WILLIAM LEROY PETTINGILL
1886 - 1950
AMERICAN PASTOR, EDUCATOR,
From 1928 to 1950, Dr. Pettingill
traveled across North America, Central America,
and Europe sharing his gift of stirring people
to action from the word. "Keep looking
up!" was his motto and it became the
challenge to many. Dr. Pettingill exchanged
his faith for sight on September 15, 1950.
Born August 27, 1886, William Pettingill received
only a fourth grade education because of precarious
family finances. Saved at thirteen, serious
Bible study began a decade later after his
first encounter with C. I. Scofield.
From that point, Pettingill
moved from Y.M.C.A. work into the pastorate and teaching.
(Many of his twenty-one books are revised sermon studies.)
In 1913, Scofield and Pettingill
co-founded the Philadelphia College of the Bible,
with Pettingill serving as dean. In addition to stimulating
students with his vivid visualizations of the Word
and his hearty laugh, Pettingill wrote widely, served
on the council of the Central American Mission, and
was a staunch supporter of the fundamentalist movement.
Infant Baptism It's
History and It's Harm
By the Late Dr. William Pettingill
I am convinced that believers should be baptized
in water. If I were compelled to choose, I
would unhesitatingly say, "no water baptism"
rather than the baptism of infants. Happily,
I am not thus compelled to choose between
two evils, but am free to walk in the light
as I see the light.
It is my purpose in this
article to set forth my reasons for saying,
as I have often said, that infant baptism
is responsible for sending more people to
Hell than any other cause. From my point of
view it is a dreadful thing to baptize a baby
and let him grow up believing that by that
baptism he has been saved and is on his way
to Heaven. "To the law and to the testimony".
Infant baptism has no warrant
in the Scriptures. Many efforts have been
made to find such warrant, but these efforts
are too feeble to merit serious consideration.
But did not the Lord Jesus say, "Suffer
little children, and forbid them not, to come
unto me"? Yes, He did; and there is no
objection to suffer them to come unto Him.
The question here is the bringing of infants
who are too young to come by themselves. There
is no authority for such a thing.
In church history there is
no record of infant baptism until the year
370. And how did it come about? It resulted
from the doctrine of baptismal regeneration,
the teaching that baptism is essential to
salvation. It was natural for those holding
this teaching to believe that everybody should
be baptized as soon as possible, and so baptism
of unconscious infants came into vogue among
many of the churches. These two grievous errors,
baptismal regeneration and infant baptism,
according to reliable historians, have caused
more bloodshed and persecution than all other
It is reliably estimated
that over fifty million Christians were put
to death during the "Dark Ages"
covering twelve or thirteen centuries, mainly
because they rejected these two errors and
insisted that salvation was the gift of God,
apart from works or ceremonies.
The professed conversion
of Emperor Constantine in 313 A.L). was looked
upon by many as a great triumph for Christianity.
As a matter of fact, it was the greatest tragedy
of church history. It resulted in the union
of church and state and the establishment
of an hierarchy which afterward developed
into the Roman Catholic system, which of course
is not the church of God at all, but a hateful
counterfeit of it. It is doubtful that Constantine
was ever truly converted. At the time of his
supposed vision of the sign of the cross he
"promised to become a Christian,"
but he was not baptized until near death,
having postponed the act in the belief that
baptism washed away all past sins, and he
wanted all his sins to be in the past tense
before he was baptized.
In the year 416 infant baptism
was made compulsory throughout the Roman Empire
by law. This, of course, filled the churches
with unconverted members who had only been
"baptized into favor," and whatever
power the church had retained was now gone.
The world was plunged into the gloom of the
Dark Ages, which endured for more than twelve
centuries, until the Reformation. But all
the time, from the beginning of the church
age, God always had a remnant remaining faithful
to Him. They never consented to the union
of church and state, or to baptismal regeneration,
or to infant baptism.
These nonconformists were
not a sect, and they were not even called
Christians. Indeed, it became illegal for
them to be called Christians or to call themselves
Christians. They bore nicknames, depending
sometimes upon a leader's name, or the name
of their locality. They were Montanists, Novatians,
Paulicans, Arnoldists, Henricians, Petrobrusians,
Waldenses, Paterines, Albigenses, Studist,
etc.; but their generic name was Anabaptist,
meaning re-baptizers, for they ignored infant
baptism and re-baptized those who had been
saved through personal faith. They also had
a generic name for themselves: they called
themselves Antipedobaptists, meaning opponents
of infant baptism.
A Hangover From Rome
When the Reformation came,
these Anabaptists or Antipedobaptists did
all they could to help the Reformers; but
when the Reformers came into power they turned
against the Aiiabaptists and persecuted them
as Rome had done and continued to do; and
thus the troubles of the Anabaptists were
increased instead of diminished, for now they
had persecutors on both sides - from Romanism
on one hand and from Protestantism on the
All honor to the great Reformers,
but the truth must be told that in their reform
they brought with them out of Rome the two
hateful errors union of church and state and
infant baptism; and moreover when they had
the power in their hands because of this union
of church and state, they themselves became
popes in their own realm and persecuted those
who would not conform to their ways.
The Lutheran church became
the established church of Germany, and persecuted
the Anabaptists for nonconformity. While Zwingli
held power in Switzerland the Senate passed
a law making infant baptism compulsory and
providing that "if any presume to re
baptize those who were baptized before, they
should be drowned;" and at Vienna many
Anabaptists were so tied together in chains
that one drew the other after him into the
river, wherein they were all suffocated.
Calvin in his field, Cromwell
in England, Knox in Scotland - these all stuck
to the union of church and state and infant
baptism, and used their power, when they had
power, to seek to force others to conform
with their own views.
Before the Massachusetts
Bay Colony was twenty years old, it was decreed
by statute that "if any person or persons
within this jurisdiction shall either openly
condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants,
or go about secretly to seduce others from
the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely
depart from the congregation at the administration
of the ordinance - after due time and means
of conviction - every such person or persons
shall be subject to banishment,"
By the authorities in this
colony Roger Williams and others were banished,
when banishment meant to go and live with
the Indians. This Williams did and was received
kindly and dwelt with them for some time,
and after days it was shown that he had saved
the Massachusetts Bay Colony from utter destruction
by the Indians by his earnest pleadings in
behalf of the Colony which had banished him.
Church and State
And it was in the constitution
of the Rhode Island Colony, founded by Roger
Williams, John Clarke and others, that religious
liberty was established by law for the first
time in thirteen hundred years. Thus it was
that Rhode Island, the first Baptist Colony,
established by a small group of believers,
was the first spot on earth where religious
liberty became the law of the land. The settlement
was made in 1638, and the Colony was legally
established in 1663. The second place was
Virginia in 1786,\
Congress declared the first
amendment to the Constitution of the United
States to be in force on December 15, 1791,
which granted religious liberty to all citizens;
and Baptists are credited with being the leaders
in bringing this blessing to the nation. If
that be true, they proved themselves to be
worthy successors of their Anabaptist or Antipedobaptist
But, it may be asked, what
has all this to do with us? Has it any practical
bearing upon us in our day? And here is the
answer: The union of church and state continues
today in most of the countries of the world.
In these "state churches" they "christen"
babies, which means they make them Christians.
The average Briton, for example, thinks he
is on the way to Heaven. Wasn't he christened
in infancy and hasn't he been taught all these
years that that saved him, and isn't he a
member of the same church with the king? What
more could you ask?
Are Unbaptized Infants Lost?
And what about this country? Let us see:
The Roman Catholic teaches
baptismal regeneration and practices infant
baptism. In its statement of doctrine :it
says: "The sacrament of baptism is administered
to infants or adults by pouring of water and
the pronouncement of the proper words, and
cleanses from original sin."
The Reformed church says:
"Children are baptized as heirs of the
Kingdom of God and of His covenant."
The Lutheran church teaches
that baptism, whether of infants or adults,
is a means of regeneration. Martin Luther
himself, when asked whether unbaptized infants
are lost, said: Not lack of contempt for,
the sacrament condemns. I hope that when little
children are denied baptism without their
fault, and the command of Christ and prayer
are not despised, the kind and merciful God
will graciously remember them. Let their souls
be left in the hands of and at the will of
their Heavenly Father, who, as we know, is
merciful." Mind, he says only "I
hope." Not a very good foundation for
faith. Mr. Luther should have done better
The Episcopal church teaches
plainly that salvation comes through infant
baptism. In his confirmation the catechist
answers a question about his baptism in infancy
by saying, "in my baptism, wherein I
was made a member of Christ, a child of God,
and an inheritor of the Kingdom of God."
This is printed in the Prayer
Book and may be seen there by anyone interested
enough to look for it. The fact is that most
people who practice infant baptism believe
that the ceremony has something to do with
the salvation of the child.
We have left the commandment
of God to follow the traditions of men, and
the end is awful to contemplate