A couple of weeks ago (July 12, 2013) on the exceptional blog “Particular Voices,” a quote from Hercules Collins was posted that on the surface appears to be a quite silly argument for believer’s baptism.
The citation on the blog was actually from a book by an opponent of Collins named Francis Mence. In his Vindiciae Foederis (a paedo-baptist critique of Collins’ writings on baptism), Mence poked fun at Collins statement. Given that Mence was known for misrepresenting Collins (once falsely charging him with believing in the damnation of all children), I decided to see if Collins had indeed said what Mence accused him of. He had. The context of the quotation, however, puts a slightly different light upon the matter.
The original quote was from Believers Baptism from Heaven, published in 1691 (p. 88). It occurs in the midst of a 14 page chapter that contrasts infant and believers baptism in parallel columns.
In context it is one of many examples listed showing that infants can’t do what believers in the New Testament are commanded, implied, or assumed to do when baptized. The select quotation cited by Mence was in contrast to the statement: “Believers rejoice and shew their full Consent when they are baptized, Acts 8.” (see below)
Notwithstanding his tongue-in-cheek comment, Collins point remains. Infants do not rejoice and show their full consent when baptized, instead their response is largely weeping. Although Collins left himself wide-open to the wisecrack made by Mence about circumcision, his point stands regarding infants being unable to give consent or rejoice (since rejoicing would imply understanding on their part). In context, I don’t think Collins statement was as foolish as it initially seemed. It was only a small part of a much larger argument.