A Censure Upon a Dialogue of the Anabaptists - Henry Ainsworth (Part 8)
In this final article Master Ainsworth deals with two matters raised by the Anabaptists: what we can determine from the household baptisms in the Acts of the Apostles; and to whom was the blessing of Christ in Mark 10:14, and what was the nature of that blessing.
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.
Objection - Household Baptism excluded infants
Whereas we find mention of whole households to have been baptised by the Apostles; from which example it is probably gathered that infants also were baptized. Against this they dispute thus:
1. There are many households in which there are no infants.
This is true: and it is also true that in many there are infants. Therefore this argument is propounded but as probable, not as certain.
2. They say, it is most sure as the Apostles practised in one household, so they practised in all. But in the jailor's house they baptised such as they preached the word unto, and such as believed, Act. 16:31, 34. and this is most plain that infants cannot hear nor believe, &c.
It is not most sure, but altogether unlikely, as themselves, I think, will acknowledge. For there is no likelihood that all households to whom the Apostles preached, did believe every one in them, though some did. And they grant that none but believers were baptised. So then if the goodman of the house, and the men only believed, there none but men were baptised: if women only believed, they only were baptised. Therefore the Apostles practice was not always alike in respect of the persons that they baptised. So for infants, such houses as had none, we easily grant that no infants were there baptised. But such as had infants, their parents believing, we hold that their infants were baptized; for there is no exception of infants at all in any place of the Apostles Acts. The bar which they put, that infants cannot hear nor believe, is soon removed. We know infants can hear, though not with understanding: we know also (and have proved before) that they believe, though not actually or professantly. And this faith begun in them in their regeneration, is a sufficient ground why infants should be baptised, as I have formerly manifested.
Finally, unto Christ’s words Mark. 10:14. suffer ye little children to come unto me, &c. for of such is the kingdom of God: they say, It is not said, infants are of the kingdom of heaven, that is, obeyers of the Gospel, Luk. 4:43 but that they that enter into the kingdom of heaven, must become as little children, for of such like is the kingdom of God. And, This is Christ’s meaning, men must be converted and receive the kingdom of God as a child. &c.
They speak like children in understanding.
1. The people brought young children properly unto Christ, not men converted & become like children: Mark. 10:13. For the children the disciples rebuked the bringers: for their rebuking Christ was much displeased, and said, Suffer the little children to come unto me. What reasonable creature will now deny that Christ speaks here of children in years, not of old men like children. The children that were brought, Christ took up in his arms, put his hands on them & blessed them: may we think he took up aged persons.
2. The reason why he would have such children suffered to come to him, is, for of such is the kingdom of God, Mark. 10:14. If he had not meant this of young children themselves, but of men like children in some condition; there had been no weight in his words: but the people might have brought unto him upon that ground, doves, and serpents for Christ to lay hands upon and bless: for as godly men must in some things be like children, 1. Cor. 14:20. so must they in some things also be like serpents, and like doves, Matt. 10:16.
3. They wrest the text, when they expound for of such is the kingdom of God, thus, for of such like: as if Christ meant not the children properly, but ancienter men like such children. They might even as well say, that when Paul writeth, I beseech thee, being such a one as Paul the aged, (Philem. v. 9 that he speaks not this of himself, but of some other man like himself, that made request for Onesimus. But ignorant and unstable men will pervert all scriptures to their own perdition. That infants of the faithful are indeed of the kingdom of God, is before proved from Rom. 5. and many other scriptures.
Now whereas Christ blessed the children; they tell us, he baptised them not, which we grant: but if they which were by nature children of wrath and curse, were now by grace made children of blessing in Christ; then were they indeed of the kingdom of God, and such as might receive baptism the sign and seal of blessedness.
Lastly they say, It is a blessing to infants to be created, to live, to grow in stature, wisdom, &c. to have their sight, their limbs, &c. so that Christ’s blessings extend as well to this life as that which is to come.
All God’s benefits for this life and the next, are indeed blessings: But Christ blessed not those children with any such worldly temporal blessings particularly; but gave them the blessing of God in general: and men are too presumptuous that will without due proof restrain that to some particulars which the Lord hath not restrained. We know that our blessedness from God in Christ, is our eternal salvation, Rom. 4:6. &c. It was his last farewell to his beloved disciples to lift up his hands and bless them, Luk. 24:50. and it is the sum of the Gospel, that in Abraham’s seed (that is Christ) all nations shall be blessed, Gal. 3:8. This grace Abraham’s infants had, this grace Christ gave to little children: and the same he vouchsafe to continue unto us and to our children throughout their generations: preserving us and them from the curse of Anabaptistry, whereby so many errors are sparsed, scriptures wrested, and souls perverted unto destruction.