I. Concerning the subject of faith a question is moved as to infants. There are two extremes: (1) in defect, by the Anabaptists, who deny all faith to infants and under this pretext exclude them from baptism; (2) in excess, by the Lutherans, who, to oppose themselves to the Anabaptists, have fallen into the other extreme, maintaining that infants are regenerated in baptism and actually furnished with faith, as appears from the Mompeldardensi Colloquy (Acta Colloquy Mantis Belligartensis , p. 459). “The round assertion of our divines is that actual faith is ascribed to infants with the most just right” (Brochmann, “De Fide Justificante,” 2, Q. 10 in Universae theologicae systema , 2:429).
XIII. Second proposition: “Although infants do not have actual faith, the seed or root of faith cannot be denied to them, which is ingenerated in them from early age and in its own time goes forth in act (human instruction being applied from without and a greater efficacy of the Holy Spirit within).” This second proposition is opposed to the Anabaptists, who deny to infants all faith, not only as to act, but also as to habit and form. Although habitual faith (as the word “habit” is properly and strictly used to signify a more perfect and consummated state) is not well ascribed to them, still it is rightly predicated of them broadly as denoting potential or seminal faith. Now by “seed of faith,” we mean the Holy Spirit, the effecter of faith and regeneration (as he is called, 1 Jn. 3:9), as to the principles of regeneration and holy inclinations which he already works in infants according to their measure in a wonderful and to us unspeakable way. Afterwards in more mature age, these proceed into act (human instruction being employed and the grace of the same Spirit promoting his own work by which that seed is accustomed to be excited and drawn forth into act).
XVI. (3) There are examples of various infants who were sanctified from the womb (as was the case with Jeremiah and John the Baptist, Jer. 1:5; Lk. 1:15, 80). For although here occur certain singular and extraordinary things (which pertained to them alone and not to others), still we may fairly conclude that infants can be made partakers of the Holy Spirit, who since he cannot be inactive, works in them motions and inclinations suited to their age (which are called “the seed of faith” or principles of sanctification).
XVIII. Although there seem to be in infants no marks from which we can gather that they are gifted with the Holy Spirit and the seed of faith (because their age prevents it), it does not follow that this must be denied to them since the reason of their salvation demands it and the contrary is evident from the examples adduced.
XIX. As before the use of reason, men are properly called rational because they have the principle of reason in the rational soul; thus nothing hinders them from being termed believers before actual faith because the seed which is given to them is the principle of faith (from which they are rightly denominated; even as they are properly called sinners, although not as yet able to put forth an act of sin).
XX. If any of our theologians deny that there is faith in infants or that it is necessary for their salvation (as is gathered from certain passages of Peter Martyr, Beza and Piscator), it is certain that this is meant of actual faith against the Lutherans, not of the seed of faith or the Spirit of regeneration (which they frequently assert is ascribed to infants). Peter Martyr, after saying that the Holy Scriptures do not say that infants believe, adds: “I judge that it is sufficient that they who are to be saved be determined by this—that by election they belong to the property of God, they are sprinkled by the Holy Spirit, who is the root of faith, hope and love, and of all the virtues, which afterwards it exerts and declares in the sons of God, when their age permits” (Loci Communes, Cl. 4, chap. 8.14 , p. 826). Thus Calvin: “Yet how, say they, are infants regenerated, having a knowledge neither of good nor of evil? We answer, the work of God, even if we do not understand it, still is real. Further infants who are to be saved, as certainly some of that age are wholly saved, it is not in the least obscure were before regenerated by the Lord. For if they bring with them from their mother’s womb innate corruption, they must be purged from it before they can be admitted into the kingdom of heaven, into which nothing impure and polluted enters” (ICR, 4.16.17, p. 1340). This he fully discusses in the following sections.
More from Turretin: