Family Lessons 53: Infant Baptism

I have my family tree on a rather complex computer program, wherein the thousands of names, dates and details are all stored and listed. It also, rather helpfully, describes the relationship of the named person to oneself. Hence, I came across a Ruth Marsden, whom the program described as my Half-Second Cousin, six times removed. This basically means we are not related at all, but that her great-grandfather was my 7x great-grandfather.

Imagine my interest when I discovered that, along with her brothers David and Thomas, she was baptised at ‘Salem Chapel, Martin Top’ in the mid-1840s, by Pastor Heron. Our membership records state that their father, Richard, became a member back in 1838, and was elected deacon sometime after. They lived at Gazegill, which is where the farm shop now is; the 1851 census states he farmed 100 acres.

As a Bible-believer, I am the first to say that baptism does not make one a Christian. Although father Richard was doubtless a godly and saved man, of his sons’ and daughter’s salvation, we cannot tell. This is the difficulty with infant baptism- the water comes before the faith, whereas in the Bible, it was always the other way round. What would the Marsdens of 1840s Martin Top think of the 2020s’ Marsden and deacons asking the Church Meeting for a baptistry pool, which it was our pleasure to fill and use last month? In it, an adult was baptised, having declared his trust in the Lord Jesus' atoning work.

On baptism, former Martintoppers and I might not agree, but on the gospel itself, we certainly would. It is important that we welcome children into the world and into the church in which they grow up, but baptism, according to the most obvious, biblical example, is for those who have repented of their sin and called upon Christ to save them. Has your turn come?

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38