Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Article 25
XXV. Of Water Baptism.
In the church of Jesus Christ and through its ministers, we believe there is to be maintained not only the ministry of the Word but also, as has already been said, the ordinances commanded by the Lord, namely baptism and the Lord's Supper. (Matthew 28:19, 20 -- "Go ye, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." R.V.). The first of these is to be a sign and a means of incorporation (Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13), the second a means of strengthening in the covenant with God (Luke 22:19, 20) and in communion with Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:16.
Concerning the act of holy baptism we understand it to be an immersing of the whole body in water (Romans 6:4; Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:37, 38), or a liberal sprinkling with water (which latter mode we in these northern latitudes consider more generally appropriate, since the same blessings are signified by it) and this most solemnly into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), God on His account thus giving most positive assurance of the benefits of His covenant of grace, that every one truly believing in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10) and penitently seeking refuge in Him to lay hold of the hope set before us (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 6:18) shall certainly and truly partake of the blessings signified thereby, namely, the washing away of sins through the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5) together with all the blessed results that follow. Roman 8:17, 28-39.
On the part of the believer to be baptized this ordinance is also exceedingly important and precious in that he, by the act of presenting himself for baptism, most solemnly professes his faith in Jesus Christ and His blood (Romans 3:25), that in Him are to be found righteousness and strength (Isaiah 45:24), and that he imploringly prays to be permitted to partake thereof; that as much as in him is, he lays hold on the Savior (John 1:12) and most humbly offers and surrenders himself to Him (Luke 9:23; 14:26, 27; Matthew 10:37) out of gratitude and reciprocating love (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; Ephesians 5:2) to live for His honor and glory. Isaiah 44:5; Romans 6:16, 17; 12:1.
If Christian water baptism is thus devoutly desired (Acts 8:36), administered (2 Corinthians 3:6), and received (Acts 2:41; 1 Thessalonians 2:13), we hold it in high esteem as a means of communicating and receiving spiritual blessings (1 Peter 3:20, 21), nothing less than a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:26. This blessed result and work is, however, not obtained through the outward element of the water (1 Peter 3:21, "even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but a prayer addressed to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, " -- Parallel Bible), but through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Titus 3:5), only on the ground of true faith and the searching of a good conscience before God, wherefore in the absence of this condition in the one baptized the blessing is not found. Acts 8:21.
Therefore it is, in our estimation, self-evident that children in their infancy are not qualified to receive the Christian rite of water baptism because they can neither understand nor believe these things. Romans 10:14. Further, it does not seem to us right to administer this sacredly important covenant act after the manner of the fleshly law of circumcision and the condition of the church in its infancy (Galatians 4:1-3; 5:1-6; Hebrews 7:18, 19; 8:7-12; 10:19-22; John 4:23, 24) on the ground of a superficial assertion (Romans 2:29; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11-15) that baptism has taken the place of circumcision, seeing that in the church of the New Testament everything is founded on grace and truth (John 1:17), or on the reality of the things typified (Hebrews 10:1). Neither can we assent to infant baptism on the strength of the indefinite and uncertain accounts of the baptizing of Jewish proselytes which are founded on the Jewish Talmud, a book known to be spun through with many fabulous tales. Finally, and of more especial weight is the fact that in all the books of the New Testament we do not find a single convincing indication that in the early church any but grown people were baptized. Of the households that were baptized there are everywhere things said that are not applicable to little children (Acts 10:2, 47, 48; 16:15, 34) and in the most detailed reports we find indeed that more and more were added to the church of such as believed in the Lord, both of men and women (Acts 5:14), but of the baptizing of children there is nowhere any mention. Acts 8:12.
Since then there is not a single plain evidence concerning infant baptism; since salvation does not depend on any outward sign; since every testimony and narration in the Holy Scriptures points only to the baptism of grown persons, even as the nature of the case demands; since the Son of God Himself has led the way otherwise, and it is well known that in the first centuries the most eminent teachers of the church, though born of believing parents, were baptized only when they had come to years, and that it was not without serious complaint and strong opposition that in the second and third centuries infant baptism increased and prevailed: we therefore come to the conclusion that we must wait with baptism until our children attain to years of riper understanding, that we must carefully instruct them from youth up (2 Timothy 3:15), pray with them and for them, lay before them the importance of the matter, and the necessity of faith and conversion, and that in this we must keep on and on. As many of them as in the course of time with constancy confess their faith, their repentance and a decision for the good, and also in their lives do not manifest the contrary, shall be baptized, we believe, and added to the church, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16) according to the example of the apostolic church.
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