Charles Hodge, Biblical paedosacramentalist, except when human tradition gets in the way

From his systematic theology:

Seventh Proposition, that there is nothing in the New Testamentwhich justifies the Exclusion of the Children of Believers from Membership in the Church.

The ” onus probandi ” rests on those who take the negative on this subject. If children are to be deprived of a birthright which they have enjoyed ever since there was a Church on earth, there must be some positive command for their exclusion, or some clearly revealed change in the conditions of membership, which renders such exclusion necessary. It need hardly be said that Christ did not give any command no longer to consider the children of believers as members of the Church, neither has there been any change in the conditions of church-membership which necessarily works their exclusion. Those conditions are now what they were from the beginning. It was inevitable, therefore, when Christ commanded his Apostles to disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, that they should act on the principle to which they had always been accustomed. When under the Old Testament, a parent joined the congregation of the Lord, he brought his minor children with him. When, therefore, the Apostles baptized a head of a family, it was a matter of course, that they should baptize his infant children. We accordingly find several cases of such household baptism recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts xvi. 15, it is said Lydia ” was baptized, and her household,” and of the jailer at Philippi (ver. 33), that ” he and all his ” were baptized ; and in 1 Corinthians i. 16, Paul says that he baptized the household of Stephanas. The Apostles, therefore, acted on the principle which had always been acted on under the old economy. It is to be remembered that the history of the Apostolic period is very brief, and also that Christ sent the Apostles, not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, and, therefore, it is not surprising that so few instances of household baptism are recorded in the New Testament. The same remark applies substantially to the age immediately succeeding that of the Apostles. The Church increased with great rapidity, but its accessions were from without; adult converts from among the Jews and Gentiles, who in becoming Christians, brought, as a matter of course, their children with them into the fold of Christ. Little, therefore, during this period is heard of the baptism of infants. As soon, however, as children born within the Church constituted the chief source of supply, then we hear more of baptisms for the dead; the ranks of the Church, as they were thinned by the decease of believers, being filled by those who were baptized to take their places. In the time of Tertullian and Origen infant baptism is spoken of, not only as the prevailing usage of the Church, but as having been practised from the beginning. When Pelagius was sorely pressed by Augustine with the argument in support of the doctrine of original sin derived from the baptism of infants, he did not venture to evade the argument by denying either the prevalence of such baptisms or the divine warrant for them. He could only say that they were baptized, not on account of what they then needed, but of what they might need hereafter. The fact of infant baptism and its divine sanction were admitted. These facts are here referred to only as a collateral proof that the practice of the New Testament Church did not in this matter differ from that of the Church as constituted before the advent of Christ.

The conduct of our Lord in relation to children, in its bearing on this subject must not be overlooked. So far from excluding them from the Church in whose bosom they had always been cherished, He called them the lambs of his flock, took them into his arms, and blessed them, and said, of such is the kingdom of heaven. If members of his kingdom in heaven, why should they be excluded from his kingdom on earth? Whenever a father or mother seeks admission to the Christian Church, their heart prompts them to say: Here Lord am I and the children whom thou hast given me. And his gracious answer has always been: Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not.

Quite right. So where do Presbyterians get off treating their children as unholy?

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.

Exactly right. Household membership in the Church.

Hodge writes: “When under the Old Testament, a parent joined the congregation of the Lord, he brought his minor children with him.” Exactly right. Here is proof:

If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it (Exodus 12.48).

How does this circumcised proselyte “keep” the Passover? By sharing it with his family just like Elkanah did.

Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.

So, are we allowed to believe the Bible, or does Charles Hodge supersede God’s authority? To Hodge’s credit, he was never confronted with the issue of Reformed paedocommunion.

3 thoughts on “Charles Hodge, Biblical paedosacramentalist, except when human tradition gets in the way

  1. Pingback: Mark Horne » Blog Archive » B. B. Warfield, not stubbornly anti-paedocommunionist

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