The Salvation Of Infants -- By: Alvan Tobey

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 018:70 (Apr 1861)
Article: The Salvation Of Infants
Author: Alvan Tobey


The Salvation Of Infants

Rev. Alvan Tobey

The controversies through which Christianity has been carried, were in many instances greatly useful in the development and application of the Christian doctrines, and especially in the correction of those errors which had become intertwined with them. The false philosophy which has often corrupted, and still oftener encumbered, the teachings of the scriptures, could not be so effectually removed in any other way as by the thorough sifting of discussion. It is indeed a process that shakes up truth and error in such confusion as may perplex observers not well skilled in distinguishing one from the other. The advocates of truth may be found defending some erroneous appendage, that should be thrown off as an excrescence, or mistaking some matter of fact supposed to be important, though really not material. But, in the result, truth comes out of the confusion, more beautiful and stronger for being freed from the incrustations of antiquated error, the monstrosities, contradictions, absurdities, which false philosophies have bound around it.

It is nearly a third of a century since a controversy arose, of not a little interest at the time, on the question, whether “the damnation of infants is a doctrine of the Calvinists.” The parties were men of high standing and influence in their different spheres: Dr. Lyman Beecher, of Boston, and Prof.

Andrews Norton, of Cambridge. Dr. Beecher, in republishing a sermon first issued twenty years before, “On the Government of God,” appended a note, indignantly denying the charge against Calvinists, of “believing and teaching that infants are damned, and that hell is doubtless paved with their bones.” He declared that he had “never seen or heard of any book which contained such a sentiment, nor a man who believed or taught it.” Prof. Norton replied to this note, maintaining the charge that the monstrous doctrine” is found in Calvinistic writers of the highest authority, and is necessarily a part of the Calvinistic system.1

It is not our intention to give an account of this controversy. But a careful reading of the successive Articles suggests some considerations which may be worth the attention of all who find themselves called to engage in such discussions, or to inquire into the opinions of former times.

1. There ought to be more care than is common with regard to the spirit of religious controversy. More of a respectful, kindly, and conciliatory manner towards an opponent than is usual with controversial writers, would abate nothing from their independence and manliness, or the strength of their arguments, while it w...

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