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A Censure Upon a Dialogue of the Anabaptists - Henry Ainsworth (Part 4)

We continue with Rev. Ainsworth's defence of infant baptism and now come to look at the answers given to the objections of the Anabaptists concerning the covenant with Abraham.

Note: The writer has updated the spelling, grammar and language of the original work and it is sincerely hoped that such revisions have not detracted from the intent or meaning


First Objection

Neither circumcision nor baptism are seals of the covenant of life and salvation: that which is now the seal, was ever the same, which is the holy spirit of promise, 2 Cor. 1:22, Ephes. 1:13, & 4:30.


A bold untruth contradicting the Apostle, who calls the sign of circumcision, the seal of the righteousness of faith, Rom. 4:11 and righteousness of faith is life and salvation, Gal. 3:11, Eph. 2:8. and the covenant which circumcision sealed, was that the Lord would be their God, Gen. 17:7,10. and so he would give them life and salvation, Rev 21:3-4.

Whereas they except, the Spirit is the seal: it is true; but they should observe that it is an invisible seal in the heart; whereas Paul speaketh of an outward visible seal, which is also a sign, and on the body. Again, the covenant may have more seals then one: so that if the Spirit were an outward seal, yet might circumcision be a seal also of the same thing. Moses calls circumcision a sign or token, Gen. 17:11, but he no where calls it a seal yet Paul calls it a seal, because in truth it was so, and more then a bare sign. For a sign is to make some other thing known unto us, as a land mark is for distinction of grounds: or it is further to put us in mind of things formerly done, as the stones at Gilgall were for a memorial to Israel how their fathers passed through Jordan, Joshua. 4:20-22. But a seal goes yet further, and certifies or assures of any promise or gift. Now because circumcision was such a sign as assured unto Abraham his righteousness by faith in Christ the promised seed: therefore the Apostle rightly calls it a seal. Upon which ground we also rightly call the Passover, Baptism, and our Lord's Supper seals, because they are such signs as certify and assure us of forgiveness of sins, and of righteousness and salvation by Christ. And from this we have a most certain ground for the baptism of infants: because baptism is no more now, then circumcision was of old, namely a sign and seal of righteousness by faith. And if infants had such a seal under the promise of the Gospel: how should it with any colour be denied now under the performance of that promise? unless we will say, Christ hath not confirmed the promises made unto the fathers, contrary to Rom. 15:8, and 2 Cor. 1:20.

Second Objection

There is but two covenants, the Law and the Gospel, the Old and the New, Gal. 4. The old Covenant, the Law, was made with the children of Abraham after the flesh, and had circumcision in their flesh for a sign thereof. The new covenant the Gospel, is not made but with the one seed, Gal. 3.16. that are of the faith of Abraham. The children of the flesh are not they to whom this covenant is made, Rom. 9:8 the children of the flesh must be but out, &c. Gal. 4:30. so that the covenant with Abraham and his children after the flesh, was not the covenant of life and salvation; it was the covenant of works, of the Law. &c.


In this their plea, there is a little truth, but much error and delusion. It is true, there were but two Covenants, the Law and the Gospel. There is sophistry and delusion in their saying the covenant of the law was with the children of Abraham after the flesh: for as after the flesh means natural generation, so Isaac, Jacob, and all the Israelites, even Christ himself was Abraham’s child after the flesh, Math. 1:1, Rom. 1:3. & 9:3-5, yet were not they aliens from the covenant of the Gospel. But as the flesh means corruption of nature, Rom. 8:1, 8-9, and as men have no other generation of the Spirit, but of the flesh, John 3:5-6. in this sense it is true, that the children of the flesh are not the children of God, Rom. 9:8 and they are under the Law, not under the Gospel. But this is nothing against the truth we maintain. For Isaac who was Abraham’s seed after the flesh in the first sense, but after the Spirit, and by promise in the second sense, he was circumcised in his infancy. Now all the Christian Church are as Isaac, children of the promise, Gal. 4:28, and our infants though by nature (as it is corrupted) they be children of wrath, Eph. 2, yet by promise and grace in Christ, they are children of God, Rom. 5, and therefore are to have the seal of the covenant of grace in infancy, as Isaac had; even as by Abraham’s justification, the Apostle proves the justification of us all, Rom. 4.3, 22-24.

Error it is that they say, Abraham's children had circumcision in the flesh for a sign of the old covenant or Law. For first, the Law was given by Moses, John 1:17, many years after Abraham, and could not disannul the covenant with Abraham, or make the promise of none effect, as the Apostle plainly teaches us Gal. 3:17. Christ also says, circumcision was not of Moses, but of the fathers, John 7:22. Secondly, the covenant which circumcision sealed, was that the Lord would be a God to Abraham and his seed, Gen. 17:7, 10, this was the covenant of the Gospel, Heb. 8:8, 10, and Rev. 2 1:3. Thirdly, circumcision was the seal of righteousness of faith, Rom. 4:11, but the Law is not of faith, Gal. 3:11, 12, therefore circumcision was a seal of the Gospel promised, a seal of the covenant of grace.

Wheras they say, the new covenant is not made but with the one seed, Gal. 3:16, it is true, and this makes against them: for that one seed, is there showed to be Christ: not Christ in his own person only, but Christ with his Church, which make one mystical body, 1 Cor. 12:12, Eph. 5.30-32. Now the infants of the Church, are by the covenant of grace of the body of Christ, even as by nature they are of the body and stock of Adam, as before (in the treaty of Original Sin,) we have proved by Rom. 5, so that the new covenant is made with them also, and therefore the seal of that covenant is due unto them now, as it was in Abraham's days.

Third Objection

That the covenant whereof circumcision was a sign, Gen. 17, was not the same which we have now in the Gospel: because the Lord says, it is not the same, Jer. 31:31, Heb. 8:6. it is a new covenant that we have under the Gospel.


It is no marvel though these men so often slander us, when they dare belie the Lord himself. Neither doth the Prophet, nor the Apostle (in the places by them cited,) or any where say, that the covenant which Abraham had, and which was sealed to him by circumcision, is not the same which we have. I have before proved them to be one in substance by Gal. 3, and Rom. 4:11. The covenant spoken of by Jeremiah, was made when God took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, Jer. 31:32, Heb. 8, whereas the covenant with Abraham was many years before, Gal. 3:17. Therefore the covenant made with Abraham by promise, is the same that we now have by performance and confirmation of that promise, Luk. 1:54, 55, 72, 73 and Rom. 15:8.

Fourth Objection

Though Abraham himself had the covenant of grace promised him, by which promise he had salvation in the Messiah to come; yet has he not the ordinances of the new covenant which we have: and therefore none of his seed in the flesh could be partakers of that which he had not himself.


They grant enough to their own condemnation: for if Abraham’s covenant was of grace and salvation by Christ; then was it not of the Law (as before they pleaded) for that causes wrath and damnation, Rom. 4:15, Gal. 3:10, 12. We plead not for the same external Ordinances or manner of outward dispensation: but for the same substance of the covenant, which was of faith, not of works; and so of the Gospel not of the Law, as Paul teacheth us, Rom. 4. and Gal. 3. The Israelites' Passover of the Lamb, and our Passover Christ: their feast of unleavened cakes, and ours, (1 Cor. 5:7-8) differ apparently in the outward Ordinances. So their bread of Manna from heaven, ours of wheat from the earth; their drink of water from the Rock, ours of wine from the Grape, (in the supper of our Lord) how greatly do they differ in the outward things: yet were they the same spiritual meat and drink both to them and us, even Christ: as the Apostle teacheth 1 Cor. 10:3, 4. So Circumcision and Baptism, differ much in the outward rite and sign; but not in the substance or thing signified.

Fifth Objection

They further say concerning us, They speak untruly [in saying that the covenant which this new is not like, is that Law given upon Mount Sina, Exod. 19. not that in Gen. 17.] Mark the words (in Jer. 31, Heb. 8,) Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, which is mentioned in Exod. 3, not Exod. 19, then did God appear to Moses, and commanded him to take them by the hand and lead them out of Egypt, where the covenant is mentioned in ver. 6, I am the God of thy fathers, Abraham &c. I am come to deliver them &c. to bring them into a good land &c. which promise was made unto their father Abraham.


The untruth and ignorance is in themselves that so reason. For there was no covenant made in Exod. 3. Let the place be viewed. Though if there had then a covenant been made, it were nothing to our purpose; because Abraham was dead many years before, and we reason of the covenant made with him and his seed, while he lived, Gen. 17. But in Exod. 19:5 &c. treaty is of a covenant to be made: in Exod, 20 &c. the laws are promulgated.

In Exod. 24:7, 8, the covenant is made up and dedicated. And that this was that first and old covenant which should be abolished, as Jeremiah foretold, the Apostle doth plainly manifest. For having shewed the promise hereof in Heb. 8:8-13, He prosecutes the same matter in Heb 9, showing the differences between the first covenant and the second, or the old and the new; and how a covenant (or testament) must be confirmed by blood and death: which for the new was by the death of Christ, Heb. 9:15-16, and for the first, it was with the death & blood of bullocks and goats, wherewith Moses sprinkled the people, v. 18-20. And this was that action recorded in Exod. 24, done at Mount Sina. Moreover observe here these men’s fraud: Jeremiah speaks of a covenant made; they tell us of a covenant (or promise) mentioned in Exod. 3, as if to make a covenant when they came out of Egypt, and to mention a covenant or promise made many years before with Abraham in Canaan, were all one. That which is alleged of the land of Canaan promised in Gen. 17:8, is true, as a type or figure, but not as the main thing there intended. For Abraham himself had no inheritance in the land of Canaan, no not so much as to set his foot on: Acts 7:5. how then did circumcision seal that to Abraham, which God never performed to him? Is not this to make God’s promise to him, vain? The Apostle is a better expositor, who saith, that circumcision sealed to him righteousness of faith, which he had before, Rom 4:11, and tells us, how by faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, and looked for a heavenly city and country, which he understood to be figured by that earthly land: Heb. 11:9, 10, 16. And if the possession of Canaan was that which circumcision sealed, then Abraham’s servants; yea and all his sons by Keturah, and all proselytes of other families, that were circumcised, were deluded with a vain promise: seeing none of all these had ever inheritance in Canaan, but onely the Israelites the posterity of Isaac, which were numbered in Numb. 26:2-53.

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