Michael Harrison's Five Introductory Considerations, for the right understanding the Controversy
Michael Harrison (1640-1729), was a 17th Century Presbyterian Minister of the Gospel, who laboured for the Lord in Northampton and Cornwall, England.
His works include Christ's Righteousness Imputed and Infant Baptism God's Ordinance (or clear proof that all the children of believing parents are in the covenant of grace and have as much a right to baptism the now seal of the covenant, as the infant seed of the Jews had to circumcision, the then seal of the covenant). It is this latter treatise by Rev Harrison that we will be considering in a new series.
Rev Harrison sets out his argument under the following heads:
Five Considerations for the right understanding of Infant Baptism
Nine Arguments for Infant Baptism
Showing the doctrine of the Anabaptists makes all Infants to be part of the Visible Kingdom of Satan
Answering 13 objections of the Anabaptists
The right mode of Baptism
God willing we will set out each of the above heads and now begin with the Five Considerations.
Editor 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.
The First Consideration
Consider, that a doctrine or practice may be proved to be of God two ways:
(i) By the express words of Scripture; as the resurrection of the dead may be proved from such a text as cannot be denied by any that own the Scripture to be God's Word; as John 5.28. All that are in the grave shall come forth.
(ii) From evident consequences drawn from Scripture; then have we the mind of Christ, when we have the right meaning of Scripture; thus Christ proves the Resurrection to the Sadducees, Luke 20:37, 38. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord, The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Now this Scripture doth not prove the Resurrection in direct terms, but remotely, and by consequence. How little satisfaction would this text have given our Modern Anabaptists, if they had been present at the dispute between Christ and the Sadducees; would they not have reprov'd Christ for his impertinence? We will not believe the dead will rise, unless we have a plain text; would not these men have reported abroad that Christ could could not prove the Resurrection?
Thus they deal with us at this day; we challenge you, say they, to prove Infant Baptism to be God's ordinance; bring us a plain text, and we will believe. Now if we prove Infant Baptism as plainly as Christ proved the Resurrection, then it is certainly God's ordinance; and we are bound to own it.
Most we believe nothing but what we have totem verbis, in just so many words in Scripture? then how shall we prove the first day of the Week to be the Christian Sabbath? That a Woman may come to the Lord's Table? That a Christian may be a Magistrate?
The Second Consideration
Observe, that a mind prepossessed with error and prejudice, that is, not seeking truth, but only something to defend their present embraced opinions, will not be satisfied, let the text be never so clear, or the argument never so firmly built upon Scripture; but will still be inventing some shift or other to ward off the force of any text or argument.
This is evident in the example of the Sadducees aforementioned; we find indeed Christ silenced them, but we do not find so much as one of them convinced, and brought off to a sound mind. Men are generally so fond of their errors, that when they are beaten out of one hold, they fly to another.
The Third Consideration
Those Doctrines which were clearly revealed, and fully confirmed in the Old Testament, though little or nothing be said of them in the New Testament, and were never repealed, are yet to be owned, received and believed, as if much had been said of them in the New Testament; the whole Scripture is God's Word, and what need of proving the same thing twice, unless the authority of the Old Testament were questioned? this is evident in the lawfulness of a Christian Magistracy, in an Oath before a Magistrate, and making war upon a just occasion: There is so little said of these things in the New Testament, many of the Anabaptists have denied them; yet these being fully settled and confirmed by God in the Old Testament, are to be owned, though little be said of them in the New.
Now this is the case of Infant Baptism.
The Question is not by what Sign, but at what age, persons are to be admitted into the visible Church? Now this was fully determined in the Old Testament, that Infants at eight days old were to be admitted members of the Visible Church; and suppose little be said of it in the New Testament, it is because there was no need of it; this truth having been once settled in the Old Testament, and never repealed.
The Fourth Consideration
Those doctrines which were once thoroughly settled in the Old Testament, and never called in question by any in the New, there was no occasion given to speak of them again.
We find, that what was but darkly hinted in the Old Testament, and much questioned in the New, is fully cleared; and much is said of it, as that glorious doctrine of Justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This was very darkly hinted in the Old Testament, and very much opposed by legal preachers in the New Testa∣ment, therefore much is said in the New Testament to clear it.
But Infants right to the Covenant, or to Church-membership, there was much said of it in the Old Testament, and it was never denied or called in question by any in the Apostles days; they were settled, and had had peaceable possession of their privileges ever since Abraham's time.
Had any in the Apostles days scrupled in Infants right, very much would have been said of it; for the Jews, who tenaciously adhered to their old privileges, would never so silently have suffered their children to be cast out of covenant, without taking notice of it.
The Fifth Consideration
A doctrine may be very clear, the Scriptures brought to prove, and the Argument thence deduced clear and convincing; and yet it may remain dark to one that is incapable of discerning it. An object may be very obvious, and yet not well discerned, by reason the eye is clouded. How plain are the doctrines of the Trinity; the Divine Nature of Christ; Justification by Imputed Righteousness, &c. and yet many are so blind as not to see these things?
So the matter in debate, viz. that the Infants of believing parents have a right to baptism, is as clear to me as the other, yet many will not see it. The generality of Christians are but babes in knowledge, have but dark and confused apprehensions of the clearest truths in religion, and must needs be much more at a loss in what hath not that clearness and perspicuity in it.