I wasn’t going to say anything about this, because I can’t quite explain why I remain on the mailing list of an organisation that is so wrong about such a fundamental point, but every few weeks, a leaflet arrives on my doormat containing this kind of thing:
“the elect children of believing parents ordinarily are regenerated and saved, and thus become members of the covenant, in infancy or even at conception. They have been saved by the time they are baptized.”
That’s what it says in this month’s offering, and it simply is not true. It is not what scripture leads us to expect, and it is not the ordinary experience of children born to believing parents.
The children of believing parents are as ungodly and ineligible for salvation as any ignorant heathen adult out there. The work of regeneration in the case of a child born into the church is every bit as miraculous and unexpected as it is in the case of the greatest possible injurious persecuting blasphemer that ever lived.
The children of believing parents are (by virtue of being born to believing parents) members of the visible church. They are on that account to be baptised. Their baptism is a sign and seal not of their salvation but of the merely external, formal, connection they have to the Church Visible through their parents. The baptism of infants says nothing about whether or not they have any inner, vital, saving union with Christ. It is a sign and seal of the union with Christ which is available to them in the gospel, and offered to them in the preached Word which they hear in the bosom of the Visible Church to which they belong, and modelled for them by their parents and the Christians in their parents’ congregation. It makes absolutely no guarantee that they themselves enjoy that union at or by the time of their baptism, or that they will enjoy it at any future time in their lives.
The experience of children born to believing parents bears this out. Your parents subscribe the Westminster Confession, they’re members in good standing, they teach you to memorise Psalm 23 before you can barely walk, you learn the Shorter Catechism inside out and back to front by the time you know your times tables, you grow up to spot a heresy at twenty paces, you never do anything spectacularly rebellious in all your life, you regularly attend all the Lord’s Day services, the weekly prayer meeting and all the extra communion services, for they are many, and you can defend the truth so well that even Hari Krishnas get fed up and walk off on you — and inside, you remain an utter stranger to grace and to God.
It’s called original sin, and that, you see, is why it is not actually remotely oxymoronic to say that “a child of the covenant, not in open rebellion, but attending the means of grace and trying to trust the Lord in family devotions and private prayer, and still submitting to godly parents, needs to convert.”
PS – how do you like the new font?