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The Wittenberg Concord (2)

Below is the second section (“On Baptism”) of the Wittenberg Concord, the first part of which treats the Lord’s Supper and which I translated here. It is a strong affirmation of the propriety and necessity of infant baptism and was subscribed by all those listed in the previous post, though some of its particulars would not meet with consensus in some parts of the international Reformed community. In their exposition, they attempt to keep together sacramental efficacy with the necessity of faith. The attempt to meet this objective would be carried out differently in the decades that followed through a more forceful articulation and deployment of the doctrine of the covenant, though aspects of it are present in seed-form in the section’s opening.

Translation

On Baptism.

Concerning the baptism of infants all have agreed without doubt that it is necessary that infants be baptized. For, since the promise of salvation pertains also to infants, and since it does not pertain to those who are outside the church, it is necessary that it be applied to infants by the ministry, and that it join them to the members of the church. And since it was said concerning such infants who are in the church, “It is not the will of the Father that one of them perish,” it is agreed that remission of original sin and the giving of the Holy Spirit, who is efficacious in them in proportion to their development [pro ipsorum modo], comes about for infants through baptism. For we reject the error of those who imagine that infants are pleasing to God and are saved without some action of God, since Christ clearly says, “Unless someone has been renewed from water and the Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Therefore, although we do not understand of what sort that action of God in infants is, nevertheless it is certain that new and holy motions are brought about in them, just as also new motions were occurring in John [the Baptist] in the womb. For although one must not imagine that infants understand, nevertheless those motions and inclinations toward believing in Christ and loving God are in some way similar to the motions of faith and love. We say this, when we say that infants have faith. For we speak in such a way for the following reason: in order that it may be able to be understood that infants do not become holy and saved without divine action in them.

Therefore, although it is everywhere the custom that baptism be administered publicly on certain days, nevertheless men should be taught that, if there is any danger to the life of infants, they should take care that they meanwhile be baptized, and that ministers ought to bestow baptism upon such persons.1

  1. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.