of
the matter as a " dark" or a " difficult ques-
tion/' \ and suspend the salvation of such
infants on an ''extraordinary" and "un-
covenanted " exercise of God's mercy. § We
cannot rise to a conviction or a " faith" in
the matter, but may attain to a ' well-
grounded hope/' based on our apprehension
of God's all-embracing mercy. || In short,
the Lutheran doctrine seems to lay no firm

* Compare the statements in Cotta and Kraxtth, locc. citt.

t Krauth, I.e., p. 4^9.

% lb., pp. 561-63.

§ lb., pp. 430, 437.

II Krauth, Infant Salvation in the Calvinistic\System, p. 22.


foundation for a conviction of the salvation
of all infants dying in infancy ; at the best
it is held to leave open an uncontradicted
hope. We are afraid we must say more ; it
seems to contradict this hope. For should
this hope prove true, it would no longer be
true that " baptism is necessary to salva-
tion/' even ordinarily ; the exception would
be the rule. Nor would the fundamental
conception of the Lutheran theory of salva-
tion — that grace is' in the means of grace —
be longer tenable. The logic of the Lu-
theran system leaves little room for the salva-
tion of all infants dying in infancy, and if
their salvation should prove to be a fact, the
integrity of the system is endangered.

5. A similar difficulty is experienced by
all types of Protestant thought in which the
older idea of the Church, as primarily an
external body, has been incompletely re-
formed. This may be illustrated, for ex-
ample, from the history of thought in the
Church of England. The Thirty-nine Ar-
ticles, in their final form, are thoroughly
Protestant and Reformed. And many of
the greatest English theologians, even among
those not most closely affiliated with Geneva,
from the very earliest days of the Reforma-
tion, have repudiated the " cruel judgment"
of the Church of Rome as to the fate of in-


fants dying unbaptized. But this repudia-
tion was neither immediate, nor has it ever
been universal. The second of the Ten
Articles of Henry VIII. (1536) not only de-
clares that the promise of grace and eternal
life is adjoined to baptism, but adds that in-
fants ' ' by the sacrament of baptism do also
obtain remission of their sins, the grace and
favor of God, and be made thereby the very
sons and children of God ; insomuch as in-
fants and children dying in their infancy
shall undoubtedly be saved thereby, and else
not. ' ' The first liturgy embodied the same
implication. The growing Protestant senti-
ment soon revised it out of these standards.*
But there have never lacked those in the
Church of England who still taught the
necessity of baptism to salvation. If it can
boast of a John Hooper, who speaks of " the
ungodly opinion that attributeth the salva-
tion of men unto the receiving of an ex-
ternal sacrament/' "as though the Holy
Spirit could not be carried by faith into
the penitent and sorrowful conscience ex-
cept it rid always in a chariot and external
sacrament," and who (probably first after
Zwingli) taught that all infants dying in in-
fancv, whether children of Christians or in-

* For an outline of the history see Schaff, Creeds of Chris-
tendom, i., 642 ; cf. Laurence, op. cit., p. 176 sq.


fidels, are saved ;* it also has counted among
its teachers many who held with Matthew
Scrivener that Christ's " death and passion
are not communicated unto any but by out-
ward signs and sacraments/' so that " either
all children must be damned, being unbap-
tized, or they must have baptism." f The
general position of the Church up to his day
is thus conceived by Wall ij " The Church
of England have declared their sense of its
[i.e., baptism's] necessity by reciting the say-
ing of our Saviour, John iii. 5, both in the
Office of Baptism of Infants and also in that
for those of riper years. . . . Concern-
ing the everlasting state of an infant that
by misfortune dies unbaptized, the Church
of England has determined nothing (it were
fit that all churches would leave such things
to God) save that they forbid the ordinary
Office for Burial to be used for such an one ;
for that were to determine the point and
acknowledge him for a Christian brother.
And tho' the most noted men in the said
Church from time to time since the Eefor-
mation of it to this time have expressed their
hopes that God will accept the purpose of

* An Answer to My Lord of Winchester's Book, etc., 1547, in
Parker Society's Early Writings of Bishop Hooper, pp. 129,

t Course of Divinity, London, 1674, p. 196.

% Hist, of Infant Baptism, ed. 2, 1707, p. 377.


the parent for the deed ; yet they have done
it modestly and much as Wycliffe did, rather
not determining the negative than absolutely
determining the positive, that such a child
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.' y
I f this is all that can be said of the children
of the faithful, lacking baptism, where will
those of the infidel appear ? Many other
opinions — more Protestant or more Pelagian
— have, of course, found a home for them-
selves in the bosom of this most inclusive
cummunion, but they are no more charac-
teristic of its teaching than that of Wall.
It is only needful to remember that there are
still many among the clergy of the Church
of England who, retaining the old, unre-
formed view of the Church, still believe
" that the relationship of sonship to God is
imparted through baptism and is not im-
parted without it ;" * though, of course,
many others, and we hope still a large ma-
jority, would repudiate this position as in-

6. It was among the Reformed alone that
the newly recovered scriptural apprehension
of the Church to which the promises were
given, as essentially not an externally or-
ganized body but the people of God, mem-
bership in which is mediated not by the ex-

* Oxford Tracts, vol. ii., No. 66.


ternal act of baptism but by the internal
regeneration of the Holy Spirit, bore its full
fruit in rectifying the doctrine of the appli-
cation of redemption. This great truth
was taught alike by both branches of Prot-
estantism, but it was limited in its appli-
cation in the one line of teaching by a very
high doctrine of the means of grace, while
in the other it became itself constitutive of
the doctrine of the means of grace. Not a
few Reformed theologians, even outside the
Church of England, no doubt also held a
high doctrine of the means ; of whom Peter
Jurieu may be taken as a type.* But this
was not characteristic of the Reformed
churches, the distinguishing doctrine of
which rather by suspending salvation on
membership in the invisible instead of in
the visible Church, transformed baptism
from a necessity into a duty, and left men
dependent for salvation on nothing but the
infinite love and free grace of God. In this
view the absolutely free and loving election
of God alone is determinative of the saved ;
so that how many and who they are is known
absolutely to God alone, and to us only so far
forth as it may be inferred from the marks
and signs of election revealed to us in the

* See his views quoted and discussed by Witsius, Be Effi-
cace et TMlitale Bapt. in Miscel. Sacra (1636), ii., 513,


Word. Faith and its fruits are the chief
signs in the case of adults, and he that be-
lieves may know that he is of the elect. In
the case of infants dying in infancy, birth
within the bounds of the covenant is a sure
sigu, since the promise is " unto us and our
children." But present unbelief is not a
sure sign of reprobation in the case of
adults, for who knows but that unbelief may
yet give place to faith ? Nor in the case of
infants, dying such, is birth outside the cov-
enant a trustworthy sign of reprobation, for
the election of God is free. Accordingly
there are many— adults and infants — of
whose salvation we may be sure, but of rep-
robation we cannot be sure ; such a judg-
ment is necessarily unsafe even as to adults
apparently living in sin, while as to infants
who " die and give no sign/' it is presump-
tuous and rash in the extreme.

The above is practically an outline of the
teaching of Zwingli. He himself worked it
out in its logical completeness, and taught :
1. That all believers are elect and hence are
saved, though we cannot know infallibly
who are true believers except in our own
case. 2. All children of believers dying in
infancy are elect and hence are saved, for
this rests on God's immutable promise.
3. It is probable, from the superabundance

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of the gift of grace over the offence, that
all infants dying such are elect and saved ;
so that death in infancy is a sign of elec-
tion ; and although this must be left with
God, it is certainly rash and even impious
to affirm their damnation. 4. All who are
saved, whether adult or infant, are saved
only by the free grace of God's election and
through the redemption of Christ.*

The central principle of Zwiugli's teaching
is not only the common possession of all Cal-
vinists, but the essential postulate of their
system. They can differ among themselves
only in their determination of what the
signs of election and reprobation are, and in
their interpretation of these signs. On
these grounds Calvinists early divided into
five classes : 1. From the beginning a few
held with Zwingli that death in infancy is a
sign of election, and hence that all who die
in infancy are the children of God and enter
at once into glory. After Zwingli, Bishop
Hooper was probably the firstf to embrace

* Zwingli's teaching may be conveniently worked out by the
aid of August Baur's valuable Zwinglis Theologie, especially
vol. ii. (Halle, 1889). Zwingli's doctrine of original sin had
practically no influence on this question.

t The adverb is used advisedly. Calvin is often held to
have believed that all infants dying such are saved. For
a careful statement of this opinion see especially the full and
learned paper of Dr. Chakles W. Shields, in The Presbyte-
rian and Reformed Review for October, 1890 (vol i., pp. 634-
651). To us, however, Calvin seems, while speaking with ad-


this view.* It has more lately become the
ruling view, and we may select Augustus
Topladyf and Robert S. Candlish as its types.
The latter, for example, writes :{ "In many
ways I apprehend it may be inferred from
Scripture that all dying in infancy are elect,
and are, therefore, saved. . . . The
whole analogy of the plan of saving mercy
seems to favor the same view, and now it
may be seen, if I am not greatly mistaken,
to be put beyond question by the bare fact
thatlittle children die. . . . The death

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Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldThe development of the doctrine of infant salvation → online text (page 2 of 4)