Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Baby Baptism Attributed to "Downgradism" in England

Another difference between Spurgeon and The Founders has been brought to our attention by Brother Bob Ross. His recent article is reprinted here for Flyswatter readers.


We have often said that infant baptism perhaps has been contributory to more error and apostasy in Protestant churches than any other teaching or practice-- not to mention the Roman Catholic Church.  "Baptizing" babies and enrolling them as bono fide church members has what appears to be a very dubious and disreputable historical tract record, as various forms of apostasy have consistently produced theological, spiritual, and even moral decadence.
C. H. Spurgeon's magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, March 1887 issue, carried the initial article which kick-started what quickly became known as the Downgrade Controversy. The article was written by R. H. Shindler, and alleged that the baby baptizing Presbyterians and their practice of enlisting infants as church members was one of the major causes of downgradism. Here are his words, quoted from pages 123 and 126:
The Presbyterians were the first to get on the down line. They paid more attention to classical attainments and other branches of learning in their ministry than the Independents, while the Baptists had no academical institution of any kind. It would be an easy step in the wrong direction to pay increased attention to academical attainments in their ministers, and less to spiritual qualifications; and to set a higher value on scholarship and oratory, than on evangelical zeal and ability to rightly divide the word of truth. . . .
The principal cause of the quicker descent on "the down grade" among the Presbyterians than among other Nonconformists, may be traced, not so much to their more scholarly ministry, nor altogether to their renunciation of Puritan habits, but to their rule of admitting to the privileges of Church membership. Of course their children received the rite of baptism, according to their views of baptism, in infancy. They were thereby received—so the ministers taught, and so the people believed—into covenant with God, and had a right to the Lord's table, without any other qualification than a moral life. Many such children grew up unregenerate, and strangers to the work of renewing grace; yet they claimed to be Christians, and to be admitted to all the privileges of the church, and their claim was not disallowed. To such the earnest appeals of faithful ministers of Christ would be irksome and unpalatable. The broader road and easier way of the "men of reason and culture," which admitted of laxity of discipline and pliancy of sentiments and habits, was far more agreeable to their tastes and ideas, while the homage paid to reason and understanding, at the expense of revelation, gratified their pride, and left them free to walk after their own hearts in things pertaining to religion. Thus they chose them pastors after their own hearts, men who could, and would, and did, cry "Peace, peace," when the only way of peace was ignored or denied.
In the light of such evident truth, we marvel in our times that some Southern Baptist "Reformed" preachers can't seem to conduct a "conference" without including baby baptizers on the program. We also marvel that Dr. Mohler and Dr. Nettles at Southern Seminary are so cuddly with baby baptizers. We do not marvel so much about the Founders' unionism with baby baptizers, for after all the Founders were founded by Ernest Reisinger whose thinking was greatly influenced by baby baptizer Iain Murray of the Banner of Truth.


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