In 1835, the Baptist General Tract Society compiled various pamphlets it had published into a single volume entitled The Baptist Manual: A selection from the Series of Publications of the Baptist General Tract Society.1 In tract number 45, “The Scripture Guide to Baptism,” a series of questions are posed concerning infant baptism to which the tract gives its Baptist answer. Question number 8 asks, “But if you refuse to bring children to baptism, do you not keep them away from Christ, and in case of their dying in infancy, endanger their salvation?” (p.47).
The answer following offers insight as to what Baptists before the Civil War might generally reply as both the spiritual condition of infants and the eternal destiny of infants dying in infancy (all emphasis original):
Answer. We do not. Christ said, in the days of his flesh, of UNBAPTIZED children, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And he received these unbaptized children “into his arms,” and “blessed them,” and sent them away, still unbaptized; nor did he utter a word about their baptism; and he is the same Saviour still. Can a similar passage be found of baptized children? and who will say that baptism is necessary that Christ may receive them?
If persons die, incapable of exercising faith in the merits of Christ, either by infancy or mental incapacity, we know it is “the blood of Jesus alone that cleanses from all sin,” “neither is there salvation in any other.” (1 John i. 7, Acts iv. 12.). And to suppose their salvation is effected, or in any way assisted, by the sprinkling of water, is not only opposed to the express declarations of scripture, but most dishonourable to the Divine Redeemer, and mistrustful of his ability and grace” (p.47).
1The full title is The Baptist Manual: A selection from the Series of Publications of the Baptist General Tract Society, Designed for the use of Families; and as an Exposition of the Distinguishing Marks of the Denomination. Philadelphia: Published at the Tract Depository.1835