I have been extremely busy and have not had time to post. However, here is some grist for the mill from Schenck’s book.
“The Reformed church has always believed, on the basis of God’s immutable promise, that all children of believers dying in infancy were saved.” (p. 118)
“Baptized children were to be taught and trained to believe, feel, act, and live as the children of God, not merely because it was wrong and perilous not to do so, but because failure to do this would be inconsistent with their position as members of the church.” (p. 134)
“This [the classic reformed view] high conception of the promise of God and the significance of the baptism of children inculcates confidence, spiritual joy, and a high conception of God. It leads to reverent praise and thanksgiving. Furthermore it is an incentive, a stimulus to the Christian education of children. But where the truth of the covenant promise of God was forgotten, the consequence, Calvin thought, would inevitably be ingratitude to the mercy of God and negligence in the proper Christian education of children.” (p. 149)
“Baptism has no significance for Calvin if it does not mean admission to the visible church on th ground of the covenant promise, which includes presumptive regeneration of the children in the covenant. Calvin looks upon the child in the covenant as God’s child, forgiven of sin and regenerated, with the new life as a latent seed, already at work in its heart. The child then opens its eyes redeemed on a world in which by careful nuture it is expected to grow and develop in the Christian ideal of life and character. The important point is that this child is presumptively a Christian. That Calvin so meant we see clearly from this passage:
‘The offspring of believers are born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, have been adopted into the covenant of eternal life. Nor are they brought into the church by baptism on any other ground than because they belonged to the body of the Church before they were born. How who admits aliens to baptism profanes it…For how can it be lawful to confer the badge of Christ on aliens from Christ. Baptism must, therefore, be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause of half salvation merely, buy gives salvation entire; and this salvation is afterwards ratified by Baptism.'”
(Lewis Bevens Schenck, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant, p. 13)
If anyone wants to understand on a historical level where we have come since the Reformation, in particular with regard to baptism, then I would greatly encourage the reading of Lewis Bevens Schenck’s book The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant. Schenck does a historical study beginning at the Reformation and ending in the early 1900s showing the devolution of the biblical doctrine of children in covenant. Reading it one can easily see that many presbyterians, and of course all baptists, have abandoned the reformers’ view of children in the covenant. Much of the current Federal Vision controversy is explained by this book. Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting some of the quotes I liked. Here is the first.
“To John Calvin then ‘baptism’ signifies the forgivness of sins. This means in the legal language of theology that those baptized presumably stand in the sight of God as justified, that is, with the guilt and punishment of sin removed by the mercy of God. He accepts them no longer as sinners, but as heirs, ‘heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.’ And this adoptive act of God finds expression in the second meaning of baptism, ‘regeneration.’ (p. 8 )