Chapter 13. A Dialogue On Infant Baptism Between Hubmaier and Oecolampad
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5 min read
In September, 1525, John Oecolampad published A Discussion Between Preachers at Basel and Representatives of Anabaptism. To this little book Hubmaier replied by his Discussion Concerning Infant Baptism Between the Preachers at Basel and Balthasar Hubmaier. He quotes literally from Oecolampad’s book, adding his reply. A part of Hubmaier’s book follows.
Oecolampad — Since the Anabaptists openly boast that they have overcome and silenced us in the recent debate, therefore I shall herewith publish what arguments have been advanced on both sides, in order that their praise may spread even farther and that everyone may see of what spirit the clever fellows are and where the shoe pinches them. (A2b).
Hubmaier. — This is quite right, friend Oecolampad, that you have decided to bring the Anabaptists to the light. But I ask you to do it with clear and plain Scripture, or you shall indeed be put to shame in this matter, be you ever so learned, for the truth is immortal.
Oecolampad. — What I have said, preached and written, I shall continue to defend and commit to others; for your doctrine is quite new, dating back not more than two years; therefore it must be looked upon with suspicion. (A2b).
Hubmaier. — I ask you, for God’s sake, friend Oecolampad, do not build upon such inapplicable arguments, but upon clear Scripture. You know that Christ’s doctrine has often been attacked with the assertion that it is a new doctrine. (Mark 1:27; Acts 17:19,20). The pending question is not of our own invention, but Christ has thus commanded and the Apostles have practiced it; therefore we offer to you and all men to bring our differences before the judgment seat of the Holy Scriptures. If we in this or other points are in the right, why do you smite us? If we are wrong, we ask to be pointed to the testimony of Scripture.
Oecolampad. — If you prove this doctrine, you will find that it is squarely contrary to true love. (A2b).
Hubmaier. — If through an inquiry into the Scriptures it is found that baptism was instituted for the instructed and the believers, and not for infants in the cradle, then it is the truth. Now Paul writes, 1 Cor. 13:6, that love rejoiceth in the truth. What, is truth now contrary to love? But perhaps you speak of the love of the world which can not endure divine truth, for its works are evil, therefore it hates the light. John 3:20.
Oecolampad. — It is a scorn to a Christian church, that we should have erred so long. (A2b).
Hubmaier. — This is a poor argument. It is advanced also by the ungodly. You must be in dire straits that you have drawn this useless sword with which, if it were not too dull, the Papists would have pierced you long ago.
Oecolampad. — This doctrine causes separation and division which can not be of the Spirit of God. (A2b).
Hubmaier. — Does this surprise you? Was not Christ himself “a sign that was spoken against?” (Luke 2:34). He “came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34). “There shall be five in one house divided; the father against the son and the son against the father,” etc. (Luke 12:52,53). O, this is a blessed division, says Chrysostom. And Paul says: “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
Oecolampad. — Tell me who has taught this until now or when was this usage followed? (A2b).
Hubmaier. — Christ has taught it to us when he instituted baptism (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16), and the Apostles have practised and kept it. Read the Scriptures carefully and you shall find that since the beginning of the Reformation movement no article has been more clearly established than this, that Christ instituted his baptism for the believers and not for the unknowing infants.
Oecolampad. — It was the usage of the mother of the church to baptize infants. (A2b).
Hubmaier. — Yes, of the Papistic, but not of the Christian mother of the church, nor of the Father who is in heaven. Otherwise, he would have instituted it through his Son, Jesus Christ, whom he has bidden us to hear. (Matt. 17:5). He, and not the usage, is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6).
Oecolampad. — The Pelagians, as well as Cyprian and the Council of Carthage, were thoroughly learned in Scripture, and yet they did not reject infant baptism. (A3a).
Hubmaier. — Cyprian, the Councils, and others I follow just so far as they teach the Scriptures, and not farther. This, in fact, is all they ask of me.
Oecolampad. — So many hundreds of thousands who were baptized in infancy, you would not hold as Christian brothers; how strait would you make Christ’s kingdom! (A3b).
Hubmaier. — So many hundreds of thousands who venerate and worship the bread and cup in the mass as the flesh and blood of Christ, you would not hold as Christian brothers; how narrow would you make Christ’s kingdom!
Oecolampad. — If you introduce a new sect, you incorporate yourself with the devil. (A3b).
Hubmaier. — Do not blaspheme. Give testimony with the Scriptures that to baptize according to the express order of Christ is to incorporate one’s self with the devil. If you were looking upon the one Master in heaven and upon the truth itself with a meek, teachable heart, you would not use such reproachful language. But you have spoken in wrath and your word is evil. May God forgive you.
Oecolampad. — It is one thing to baptize adults and another to baptize infants of believers (Bla).
Hubmaier. — Quite true. The one is founded on Scripture, the second is not; hence they are two. different things.
Oecolampad. — I shall show it from the book of Exodus. (Bla).
Hubmaier. — Baptism is a ceremony of the New Testament; therefore I demand a plain text with which you support infant baptism from the New Testament. That text [on infant baptism] seems to be of the night owl species; it will not come to the light.
Oecolampad. — Those who are baptized inwardly can not be lost. (Bla).
Hubmaier. — Those who are baptized inwardly will not despise the command of Christ, but will be baptized outwardly, if a baptizer and water is within their reach. With this argument, it would seem, you really overthrow and destroy the baptism of Christ.
Oecolampad. — Why this division for the sake of the water? (B2a).
Hubmaier. — This is not a question of mere water, but of the high command and baptism of Christ. Water is not baptism.
Oecolampad. — Baptism is a testimony rather than a sign of union between the Christians. We testify in baptism that we are joined to Christ. (B3a)
Hubmaier. — I am well satisfied with this definition. But tell me, by all means, one thing. May infants in the cradle give such a testimony and join themselves to Christ? If you say no, why do you baptize them? If you say, others do it in their stead, you make an addition unfounded in Scripture.
Oecolampad. — I will refer you to a place in TertuUian showing that baptism is not a sign of union. (B3a).
Hubmaier. — You tell me much of Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Augustine, Councils, histories and old customs. I am compelled to think you are in want of Scriptures. They will not come out of the quiver. Dear Oecolampad, put together your Scripture passages pertaining to infant baptism, as I have done with the Scriptures concerning the baptism of believers in my little book on baptism printed in Strasburg, and we will compare them and soon shall be agreed. Do it. Don’t forget it.
In short, I let you all be highly learned, as you boast, but I have spoken in simplicity and my speech is and shall be and must be thus; for the carpenter’s Son who never went to any school, has bidden me so to speak and he himself has hewed my pen with his carpenter’s axe. May God have mercy on us all. Amen.