John Wesley's position on Infant baptism : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

In another thread there is a discussion on the methodist position on infant baptism. John Wesly the founder of Methodism addresses this issues in his writings. Below are his thoughts as stated from Methodist historian Dr. Outler. I hope this helps "Abundant Life" the person who inquired about infant baptism. Great question to ask.

John Wesley defines baptism as “the initiatory sacrament which enters us into covenant with God” (John Wesley, Albert C. Outler, page 319). If one could soundly reason that baptism originated in the minds of men, even very good men, then the ritual might easily be dismissed. Wesley, however, views baptism as a sign of the covenant which God has given to us through Christ, who “alone has the power to institute.” This authoritative stamp carries significant value as it is difficult to refuse any command or doctrine that comes from God through Christ. Therefore, it might chiefly be said that Wesley understands baptism as having divine origins and purposes.

The baptismal sacrament, Wesley observes, is ministered to the “proper subject” by means of water. Wesley reaches this conclusion by Biblical tradition which clearly shows the use of water in all baptisms, and from a consideration of water itself, which he states, “has a natural power of cleansing.” The water, Wesley notes, is administered by “washing, dipping, or sprinkling.” He hastens to add that there is no Biblical precept for one of these methods. And, he reasons there is no express meaning in the word “baptize” in scripture that would mandate a particular method upon us. This is understood as Wesley observes how the word “baptism” is used to describe the cleaning of pots, cups and beds (Mark 7:4). He argues that while a pot and cup might be immersed or dipped in water to be cleaned, it is illogical to assume that beds are cleansed in the same manner.

The benefits that Wesley attributes to baptism are best understood when examined with the Old Testament rite of circumcision in mind. Wesley recognizes through scripture that circumcision was given as a sign of the covenant God made toward Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:7-8). Baptism is the “new seal set to Abraham’s covenant”, and was “added in its room.” Therefore, the covenant blessings enjoyed through circumcision are now known through baptism.

Wesley pictures baptism as continually necessary for the Church and indeed it is clear that baptism is a sacrament for which we have a powerful present need. Wesley believes that since baptism is the only means of entering Christ’s Church, then it must continue as “long as the gospel covenant” remains with us.

Regarding the proper candidates for baptism, Wesley addresses the notion that baptism ought to be limited to grown persons only (John Wesley, Outler, pages 324-329). His argument is quite strong and he approaches it very straightforwardly through the use of scripture, reason and tradition – three quarters of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. The fourth quarter, experience, is present but not in the most obvious manner.

By scripture, Wesley points out that there is no mandate forbidding the baptism of children or infants. On the contrary, since God directed circumcision for eight-day-old infants (Gen. 17), and baptism was given “in the room” of circumcision, scripture appears to allow it. Wesley finds additional scriptural support in Jesus Christ’s command to his disciples that they not refrain from bringing children and infants to Him (Luke 18:15-16). One of his strongest scriptural points is that children and infants have indeed been made capable of entering into covenant with God since He Himself directed it (Deut. 29:10-11).

By reason, Wesley supports his position of infant baptism by stating that since infants are born into the curse of original sin, they are excellent subjects to be cleansed of it through baptism. He also contemplates that on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), when thousands believed and were baptized, it is reasonable to think that the Jews would have brought their entire households, including infants, to be baptized. It was their manner to include their entire households in the salvation experience (Acts 11 & 16).

Drawing on the tradition of baptism, Wesley shows (John Wesley, Outler, page 328) that since the early Church baptized infants, then it “must have been the practice of the apostles, and consequently, the mind of Christ.” As examples, Wesley cites St. Austin, “who flourished before the year 400”, and Origen, who was born in the second century; both ancients share with us that the church was baptizing infants in their own day and that this practice was given to the Church by the apostles themselves. Wesley also contends that there is not one instance in orthodox Christianity where baptism of infants is denied.

If we are to understand Wesleyan experience, as defined by Randy L. Maddox in Wesley and the Quadrilateral, (Chapter Five), it includes conferring with others who are experienced in the faith. With this understanding, we find support for Wesley’s stance in the final quarter of the Quadrilateral. Conferencing with the early, experienced Church through its writings, Wesley finds “the whole Church of Christ, for seventeen hundred years together, baptized infants.” It is their experience that Wesley leans upon, and that affirms the final piece of the Quadrilateral.

In assessing Wesley’s view of baptism, I find it a mix of several viewpoints that I might use to describe baptism. He shows a sacramental view of baptism in that he suggests that it is a means or sacrament by which God’s grace is given to humankind. This is baptismal regeneration: the spiritual change brought about in a person through the sacrament. Wesley’s acknowledgement of this is evident as he describes baptism’s benefits as, “washing away the guilt of original sin by the application of the merits of Christ’s death” (John Wesley, Outler, page 321).

He also displays a covenantal view of baptism by allowing that baptism is a sign of the covenant we have with God and also the means by which we enter into that covenant. This is made known as he writes, “By baptism we enter into covenant with God” (John Wesley, Outler, page 322), and by the way he shows that baptism is given to us as a sign of the covenant, much as circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham.

Wesley also reveals a symbolic view of baptism. He writes that “baptism is not the new birth, [emphasis mine]” (John Wesley’s Sermons, An Anthology, Outler, page 342) and that the new birth is not “the same thing with baptism.” He writes that baptism is the outward sign, or symbol, of the inward grace. The former part, Wesley notes is what man applies in water (the sign), while the latter part is only what God can minister.

These viewpoints run contradictory at times. Wesley, however, appears quite comfortable in holding them in concert. Perhaps he is not so incorrect. Does not scripture at times seem to present opposing views while at the same time joining them happily together? It is this kind of scriptural tension that can be both difficult and joyous and laborious and comforting for the student of theology.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003


Thank you! Thank ya! Thanks. Me

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003

My Sister and dearly beloved although never having laid eyes upon you; as you know I am "baptized" into the work that you are doing; meaning of course I am fully committed to that which you have started, not because I may receive any spiritual or temporal benefit, but because it is right and my heart is with the expansion of God's kingdon. Also, I respect the fact that your theological is far above the level of this poor preacher. Being a design engineer by training and profession, and called into the ministry of the gospel late in life (47 years of age), just barely in time to be ordained an elder because of age restrictions, I don't consider myself qualified evaluate the works of John Wesley, but I share with others what God has revealed to me as I diligently seek him. Wesley says that baptism is a "sign". Parking on that, Moses was a "type" of Christ; not the Christ but his life typified or could point us to Christ. John in his gospels speaks of the "signs and wonders" that point us to Jesus as the Christ; but the signs and wonders are not the Christ. The Passover lamb was given as a "sign" of the Christ giving his life for us and was necessary until Christ came. Now there is no need for the passover. It was replaced by the Lord's Supper which we will observe until He comes again, and in my humble opinion, we will celebrate once with Him and then no more. As much as I respect Wesleyan tradition and our founder, I have to disagree with that part of his teaching that says baptism is required for salvation, if indeed he says that. Jesus commanded us to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; yet the gospel of John says that He did not baptize. And he himself declared that we would do greater things than he. He also said that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood we could have no part in the kingdom of heaven. I believe Jesus meant that we must be so committed to his teachings that we literally would become a part of him; his flesh becomes our flesh; his blood our blood; so intimate so close that we would literally eat his flesh and drink his blood if necessary, much like Abraham's willings to kill Isaac as a scrafice to God. For what it is worth, One man's opinion

Be Blessed

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003

Rev. Paris, I have always considered you my mentor and dear friend. And always will and ahare with Bishop Bryant that you are my mentor.

I worked hard to get my theological education. Working two jobs raising a child my byself and paying for my education myself because when God called me he said he wanted me to be educated. I am very proud of theological education and I plan to go back to school next year to get a doctorate.

Now "I am grateful abundant life " brought up the issue of infant baptism for it provides an opportunity for us to re-examine Methodist beliefs. Though I am new to the A.M.E. denomination, I have been Methodist since I was 16. Richard Allen always proclaimed himself Methodist and believed in the teachings of John Wesley and the ame church today is closer to early methodism than the United Methodist. Our roots are Methodism. With that being said it is crucial that all of us clergy and laity study the history of Methodism and John Wesley's teaching. Doing a simple search on the internet under "Methodism" or John Wesley will be a great start.

Many of the frustrations that are often heard in the church occur because members and clergy do not know what Methodism is. How did it come about, who was John Wesley, what was his conversion experience, though he remained anglican, he too had issues with the anglican church particuraly in his treatment of the poor and working class.

Methodism was born on a university campus. John Wesley was a student at Oxford university and he and his brother Charles wanted to have a deeper relationship with God, one based in discipline regarding reading the bible and remembering the poor, he wanted a holy spirit experience in the worship service. John Wesley was a theologian.When we study the early history of the A.M.E. Church, it is incredible how brilliant are bishops and clergy were, there was an emphasis on the spiritual but also an emphasis on the theological and academics. Our Bishops had doctorates, went to college, our clergy wrote books and were highly educated. The A.M.E. Church always understood the importance of educated clergy and laity.

The most powerful organization in the ame church in my mind is the lay organization, for they have preserved the history of the ame church and continue to equip laity. Look within all the districts and see where the education regarding the denomination is coming from it is from Lay organizations.

Lastly I implore all of us to read and read. Learn about the history of the Methodist tradition and read the rich history of Methodism.

Read our 25 articles that can be found on the home page of ame today. Do you agree with them? Read our mission statement, do you agree with it? Read the Discipline do you agree with it? Do you feel comfortable in a denomination that has a Bishop?

These questions are very important, for all too often what people want is a congregational method. The church hires the pastor, etc.

Scripture calls up to be learned people for God. Paul the apostle was a lawyer. One of the greatest resources we have on this board is Robert Matthews III. Third generation ame. His father graduated from turner seminary in the 1920's. Robert teaches Lay workshops across the sixth district. Barbara. A. Robinson, President Michigan Lay organization, brilliant educator, conducts workshops across the state of Michigan about the ame church and also laity empowerment workshops, Tom Sutton fifth district Lay President, maintains a website for fifth district and teaches workshops.

My hope is that we will use these resources and network and continue to ask questions. And Rev. Paris, you have a Ph.D in being a true to disciple of Christ, and you always continue to teach me.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003

One last thing, Rev. Paris, I am praying that you and your wife and the kids will come visit us in the summer. I love you dearly but I can't take the texas heat and humidity. And thank you for your support of my ministry for you were the first clergy person besides Bishop Bryant to affirm my rural ministry and encourage me. I will always be grateful. The board should know that I am not the only Pastor Rev. Paris has mentored. God bless you my brother.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003

Thank you for your well though out responses. May God Bless you and your great church. I like to listen to other people's view points. This is what the Baptist believe on baptism. This information is from a baptist web site. Again, may God bless and Happy Thanksgiving.

As a fact, Baptists do not baptize their infants. If there be any benefits springing from Infant Baptism, the children of Baptists miss them. If Infant Baptism is necessary to the salvation of children, then the children of Baptists are lost. The motive of the Baptists in refusing baptism to children is no secret. They hardly consider it necessary to say it is from no want of kindness or religious solicitude for their children. They expect many things to be said against them, and are ready to bear them, but can not believe that their worst enemies will seriously deny that they love their children and are concerned for their highest religious safety. Nor does their refusal arise from an unwillingness to consecrate their children to the Lord. This, every sincere and intelligent Baptist does. Nor is it from any desire to be eccentric or singular; but a deep conviction of duty which they cannot but regard. The Bible Does Not Teach It The one sufficient reason the Baptists have for rejecting Infant Baptism is, that the Bible does not teach it. With some this is nothing. They follow priests, creeds, and churches. But to the Baptists, the Bible is the end of controversy. They confess its authority as supreme, and accept nothing as religious duty except that which it teaches. They do not find that it teaches Infant Baptism. But some say that the Bible does teach it. It is there! Well, where? Dreamy fancies that it is taught somewhere in the Word of God are worth nothing. Give the chapter and the verse where, by law or example if taught. If your child's salvation depended on a passage in the Scriptures that taught this doctrine, which would you select? Jesus Did Not Practice It True, certain passages or incidents in the Bible are presented in support of Infant Baptism, but even the friends of the doctrine differ widely concerning them. Without attempting to notice all these texts, I will, as a matter of justice, select for notice those which are considered the strongest. Perhaps the most popular proof passage is found in Mark 10:14-16. This is to many a tower of strength - a refuge in weakness, and quoted on all occasions. What are the facts? Little children are brought to the Saviour and he takes them in his arms and blesses them. The surprise and displeasure of the disciples at the presentation of these children to Christ plainly indicated that the practice of Infant Baptism was not known to them. It was certainly a capital opportunity for instituting such an ordinance and explaining its object; but nothing of the kind was done. The silence of Jesus on the subject is itself a significant argument against it. The fact that he said nothing about Infant Baptism, and did something quite different from it, turns this passage into a strong proof-test against the practice. Household Baptisms Do Not Prove It But there are the Household Baptisms. It is claimed that if whole families were baptized, there must have been children among them. First in the list is the family of Crispus. Paul baptized that household. It is enough to say that it is expressly declared that Crispus "believed in the Lord with all his house," Acts 18:8. Next is the house of Stephanas, I Cor. 1:13. Here Paul simply speaks of it as the baptism of a household. Must there not have been infants? Not unless it can be shown that there are no households without infants. But observe that in I Cor. 16:15, Paul, in alluding to this family, calls them "the first fruits of Achaia," and says they "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." Manknight is candid enough to admit that there could have been no infants in the house of Stephanas. Next is the household of the Philippian jailer. Acts 16:29-34. In reading the account, you observe that they spake the word of the Lord to all that were in the house of the jailer - that the jailer rejoiced, believed in God with all his house. That is unanswerably plain. Last in the list is the house of Lydia. Acts 16:14, 15-40. Before an argument in favor of Infant Baptism can be wrung from this case, several impossible propositions must be established: 1. That Lydia was married. 2. That she had children. 3. That any of these children were at that time infants. 4. That these infants were baptized. 5. That the term brethren in verse 40 is used independently of these children. Circumcision Has Nothing To Do With It There is also the argument from circumcisions. It is claimed that Infant Baptism is the substitute for circumcision. That such is the case nowhere intimated in the Word of God. The Jews that had been circumcised, when converted to Christ were baptized. Timothy was circumcised after he had been baptized. If baptism is the substitute for circumcision, where is the fact stated? Some who practise Infant Baptism do not claim clear Bible authority for it. They put it on the ground that it is a "form of consecration," - "can do no harm."That there is any wrong or injury in the simple act of sprinkling a child with water and praying for its salvation, no one would be foolish as to assert. But when this act is performed on the plea that it is commanded by the Word of God, it becomes an evil. It is to claim scriptural authority for what is not taught in the Word of God. Besides, the observance of this practice is a practical abolition of believer's baptism, which is clearly required by the law of Christ. It is an injury to the child. It infringed his right of choice in the matter of baptism. It confuses his mind in regard to his relation to the Church. It leaves him in doubt as to his regeneration. It is calculated to foster in his mind false religious hopes. It is an injury to the Church. The scriptural idea of the Church is that of a body of baptized believers. Only those who have been pardoned and regenerated are entitled to membership. Upon the preservation of this idea of a spiritual membership is dependent the purity of the churches. This idea is assailed by Infant Baptism, and the universal triumph of that doctrine would be the introduction of all classes of persons within the ranks of some external church. The truth of this statement is abundantly proved by the condition of the Lutheran Church in Germany, and that of the Established Church of England. If it be true that Infant Baptism is not taught in the Word of God— that it is injurious to those who are its subjects, and unfriendly to the New Testament idea of a Church, then the Baptists are amply justified in rejecting it.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003

Moderation questions? read the FAQ