From the first beginnings of the denomination, Free Will Baptists have affirmed and re-affirmed two major doctrines as biblical—General Atonement and Believer’s Baptism. Both would set them apart from the Calvinistic doctrines of election, predestination and infant baptism. While the Free Will Baptists did not suggest that baptism was essential to salvation, it did mark the individual as a believer and served as a sign and seal of church membership.
The rejection of infant baptism left the Free Will Baptists with one question that demand solution. What happens to a child that dies in infancy, before they have had an opportunity to hear the gospel and accept Christ as Savior? The question was addressed and settled in one of the earliest statements of faith published by the denomination. In An Abstract of the Former Articles of Faith Confessed by the Original Baptist Church, Holding the Doctrine of General Provision introduced by the North Carolina Free Will Baptists in 1812, infants were declared to be covered by the blood of Christ.
We believe that all children, dying in infancy, having not actually transgressed against the law of God in their own persons, are only subject to the first death which was brought on men by the fall of the first Adam, and not that any one of them dying in that state, shall suffer punishment in Hell by the guilt of Adam’s sin, for of such is the kingdom of God.
About the Writer: William F. Davidson was professor of Church History at Columbia International University, in Columbia, South Carolina. Dr. Davidson is an alumnus of Peabody College, Welch College, Columbia Bible College, Northern Baptist Seminary, and New Orleans Baptist Seminary. The Ayden, North Carolina, native also served as pastor of Free Will Baptist churches in Kentucky and Virginia.