Project Canterbury

Mercy to Babes
A Plea for the Christian Baptism of Infants

By William Adams, S.T.P.
Presbyter of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Wisconsin

New York: Stanford and Swords, 1847.


WE have now gone through the task as we had appointed it for ourselves; and the peculiar nature of the track we have chosen to pursue, has, as it may be seen, precluded us from the ordinary course of argument that is usually pursued in this case. We have laid, as it may be seen, the main stress upon the doctrine of baptism in general, the literal sense of scripture, and the nature of man, considered as a domestic, a social, and a religious being; and so far abstained from the mere task of confutation, as only to touch upon objections incidentally. And, therefore, there are many branches of the argument left untouched; such as the evidence for infant baptism in the first ages; the relation of baptism to circumcision, and so forth; all which, knowing them to be in our favor, we have omitted, for the reason, that feeling the moral and religious to be a most important, and hitherto but little touched part of the argument for the baptism of infants, we have chosen to confine ourselves to this, that it might come with its full force upon men's minds, and then that afterwards, if they feel its weight, they may, as a separate thing, consider and examine these other parts by themselves. In which investigation many excellent treatises there are that will aid the searcher after truth; and we deny not that this we have excluded here, in order that men may not be turned away from the moral, and domestic, and social considerations upon baptism, to the logical and the controversial.

And for the same reason we have altogether omitted the question of "Immersion," one which is mixed up in a very strange way with that of the right of infants to baptism, in almost all the books we have seen, and yet is a totally distinct question. A question which is, to the writer of these pages, a very unimportant one indeed, as the law of the Church gives him the right to baptize by immersion infants or adults; and which, when the grand question, the one he has treated of, is felt as it should be, will be easily agreed upon.

For this book, therefore, he has to seek the indulgence of the reader. He is in a remote part of the country, far from libraries, and the advantages of literary advice, and encouragement which would have enabled him to realize his plan more perfectly; engaged, too, in labors that occupy his mind incessantly, and without that leisure which is absolutely necessary to him that would bring any thing to'perfection. And he feels that the plan he has adopted in this treatise is one which would require, both time, and leisure, and books, adequately to bring it forth in its due proportions.

Still, for all these disadvantages, he believes that as it is, with all its imperfections upon its head, it will be of service to the cause of religion and of the Church. He believes that, written plainly and earnestly, and for the mass, it will be of service to ordinary readers, and, perhaps, even to the more educated suggest some thoughts that may be of service to them. And therefore he permits it to go out to the world, trusting that, although written under many disadvantages and laden with many imperfections, still it may be of service to many persons, who are sincere and earnest in their search after truth.

Project Canterbury