Zwingli On Sacramentarians And Infant Baptism (1529)

Others, like the sacramentarians, (those are justly called sacramentarians, who attribute to the sacraments what they do not contain, and by high-sounding but false and made-up promises, lead men away from simple trust in the one God to belief in the power of symbols. Therefore if any one hereafter finds “sacramentarians” in my writings, I want him to understand that class of men who attribute to symbols what belongs only to Divine Power and to the Holy Spirit, personally working in our souls, which symbols and the external word only proclaim and represent), the sacramentarians, I say, either not understanding or not wishing to understand the usage and meaning of our Lord’s words, twist this language so far as to venture to assert that the things themselves are really and materially conveyed by the sacraments by virtue of the words joined with the elements, and they defend their error by saying, “Faith is of things invisible.” “You do not see grace in baptism,” they say, “but it is certainly conveyed by virtue of the words, as soon as the clergyman has said, ‘I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.’ ” When you demand proof of this proposition, they say: “Faith is of things invisible.”

They fail to notice that baptism is not given to any one unless he first confesses that he has faith, if he is a grown person, or unless he has the promise in virtue of which he is counted a member of the Church, if he is a child. Thus this thing which the sacramentarians maintain is conveyed invisibly by the sacrament was actually conveyed before. For he who confesses faith had it before he confessed it and, therefore, before he was baptized. For confession precedes immersion. Thus the faith which was given by the light and gift of the Spirit was there before the candidate was admitted to the sacrament, or if he did not have faith, it is certainly not brought to him by baptism. For neither Judas nor Simon the sorcerer, who were without faith when they were baptized, received faith by baptism. But if an infant is to be baptized, since he cannot himself confess faith, he must have the promise which counts him within the Church. The promise is, that the Gentiles, when they have obtained the knowledge of God, and true religion, shall be just as much of the church and people of God as the Hebrews. This all the prophets heralded and Christ Himself most plainly promises. “They shall come from the east and from the west, and shall recline with the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.”* And “The last shall be first,” and “The vineyard shall be given to other husbandmen,” and “There shall be one shepherd and one fold.”

Since, therefore, the children of the Hebrews have always been counted with the Church with their parents, and the divine promise is sure, it is clear that the children of Christians belong to the Church of Christ just as much as their parents. This promise is not conveyed in baptism, but he to whom it has been previously given is baptized, that by a visible sign he may bear witness that he is of the number of those who through the goodness of God are called the people of God. Here surely nothing new is brought in, but that which has been previously given is recognized by a religious rite, and the name is given when the symbol and pledge have been received.

—Huldreich Zwingli, The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, ed. William John Hinke (Philadelphia: Heidelberg Press, 1922), 2.194–95.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Does Z. use the term “sacramentarian” to mean the inverse of the Lutheran epithet? Sure seems that way. Charges and counter-charges?

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