The appeal is next made to the New Testament. Here it becomes us to be all attention. “Were not the first churches composed of households?” That there were some households in them is clear; and we have some in many of our churches. But why did not the “Congregationalist” prove that some of them at least were infants? If he could have done this, all his other arguments might have been spared. It might indeed be supposed that households will ordinarily consist of some of this description; and if we were not given to understand the contrary in these instances, the presumption might appear in favour of this supposition. But it so happens that each of these households appears from the Scripture accounts to have been composed of believers, Acts 16:34–40; 1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15.
“Were not parents told, if they believed, they and their house should be saved?” The head of one family was thus addressed: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” But surely the meaning of this is, that if he and his house believed, they should all be saved. If Paul and Silas meant to say his house should be saved, though he only believed, why is it added in the next verse, “And they spoke unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house?” The Pharisees seemed desirous of establishing their claim on the ground of having Abraham to their father; but John the Baptist did not allow of it, but intimated that the axe was now laid to the root of the tree, and that every tree which brought not forth good fruit should be hewn down and cast into the fire. Who would have thought that “An Old Congregationalist” could have pleaded, not merely for the admission of children to Christian ordinances in virtue of the faith of their parents, but for their being actually saved? I have heard of certain professors of religion in the fens of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire who hold this opinion with great earnestness, and who on the ground of their forefathers’ faith rest assured of salvation, whatever be their own characters; but I should not have expected such a notion to have found an advocate in your worthy correspondent.
“Is there an instance of an adult descendant of a believer that was admitted into the church throughout the whole of the New Testament?” Yes, several. All the households before mentioned were adults, and some of them were doubtless descendants from the heads of those families. But I suppose your correspondent means there is no instance of there being admitted at a distance of time after their parents. And this I believe is true. But it is equally true that there is no instance of a wife, a husband, or a child, being converted after their partners or their parents; cases which nevertheless, no doubt, frequently occurred. The truth is, the New Testament is a history of the first planting of the church, and not of its progress. If such evidence as this amounts to “a moral certainty” that children were received into the church with their parents, I am at a loss what to denominate uncertainty.
The Scriptures inculcate a strict and holy discipline, both in the church and in the family; and I cannot but consider it as a strong presumption against the practice for which your correspondent pleads, that the command to “bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” is addressed not to ministers or churches, but to parents. Nor is there, that I recollect, in all that is said in the apostolic Epistles, to parents or children, a word which implies the latter to have stood in the relation of church members.
There is some ingenuity in what is said in answer to objections; and if moral and positive duties must be confounded, and we are driven to reason from analogy on the one as well as the other, there may be some force in it. But if positive institutes require Scripture precept or example, the want of these must needs be the grand, and, I suspect, the insurmountable objection.
Excerpt from: “Terms of Communion: Remarks on Infant Baptism and Infant Communion,” in Essays, Letters, etc., on Ecclesiastical Polity.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 500–501). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.