This excerpt is from http://theologica.blogspot.com/2009/04/ferguson-on-infant-baptism-and-mode-of.html >
On infant baptism, he writes:
There is general agreement that there is no firm evidence for infant baptism before the latter part of the second century. This fact does not mean that it did not occur, but it does mean that supporters of the practice have a considerable chronological gap to account for. Many replace the historical silence by appeal to theological or sociological considerations. . . .
The most plausible explanation for the origin of infant baptism is found in the emergency baptism of sick children expected to die soon so that they would be assured of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. There was a slow extension of baptizing babies as a precautionary measure. It was generally accepted, but questions continued to be raised about its propriety into the fifth century. It became the usual practice in the fifth and sixth centuries. (pp. 856, 857)
On the mode of baptism, he writes:
The comprehensive survey of the evidence compiled in this study give a basis for a fresh look at this subject and seeks to give coherence to that evidence while addressing seeming anomalies. The Christian literary sources, backed by secular word usage and Jewish religous immersions, given an overwhelming support for full immersion as the normal action. Exceptions in cases of a lack of water and especially of sickbed baptism were made.
Submersion was undoubtedly the case for the fourth and fifth centuries in the Greek East and only slightly less certain for the Latin West. Was this a change from an earlier practice, a selection out of options previously available, or a continuation of the practice of the first three centuries? It is the contention of this study that the last interpretation best accords with the available facts. Unless one has preconceived ideas about how an immersion would be performed, the literary, art, and archaeological evidence supports this conclusion. (p. 857)
By Puritan Covenanter “R. Martin” (Speedway, Indiana)
The authors come from a paedo baptist theological bent. I am not sure why they wrote the book because it doesn’t seem to support their view. They even use a lot of quotes from other Paedo-Baptists and show that they have misquoted or misunderstood the context of the Early Church Fathers. Maybe they are just illuminating the Early Church Father’s beliefs concerning baptism for conscience sake. From the outset the Early Church seemed to link water baptism very closely to the remission and cleansing of sin. If one wasn’t baptized by water they had no forgiveness of sin. This theological theme continued but grew in different directions concerning its efficacy and benefits during the next four centuries. According to the authors the connection between baptism and modern day covenant theology is proven to be almost non-existent in the writings of the Early Church. They link infant baptism’s induction into the church because of necessity. In other words the deathbed was the reason infant baptism was introduced into the church. The book was very illuminating and I agreed with part of its conclusion. “The symbol became the actual means. The rite of baptism itself, rather than Christ, became the guarantee of eternal salvation.”