Teachings of Menno Simons | 5

21. Infant Baptism

Since, then, we do not find in all Scripture a single word by which Christ has ordained the baptism of infants, or that His apostles taught and practiced it,

we say and confess rightly that infant baptism is but a human invention, an opinion of men, a perversion of the ordinance of Christ.

I do not doubt but that you will confess that the faith, which avails with God is a gift of God, a gift which brings forth all righteousness, and that such faith comes from hearing the divine word.

If, now, it comes by hearing the word, as Paul teaches, how it will be found in unconscious infants, for it is plain that they cannot be taught, admonished or instructed.

To baptize before that which is required for baptism, namely faith, is found is as if one would place the cart before the horse, to sow before ploughing, to build before the lumber is at hand, or to seal the letter before it is written.

Lastly, they appeal to Origen and Augustine and say that these assert that they have obtained infant baptism from the apostles:

To this we reply and inquire whether Origen and Augustine have proved it from Scripture:

If they have done so, we desire to hear it. But if not, we must hear and believe Christ and His apostles, and not Augustine and Origen.

Beloved, since the ordinance of Jesus Christ is unchangeable, and it alone is acceptable to the Father; and since He has commanded that the Gospel should first be preached and, secondly, those who believe baptized,

it follows that those who baptize and are baptized without being taught the holy Gospel and without faith, baptize and are baptized on their own opinion, without the doctrine and command of Jesus Christ;

therefore it is an ungodly, useless and vain ceremony.

For, had Israel circumcised their females because it was not expressly forbidden, they would have circumcised without the ordinance of God, for He had commanded that the males should be circumcised.

It is the same in this instance:

If we baptize the unconscious infants, although it is not expressly forbidden in Scripture, just as it was not forbidden to circumcise the females,

we baptize without the ordinance of Jesus Christ; for He commanded that those should be baptized who hear and believe His holy Gospel. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:33.

Again, if the infant baptists assert that infant baptism is not forbidden and that therefore it is right,

I reply that it is not expressly forbidden in the Holy Scriptures to bless, as they call it, holy water, candles, palms, goblets, and robes, to hold mass and other ceremonies,

we say rightfully that it is wrong, first because people put their trust in these things, secondly because it is done without the commandment of God, for He has commanded us not a word thereof,

and never should any commandment be observed which is not contained or implied in His holy Word, either in letter or spirit.

Search diligently all the Scriptures - Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles - and you will find in more than one instance

that God not only had no pleasure in unbidden ceremonies and worship, but that He has often severely rebuked and punished those who observed them.

If such ceremonies could be observed with a good conscience for the reason that there is no express command: "Thou shalt not baptize infants,"

then it would also be justifiable to consecrate water, tapers, palms, bells and priests, to say mass, to build cloisters, cathedrals and altars, to turn monk or nun, to make pilgrimages, to pray for the dead, etc., with as much right one could take part in all these things,

for in all Scripture there is not a word to be found which expressly forbids these ceremonies or says: You shall not do these things.

I know that Luther teaches that faith is present in infants, just as in a believing, sleeping man:

To this I reply, first, that if there were such a sleeping faith in little unconscious infants (which however is nothing but human sophistry),

it would notwithstanding be improper to baptize such children so long as they would not verbally confess it and show the required fruits.

For, the holy apostles did not baptize any believers while they were asleep, as we have shown in our former writings.

Luther writes that infants should be baptized because of their own faith, and adds: if infants had no faith their baptism would be blaspheming the sacrament.

I believe it to be a great error of so learned a man through whom the Lord at the beginning of his writing effected not a little good, to hold that infants who are unable to hear and to understand, have faith,

while the Scriptures so plainly state that they know neither good nor evil, that they cannot discern right from wrong (Deut. 1:39; Jonah 4:11);

and he says that faith is dormant and concealed in infants until they arrive at the years of understanding, even as in a believing person who is asleep.

If Luther writes this as his sincere opinion, it shows that he has written much in vain concerning faith and its power; but if he writes this to please men, may God have mercy upon him.

We know of a truth that it is only human reasoning and a fable of men, and by God's grace it shall not make void the word and ordinance of the Lord.

For we read nowhere in Scripture that the apostles baptized a single believer while asleep. They baptized those who were awake and not the sleeping ones. Why then do they baptize infants before they awake from that supposed sleeping faith, and confess it?

Thirdly, we answer:

We have in the Scriptures record of four households that have been baptized, namely that of Cornelius, of the jailor, of Lydia and of Stephanas, Acts 10:48; 16:15, 33; I Cor. 1:16,

and the Scriptures clearly show that in three of these households all were believers, namely of Cornelius, Acts 10:2, 44-47, of the jailor Acts 16:34, and that of Stephanas I Cor. 16:15.

But touching the household of Lydia, the reader should know that although the Scriptures say nothing definite about it, it is not usual in Scripture, nor the custom of the world, to call a family by the wife's name as long as the husband is living:

Since Luke here names the house by a woman and not a man, reason teaches us that Lydia was at that time either a widow or a virgin. And how much is to be made of the supposition that there were infants in her household, we will let the God-fearing reader judge.

22. Salvation of Infants

And although infants have neither faith nor baptism, think not therefore that they are lost:

O no! They are saved, for they have the Lord's own promise of the kingdom of God; not indeed through any element, ceremony or external rites, but only by grace through Jesus Christ.

And therefore we do truly believe that grace is extended to them, yea that they are acceptable to God, pure and holy, heirs of God and of eternal life.

On the ground of this promise all Christian believers may be assured of and rejoice in the truth that their children are saved.

Dear reader, this is to be held as a sure, eternal and unchangeable rule of divine truth to fulfil all righteousness, namely:

first the true preaching of the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ; secondly, to hear with earnestness and to understand; thirdly, to cordially believe the Gospel and to carry out its teaching.

This being the case, it follows that the unconscious infants have no faith, for they cannot understand and learn:

- If they die before they come to years of understanding and before they may hear and believe, they die under the promise of God and are saved, and this by no other means than the precious promise of grace, given through Jesus Christ, Luke 18:16.

But if, having reached the years of understanding, they hear and believe, they should then be baptized.

If they do not accept or believe the word when they have arrived at such age, whether they are baptized or not, they will be lost, as Christ Himself teaches, Mark 16:16.

But the little children, and particularly those born of Christian parents, have a peculiar promise which was given them of God, without the medium of any ceremony, but of pure grace, through Christ Jesus, our Lord, who says:

"Suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).

This promise satisfies and assures all the chosen saints of God in regard to their children that have not attained to understanding, for they know full well that the word of our Lord Jesus Christ can never fail nor prove false.

Inasmuch as He has shown so great mercy to the children that were brought unto Him, that He took them up into His arms, blessed them, laid His hands upon them, promised them the kingdom of heaven and has done or commanded to be done nothing in addition to this,

therefore Christian believers have a well-grounded and firm assurance of the grace of God concerning their dear children, namely:

that they are children of the kingdom, of grace, of the promise and of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord to whom alone the glory belongs, and not by any ceremony.

Yea, by this promise they are assured that their beloved children, so long as they are not of understanding years, are pure, holy, saved, and acceptable to God, be they alive or dead.

Therefore they give thanks to the eternal Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for His inexpressibly great grace toward their children,

and bring them up in the love of God, by correcting, teaching and admonishing them, and by walking before them in an unblameable life until they may hear the word of God, believe in it and be guided by it.

Then it is time, of whatever age they may be, that they, in obedience to the word of Christ, receive the Christian baptism commanded by Jesus Christ to all Christians, and which His apostles have thus taught and practiced.

It is in my opinion a great error which some entertain, that the children of Jewish parents were acceptable to Christ on account of circumcision, and that our children are acceptable on account of baptism.

O great reproach that in every instance Christ, the only and eternal medium of divine grace, must be set aside and grace must be attributed to the lifeless rites and elements.

Here I would ask all infant baptists how they are going to prove that these children [whom Jesus blessed] were all circumcised and that there were not among them female children?

If they were acceptable on account of their circumcision, as is asserted, then why were not the adults who were circumcised acceptable?

He commanded that adults, although they were circumcised, should be baptized upon their faith, but concerning infants He gave no command to baptize:

He took them into His arms, laid His bands upon them and blessed them, promised them the kingdom of heaven and dismissed them, but did not baptize them.

23. The Name "Anabaptists" Repudiated

We must also be the Anabaptists of the theologians, because we baptize upon the confession of faith, as Christ commanded His disciples and as the holy apostles taught and practiced....

We are informed by the Scriptures that Paul re-baptized those who had been baptized with the baptism of John which was of heaven - because they had not been taught about the Holy Ghost. Acts 19.

Inasmuch, then, as we but baptize according to the command of Christ, and according to the teaching and practice of the holy apostles,

nor do any more than Cyprian did, together with the Councils of Nice and Carthage in this matter (although we admit that we do not believe in all their doctrine),

and inasmuch as we re-baptize those who were not baptized with a divine baptism (as were those baptized by John) but with the baptism of Antichrist,

and had at the time of their baptism no knowledge of divine matters, as both nature and the Scriptures teach, since they were unconscious infants, (which was not the case with those baptized of John) and we for these reasons must be the Anabaptists of the theologians,

it follows, indeed, that Christ and His apostles, Cyprian and his bishops, the Nicene Council and the holy apostle Paul also must have been Anabaptists. This is incontrovertible.

24. The Lord's Supper

The holy supper, as taught by Christ and His apostles, reproves all idolatry and foreign mediums of reconciliation, all hatred, discord and unrighteousness:

For it points only to the one offering of Christ which was made by His body and blood once for all, as stated; It expresses Christian peace, unity, brotherly love, and the pious, unblameable life.

In like manner we believe and confess concerning the Lord's holy Supper, that it is a holy sacramental sign, instituted of the Lord Himself, with bread and wine,

and enjoined upon His own in remembrance of Him, taught and administered also according to the institution of the Lord, by the apostles among the brethren.

It is, first of all, to show forth the Lord's death, as Paul says, to remind us that He has offered up for us His holy body and shed His precious blood for the remission of our sins.

Secondly it is an emblem of Christian love, unity and peace in the church of Christ:

"For we, being many," says Paul, "are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread" (I Cor. 10:17).

For as a loaf being composed of many grains is one bread, so we also are many members but one body in Christ.

And as the members of one body are not at variance with each other but are in every respect of one mind and peaceable among themselves, so it is with all those who in the Spirit and faith are true members of the body of Christ.

Thirdly it is a communion of the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16), which communion consists in this that Christ has in His great love accepted us and we are become partakers of Him,

as Paul says: "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." Heb. 3:14.

Inasmuch as it is a sign instituted by Christ for the purpose that it is to show forth and remind us of His death, of love, peace and unity among the brethren, and also the communion of His body and blood, as was said,

therefore none can rightly partake of this supper, according to Scripture, but he that is a disciple of Christ, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone,

who seeks the remission of his sins in no other means than in the merits, sacrifice, death and blood of Christ alone, walks in unity, love and peace with his brethren and leads a pious and unblameable life in Christ Jesus, according to the Scriptures.

It is as if Jesus had said by instituting this supper:

Behold beloved children, so long have I been with you, have taught you my Father's word, admonished, reproved and comforted you and kept you in His name; but now my hour is at hand, this night I shall be betrayed:

All that the prophets said of me is about to come to an end. And since I can minister to you no longer with my doctrine and life, I will at least serve you with my painful sufferings, with my body, blood, cross, and death.

And this indeed is the reason why I have called you to this supper, namely that I might institute this rite with bread and wine,

that you should after my death from time to time come together to commemorate the great mercies of my ardent love, so abundantly manifested toward you, and especially that my love to you was such that I offered my body and gave my blood for you.

Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends:

I have by my death obtained for you everlasting reconciliation, grace, mercy, favour and peace with my Father, as I have told you, namely: "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many," Matt. 20:28.

We should observe that in the Lord's Supper Christian unity, love and peace are typified and set forth, after which all true Christians should seek and strive:

"For we being many," says Paul, "are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread," I Cor. 10:17.

Like as natural bread is made of many grains, broken by the mill, kneaded together with water and baked by the heat of the fire,

so also the church of Christ is made up of many believers who are broken in their hearts with the hammer of the divine word and are baptized into one body with the water of the Holy Ghost and the fire of pure, unfeigned love.

And as the natural body is in harmony and peace with all its members, and as each member discharges its duty to promote the good of the whole body,

so also it behoves the true and living members of the body of Christ to be in harmony, of one heart and one soul,

not quarrelsome and unpeaceable, not selfish and envious, not wrathful and hateful, not malicious, obstinate or bitter one toward another, as are the ambitious, covetous and proud of this world;

but in all things be long-suffering, friendly, peaceable, ever ready in true Christian love to serve our neighbour to the extent of our ability, by exhortation and reproof,

by comforting, giving of our means and counsel, serving with hard work, yea by giving our body and life; ready to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us and has ministered unto us by His word, life and death.

We teach, seek, and desire that supper which Christ Jesus Himself has instituted and administered, to be observed in a church which is outwardly without spot or blemish, that is, without any known transgression and wickedness;

for the church judges that of which it has knowledge but inward wickedness which is not apparent to the Church such as the betraying of Judas, of that God is to judge, for He alone tries the hearts and reins, and not the church.

It is to be observed in both kinds, namely bread and wine, to the remembrance of the Lord's death and as a renewal and evidence of brotherly love.

And this is the sum of the whole matter, that all who with the disciples and guests of Christ would sit at the Lord's table, whether they be of high or low station in life, rich or poor, must be sound in the faith and unblameable in conduct and life.

- But if anyone has a good appearance before men, and is at heart proud, avaricious, carnal and without the Spirit of God, he is not judged of the church, but of the Lord Himself, the searcher and trier of men's hearts and reins, as the Scripture says.

Therefore we admonish all who would go to the Lord's Table, to examine themselves before they partake of it; for all who eat unworthily of this bread and drink of this cup, eat and drink condemnation and judgment to themselves, I Cor. 11:29.

25. On the Doctrine of the Corporeal Presence of Christ in the Bread and Wine

First, we must take heed that we do not make the visible, perishable bread and wine the Lord's real body and blood as some do; for to believe this is contrary to all nature reason and Scripture, yea it is evident blasphemy of the Son of God, an abomination and idolatry.

But as Israel had to keep the Passover annually, at the appointed time according to the command of Moses,

to commemorate that the almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, did graciously preserve His people from the judgment and plagues, when He slew the first-born of the Egyptians,

and by His strong hand and outstretched arm led them out so gloriously and wonderfully and saved them from the iron furnace of Egypt and the dread tyranny and dominion of Pharaoh, according to the word of His promise;

and therefore the paschal lamb is called the Lord's Passover, that is, passing over, Ex. 12,

- the rite for the reality, for the lamb was not the Passover although so called, but it only typified the Passover, as said; so also the bread of the holy supper is called the body, and the wine the blood of the Lord, the sign, I say, for the reality.

Not that it is actually the body and blood of Christ, for with that He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of His Father, immortal and unchangeable in eternal majesty and glory;

but it is an admonishing type and a memorial of the fact that the Son of God, Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the power of the devil, from the dominion of hell and eternal death, by offering up an immaculate sacrifice:

His innocent body and blood, and has triumphantly led us into the kingdom of His grace; as He Himself says, "This do in remembrance of me" Luke 22:19.

They believe the bread of the Lord's supper to be the real flesh, and the wine the real blood of the Lord, and have concluded this from the words of Christ: "Take eat, this is my body," etc.

They do not consider that Christ Himself, in the sixth chapter of John where He fully instructs us about eating His flesh and drinking His blood,

says that it profits nothing to eat His flesh and drink His blood literally, neither were this possible, for He would ascend up to where He was before (John 6:62, 63).

And therefore the eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood is not to be taken according to the letter but according to the spirit, as He Himself says, in the same chapter:

"The words I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life."

All who thus understand this from the Scriptures are by many abused as cursed heretics and blasphemers of the sacrament, and must suffer on account of it by water, fire and the sword.