Infant Baptism
Its History and Its Harm

By the late Dr. William Pettingill

   I am convinced that believers should be baptized in
water.   If I were compelled to choose, I would
unhesitatingly say, "no water baptism" rather than the
baptism of infants.   Happily, I am not thus compelled to
choose between two evils, but am free to walk in the light
as I see the light.
   It is my purpose in this article to set forth my reasons
for saying, as I have often said, that infant baptism is
responsible for sending more people to Hell than any
other cause.   From my point of view it is a dreadful thing
to baptize a baby and let him grow up believing that by
that baptism he has been saved and is on his way to
Heaven.   "To the law and to the testimony"!
   Infant baptism has no warrant in the Scriptures.
Many efforts have been made to find such warrant, but
these efforts are too feeble to merit serious consideration.
But did not the Lord Jesus say, "Suffer little children,
and forbid them not, to come unto me"
?   Yes, He did; and
there is no objection to suffer them to come unto Him.   The
question here is the bringing of infants who are too
young to come by themselves.   There is no authority for
such a thing.

Baptismal Regeneration

   In church history there is no record of infant baptism
until the year 370.   And how did it come about?   It resulted
from the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, the
teaching that baptism is essential to salvation.   It was
natural for those holding this teaching to believe that
everybody should be baptized as soon as possible, and so
baptism of unconscious infants came into vogue among
many of the churches.   These two grievous errors,
baptismal regeneration and infant baptism, according to
reliable historians, have caused more bloodshed and
persecution than all other errors combined.
   It is reliably estimated that over fifty million
Christians were put to death during the "Dark Ages"
covering twelve or thirteen centuries, mainly because
they rejected these two errors and insisted that salvation
was the gift of God, apart from works or ceremonies.
   The professed conversion of Emperor Constantine in

313 A.D. was looked upon by many as a great triumph for
Christianity.   As a matter of fact, it was the greatest
tragedy of church history.   It resulted in the union of
church and state and the establishment of an hierarchy
which afterward developed into the Roman Catholic
, which of course is not the church of God at all,
but a hateful counterfeit of it.   It is doubtful that
Constantine was ever truly converted.   At the time of his
supposed vision of the sign of the cross he "promised to
become a Christian,"
but he was not baptized until near
death, having postponed the act in the belief that
baptism washed away all past sins, and he wanted all his
sins to be in the past tense before he was baptized.


   In the year 416 infant baptism was made compulsory
throughout the Roman Empire by law.   This, of course,
filled the churches with unconverted members who had
only been "baptized into favor," and whatever power the
church had retained was now gone.   The world was
plunged into the gloom of the Dark Ages, which endured
for more than twelve centuries, until the Reformation.
But all the time, from the beginning of the church age,
God always had a remnant remaining faithful to Him.
They never consented to the union of church and state, or
to baptismal regeneration, or to infant baptism.
   These nonconformists were not a sect, and they were
not even called Christians.   Indeed, it became illegal for
them to be called Christians or to call themselves
Christians.   They bore nicknames, depending sometimes
upon a leader's name, or the name of their locality.   They
were Montanists, Novatians, Paulicans, Arnoldists,
Henricians, Petrobrusians, Waldenses, Paterines,
Albigenses, Studist
, etc.; but their generic name was
Anabaptist, meaning re-baptizers, for they ignored
infant baptism and rebaptized those who had been saved
through personal faith.   They also had a generic name for
themselves: they called themselves Antipedobaptists,
meaning opponents of infant baptism.

A Hangover From Rome

   When the Reformation came, these Anabaptists or
Antipedobaptists did all they could to help the
Reformers; but when the Reformers came into power they
turned against the Anabaptists and persecuted them as
Rome had done and continued to do; and thus the
troubles of the Anabaptists were increased instead of
diminished, for now they had persecutors on both sides
-- from Romanism on one hand and from Protestantism
on the other.
   All honor to the great Reformers, but the truth must be
told that in their reform they brought with them out of
Rome the two hateful errors union of church and state
and infant baptism; and moreover when they had the
power in their hands because of this union of church and
state, they themselves became popes in their own realm
and persecuted those who would not conform to their
   The Lutheran church became the established church of
Germany, and persecuted the Anabaptists for
nonconformity.   While Zwingli held power in Switzerland
the Senate passed a law making infant baptism
compulsory and providing that "if any presume to re-
baptize those who were baptized before, they should be
and at Vienna many Anabaptists were so tied
together in chains that one drew the other after him into
the river, wherein they were all suffocated.
   Calvin in his field, Cromwell in England, Knox in
Scotland -- these all stuck to the union of church and
state and infant baptism, and used their power, when
they had power, to seek to force others to conform with
their own views.
   Before the Massachusetts Bay Colony was twenty
years old, it was decreed by statute that "if any person or
persons within this jurisdiction shall either openly
condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about
secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use
thereof, or shall purposely depart from the congregation
at the administration of the ordinance -- after due time
and means of conviction -- every such person or persons
shall be subject to banishment."

   By the authorities in this colony Roger Williams and

others were banished, when banishment meant to go and
live with the Indians.   This Williams did and was received
kindly and dwelt with them for some time, and after days
it was shown that he had saved the Massachusetts Bay
Colony from utter destruction by the Indians by his
earnest pleadings in behalf of the Colony which had
banished him.

Church and State

   And it was in the constitution of the Rhode Island
Colony, founded by Roger Williams, John Clarke and
others, that religious liberty was established by law for
the first time in thirteen hundred years.   Thus it was that
Rhode Island, the first Baptist Colony, established by a
small group of believers, was the first spot on earth where
religious liberty became the law of the land.   The
settlement was made in 1638, and the Colony was legally
established in 1663.   The second place was Virginia in
   Congress declared the first amendment to the
Constitution of the United States to be in force on
December 15, 1791, which granted religious liberty to all
citizens; and Baptists are credited with being the leaders
in bringing this blessing to the nation.   If that be true,
they proved themselves to be worthy successors of their
Anabaptist or Antipedobaptist forebears.
   But, it may be asked, what has all this to do with us?
Has it any practical bearing upon us in our day?   And
here is the answer: The union of church and state
continues today in most of the countries of the world.   In
these "state churches" they "christen" babies, which
means they make them Christians.   The average Briton,
for example, thinks he is on the way to Heaven.   Wasn't
he christened in infancy, and hasn't he been taught all
these years that that saved him, and isn't he a member of
the same church with the king?   What more could you

Are Unbaptized Infants Lost?

   And what about this country?   Let us see:
   The Roman Catholic teaches baptismal regeneration

and practices infant baptism.   In its statement of doctrine
it says: "The sacrament of baptism is administered to
infants or adults by pouring of water and the
pronouncement of the proper words, and cleanses from
original sin."

   The Reformed church says: "Children are baptized as
heirs of the Kingdom of God and of His covenant."

   The Lutheran church teaches that baptism, whether of
infants or adults, is a means of regeneration.   Martin
himself, when asked whether unbaptized infants
are lost, said: "Not lack of contempt for, the sacrament
condemns.   I hope that when little children are denied
baptism without their fault, and the command of Christ
and prayer are not despised, the kind and merciful God
will graciously remember them.   Let their souls be left in
the hands of and at the will of their Heavenly Father,
who, as we know, is merciful."
  Mind, he says only "I
  Not a very good foundation for faith.   Mr. Luther
should have done better than that.
   The Episcopal church teaches plainly that salvation
comes through infant baptism.   In his confirmation the
catechist answers a question about his baptism in
infancy by saying, "in my baptism, wherein I was made
a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the
Kingdom of God."

   This is printed in the Prayer Book and may be seen
there by anyone interested enough to look for it.   The fact
is that most people who practice infant baptism believe
that the ceremony has something to do with the
salvation of the child.
   We have left the commandment of God to follow the
traditions of men, and the end is awful to contemplate.

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