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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Infant Communion

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The admission of infants to the ordinance of the Lord's supper. It has been debated by some, whether or no infants should be admitted to this ordinance. One of the greatest advocates for this practice was Mr. Pierce. He pleads the use of it even unto this day among the Greeks, and in the Bohemian churches till near the time of the reformation; but especially from the custom of the ancient churches, as it appears from many passages in Photius, Augustin, and Cyprian. But Dr. Doddridge observes, that Mr. Pierce's proof from the more ancient fathers is very defective. His arguments from Scripture chiefly depend upon this general medium; that Christians succeeding to the Jews as God's people, and being grafted upon that stock, their infants have a right to all the privileges of which they are capable, till forfeited by some immoralities: and consequently have a right to partake of this ordinance, as the Jewish children had to eat of the passover and other sacrifices; besides this, he pleads those texts which speak of the Lord's supper as received by all Christians.

The most obvious answer to all this, is that which is taken from the incapacity of infants to examine themselves, and discern the Lord's body; but he answers that this precept is only given to persons capable of understanding and complying with it, as those which require faith in order to baptism are interpreted by the Paedo-baptists. As for his argument from the Jewish children eating the sacrifice, it is to be considered that this was not required as circumcision was; the males were not necessarily brought to the temple till they were twelve years old, Luke 2:42 . and the sacrifices they ate of were chiefly peace-offerings, which became the common food to all that were clean in the family, and were not looked upon as acts of devotion to such a degree as our eucharist is; though, indeed, they were a token of their acknowledging the divinity of that God to whom they had been offered, 1 Corinthians 10:18 . and even the passover was a commemoration of a temporal deliverance; nor is there any reason to believe that its reference to the Messiah was generally understood by the Jews.

On the whole, it is certain there would be more danger of a contempt arising to the Lord's supper from the admission of infants, and of confusion and trouble to other communicants; to that not being required in Scripture, it is much the best to omit it. When children are grown up to a capacity of behaving decently, they may soon be instructed in the nature and design of the ordinance; and if they appear to understand it, and behave for some competent time of trial in a manner suitable to that profession, it would probably be advisable to admit them to communion, though very young; which, by the way, might be a good security against many of the snares to which youth are exposed. Doddridge's Lectures, lec. 207; Pierce's Essay on the Eucharist, p. 76, &c.; Witsius on Con. b. 4. 100: 17, $ 30, 32; J. Frid. Mayer Diss. de Eucharistia Infantum; Zornius Hist. Eucharist. Infantum, p. 18; Theol. and Bib Mag. Jan. and April, 1806.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Infant Communion'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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