Like father, (not quite) like son.
A.A. Hodge does not go so far as his father Charles in positively affirming that all persons dying in infancy are certainly saved, though he does think that there is “good reason” to believe this–that there are, moreover, “many reasons to indulge a highly probable hope” that this is the case. 1
Hodge broaches the topic in commenting on Westminster Confession of Faith 10.3 in his A Commentary on the Confession of Faith: “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”
His remarks are relatively brief, which is unsurprising given the nature of the work from which they come. He makes the same point as his father regarding what is presupposed in terms of audience for the address of revelation (the revealed will of God “is revealed only as far as it concerns those capable of understanding and profiting by the revelation”), but, again, is more hesitant on the question of universal infant salvation due to its being “not positively revealed.”
The outward call of God’s Word, and all the “means of grace” provided in the present dispensation, of course presuppose intelligence upon the part of those who receive them. The will of God, also, is revealed only as far as it concerns those capable of understanding and profiting by the revelation. His purposes with respect to either persons or classes not thus addressed are not explicitly revealed.
If infants and others not capable of being called by the gospel are to be saved, they must be regenerated and sanctified immediately by God without the use of means. If God could create Adam holy without means, and if he can new-create believers in righteousness and true holiness by the use of means which a large part of men use without profit, he can certainly make infants and others regenerate without means. Indeed, the natural depravity of infants lies before moral action, in the judicial deprivation of the Holy Ghost. The evil is rectified at that stage, therefore, by the gracious restoration of the soul to its moral relation to the Spirit of God. The phrase “elect infants” is precise and fit for its purpose. It is not intended to suggest that there are any infants not elect, but simply to point out the facts — (1.) That all infants are born under righteous condemnation; and (2.) That no infant has any claim in itself to salvation; and hence (3.) The salvation of each infant, precisely as the salvation of every adult, must have its absolute ground in the sovereign election of God. This would be just as true if all adults were elected, as it is now that only some adults are elected. It is, therefore, just as true, although we have good reason to believe that all infants are elected. The Confession adheres in this place accurately to the facts revealed. It is certainly revealed that none, either adult or infant, is saved except on the ground of a sovereign election; that is, all salvation for the human race is pure grace. It is not positively revealed that all infants are elect, but we are left, for many reasons, to indulge a highly probable hope that such is the fact. The Confession affirms what is certainly revealed, and leaves that which revelation has not decided to remain, without the suggestion of a positive opinion upon one side or the other.
Chad Van Dixhoorn, in his recent Confessing the Faith, refers to Hodge’s discussion in a footnote (p. 154), and thinks that even his position goes too far, believing that “[t]he Scriptures do not allow us to draw this conclusion” (p. 155). He states that Hodge is “correct” to include the qualifier “elect,” but that it is “unfortunate” that he thinks there is good reason to extend this qualifier to all those who die in infancy. 2
E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.
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