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Matthew 19:14

One other passage ought to be considered, and its false glosses briefly exposed, since much confidence has of late, been expressed that it contains evident authority for infant baptism.

“Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14.)

Let us, in the first place, carefully examine this text, and ascertain its exact Sense.

The Savior was in the midst of a discourse of surpassing interest. His disciples were absorbed in their attention to his instructions. Suddenly there “were brought unto him little children.” The object of those who brought them, probably their parents, the evangelist fully states. It was, “That he should put his hands on them, and pray.”[35] This was a very familiar observance among the Jews. Great importance was attached by them, and justly, to the benedictions of holy men. To obtain them therefore, when practicable, had been common from the earliest times. (Genesis 48:14; Matthew 9:18;. Mark 16:18.) These parents fully believed that Jesus was a prophet of God, and they desired for their children his prayers and blessing. This was what they sought, and all that they sought. They however, encountered in their approach, a rebuke from the disciples! This occurred, not certainly, from any want of respect on the part of the disciples for their motives, and wishes, but evidently because they were impatient of the interruption. Their feelings were deeply enlisted in the topic before them, and they were not willing that their Master should, on any account, be diverted from it. But he, observing what they did, “was much displeased,” (Mark 10:14-16.) and immediately suspending his discourse, “Called the little children to him.” (Luke 18:16.) Thus he manifested his great love, patience, and condescension. What the Savior did for these children is now distinctly and fully stated: “He took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” Meantime he compensated his disciples: for the interruption, by imparting one of the richest lessons to be found in all his teachings. It is contained in the very passage now in question: “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And he adds: “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein.”

By “the kingdom of heaven,” and “the kingdom of God,” here employed as convertible terms, our Savior refers to the Gospel, the true principles of which in the heart, alone can qualify any one for the holy brotherhood of the church upon earth. This fact needs only to be stated. But what are we to understand by the phrase, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven?” Is it not sufficiently explained by the other phrase, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God [the grace offered by Christ] as a little child, [in the spirit, and with the disposition of a little child] shall in no wise enter therein?” This appears to me most evident. He does not say that the kingdom of heaven, the church, belongs to little children, or is composed of these, and other such little children. Certainly not. This is plain from our present version, but in the original it is still more obvious. The word rendered “of such,” (toioutwn, not autwn) conveys the idea, as every scholar must see, of comparison, and does not therefore, signify identity, but likeness. The church therefore, is made up, not, as Pedobaptists tell us, of little children, but of those who by divine grace are made like little children. Only “such” can have a place there, as are spiritually, what little children are literally. Little children love their parents supremely: To fit you for a place in his visible church, you must love God supremely. Little children receive as true, and implicitly believe, whatever is declared by their parents: You must receive as true, and implicitly believe whatever is declared in his word, by God. Little children submit themselves to such provisions as are made for them by their parents: You must submit yourselves to such arrangements as are made for you by God. Little children obey the commandments of their parents: You must obey the commandments of God. In these and other respects, to qualify you for a place in the kingdom, or church of God, you must be like little children. You “receive the kingdom of God as a little child” when you cherish the same love, faith, submission, and obedience towards God, that little children do towards their parents.

Such is undoubtedly, the true, and full sense of the passage. How evangelical! How rich! Never, as has been said, did the Redeemer himself, teach a more important lesson. Let it be observed, however, that neither in the passage, nor in the context, nor anywhere else in this connection, is there an allusion of any kind even remotely to baptism. With these facts and expositions before us, we turn to the interpretations of our pedobaptist brethren. What are they? Mr. Henry shall again serve as an example of them all.[36] He speaks thus:

“Observe the faith of those who brought [these children to Christ. They were believing parents.] The children of believing parents belong to the kingdom of heaven, and are members of the visible church. Of such, not only of such in disposition, and affection, (that might have served for a reason why doves, or lambs should be brought to him,) but of such in age is the kingdom of heaven; to them pertain the privileges of visible church-membership as among the Jews of old.”

“Parents are trustees of their children’s wills, are empowered by nature to transact for their benefit, and therefore Christ accepts their dedication of them as their [the children’s] act and deed, and will own these dedicated things in the day when he makes up his jewels. Therefore he takes it ill of those who forbid them, and [who] exclude those [children] whom he has received;”

“and who forbid water that they [infants] should be baptized, who if that promise be fulfilled (Isaiah 44:3) [I will pour out my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring] have received the Holy Ghost as well as we, for aught we know.” Look at this gloss! Ponder it! How preposterous! Dr. Clarke’s commentary is as follows:

Let every parent that fears God, bring up his children in that fear; and by baptism let each be dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Whatever is solemnly consecrated to God, abides under his protection and blessing.”[37]

These, and such like, are the Pedobaptist interpretations of the passage in question! They are published to the world, and received, and defended, as expressing its true sense! Is it surprising therefore, that a vail is thus thrown over the gospel, and its great truths withheld from the faith of the simple?

R. B. C. Howell- The Evils of Infant Baptism- Chapter 2- Infant Baptism is an evil because its defense leads to most injurious perversions of the Word of God


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