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Methodist doctrine on infant salvation

But we will try their opinions by a surer and more tangible standard. What do our Methodist brethren teach on the subject?

The answer is found in the “Doctrinal Tracts,” written by Mr. Wesley himself, and published by order of the “General Conference,” as an authoritative exposition of Methodism. I invite you to examine the following passages: “What are the benefits,” says Mr. Wesley,

“we receive by baptism, is the next point to be considered. And the first of these is the washing away of original sin, by the application of Christ’s death. That we are all born under the guilt of Adam’s sin, and that all sin deserves eternal misery, was the unanimous sense of the ancient church, and is expressed in the ninth article of our own. And the scripture asserts that we were shapen in iniquity, and in sin did our mothers conceive us; that we were all by nature the children of wrath, and dead in trespasses and sins; that in Adam all die; that by one man’s disobedience all were made sinners; that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, which came upon all men, because all had sinned. This plainly includes infants, for they too die; therefore they have sinned; but not by actual sin, therefore by original sin, else what need have they of the death of Christ? Yea, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned actually, according to the similitude of Adam’s transgression. This, which can relate to infants only, is a clear proof that the whole race of mankind are obnoxious both to the guilt and punishment of Adam’s transgression. But as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

“And the virtue of that free gift, the merits of Christ’s life and death, are applied to us in baptism.”

Here you have a plain statement. Mr. Wesley proves very clearly, that all infants inherit sin from Adam, and are redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ. But where is the proof that “the merits of his life and death are applied to them in baptism?” None is produced. The scriptures contain none. But still proof is offered, satisfactory to Mr. Wesley. Hear him. “The church declares in the rubric,” that “it is certain, by God’s word, that children who are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are saved.” “Here”, he adds, “it is plainly taught that infants” “can be saved only by the merit of Christ’s death, and that this merit is to be applied in baptism.”[121] The proof, then, is in the rubric! It is not in the Bible. Christ’s merits can only be applied to infants by baptism! Is not the conclusion strangely absurd that, after having redeemed all children who die in infancy by his blood, Messiah should still be dependent for the application of his merits to them, and without which they cannot be saved, upon the contingency of their baptism! If not baptized, they remain corrupt and sinful, because his merits and righteousness can in no other way be applied to them. Corrupt and sinful beings must be lost. Unbaptized children die corrupt and sinful beings. Therefore, according to Mr. Wesley, unbaptized children must be lost. In another place the Father of Methodism gives us the following argument:

“If infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper subjects of baptism, seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved unless this be washed away in baptism. Infants need to be washed from original sin. Therefore they are proper subjects for baptism.”[122]

And this is the authorized and established doctrine of the whole Methodist church, English and American, on the subject of infant salvation! It is approved by the people, and published for their instruction and guidance by the General Conference! Our Methodist brethren, therefore, believe that “The virtues of Christ’s free gift, the merits of his life and death, are applied to infants in baptism;” that “Infants can be saved only by the merit of Christ’s death, and this merit is to be applied in baptism;” that “They cannot, in the ordinary way, be saved unless their original sin be washed away in baptism.” And what is this but the same old dogma, in substance, held by the Papists, the Lutherans, and the Episcopalians? They all teach that “Baptism represents pardon, sanctification, and salvation, through Jesus Christ; and that it always conveys the grace which it represents.” What a revolting subversion we here have of the scripture doctrine of infant salvation!

R. B. C. Howell- The Evils of Infant Baptism- Chapter 9- Infant baptism is an evil because it subverts the true doctrine of infant salvation

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