Read the following conversation between the
16th-century martyr Robert Smith and the
Catholic Bishop Bonner, where Smith provides a
biblical and witty refutation of the false gospel of
Bishop Bonner:—” I believe (I tell thee) that if they [infants] die before they be baptized, they be damned.”
Smith:—” Ye shall never be saved by that belief. But I pray you, my lord, show me, are we saved by water, or by Christ ?”‘
Bonner:—” By both.”
Smith:—” Then the water died for our sins ; and so must ye say, that the water hath life; and it being our servant, and created for us, is our Saviour. This, my lord, is a good doctrine, is it not?”
Bonner:—” Why, how understandest thou the Scriptures? ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ And again, ‘ Suffer,’ saith our Saviour, ‘ these children to come unto me:’ and if thou wilt not suffer them to be baptized after the laudable order, thou lettest them to come unto Christ.”
Smith:—” Whereas ye allege St. John, ‘ Except a man,’ etc., and will thereby prove the water to save, and so the deed or work to save and put away sins, I will send you to St. Paul, which asketh of the Galatians, ‘Whether they received the Spirit by the deeds of the law, or by the preaching of faith ?’
And there concludeth, that the Holy Ghost accompanieth the preaching of faith, and with the word of faith entereth into the heart. So now, if baptism preach to me the washing in Christ’s blood, so doth the Holy Ghost accompany it, and it is unto me as a preacher, and not a Saviour.
And whereas ye say, I let the children to come unto Christ, it is manifest by our Saviour’s words, that ye let them to come, that will not suffer them to come to him without the necessity of water. For he saith, ‘ Suffer them to come unto me,’ and not unto water ; and therefore if ye condemn them, ye condemn both the merits and words of Christ.
For our Saviour saith,’ Except ye turn and become as children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ And so brought 1 out many other ensamples, to make manifest, that Christ hath cleansed original sin, bringing in ensamples out of Scriptures for the same.”
Bonner:—” Then thou makest the water of none effect: and then put away water.”
Smith—” It is not,” saith St. Peter, ” the washing-away of the filth of the flesh, but in that a good conscience consenteth unto God.’ And to prove that water only bringeth not the Holy Ghost, it is written in Acts viii. that Simon received water, but would have received the Holy Ghost for money.
Also that the Holy Ghost hath come before baptism, it is written that John had the Holy Ghost in his mother’s womb. Cornelius, Paul, and the queen of Candace’s servant, with many others, received the Holy Ghost before baptism.
Yea, and although your generation have set at nought the word of God, and like swine turned his words upside down, yet must his church keep the same in that order which he left them, which his church dare not break; and, to judge children damned that be not baptized, it is wicked.”
Stephen Reed Cattley, ed., The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe: Volume VII (London: R. B. Seeley and W. Burnside, 1838, Digitized Oct. 11, 2008), 352.