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William Attersoll's Badges of Christianity (4) - The Outward Parts of Baptism (The Minister).


In this instalment from The Badges we begin Attersoll's treatment of the outward parts of baptism which are 4, namely:

1. The Minister,

2.The Word of Institution,

3. The Element, and

4. The Receiver.

Although these are outward parts, yet they are substantial and necessary parts.

We begin with the first outward part being: "The Minster".

Editor’s Note: The original work has been edited and re-formatted by the writer and it is hoped that such revisions have not detracted from the intent or meaning.

The First Outward Part - The Minister

The first is the minister, as the Ambassador of God sent out by him with authority to meddle in the matter of the sacraments, as appeareth by the ministry of John, by the commandment of Christ, and by the examples of the Apostles. The Baptist, when all men asked in their hearts, if he were not that Christ, said to them, Indeed I baptise you with water, but one stronger than I cometh, whose shoes latchet, I am not worthy to unloose. And in John 1.33 he saith, I am come baptising with water, I knew him not, but he that sent me to baptise with water, said to me, upon whom thou shalt see the spirit come down and tary still on him, that is he which baptises with the Holy Ghost. And Math. 28:19 Teach all nations baptising them. Now according to this commandment and commission, the Apostles went forth teaching and preaching to the people, and ministering the Sacraments to such as were converted to the faith, as we see in Acts, 2:38.


Notwithstanding, whereas Paul saith, Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the Gospel, 1 Cor, 1:17 it is not to be understood historically but comparatively. For his meaning is not simply to relate and set down his office whereunto he was called, but by conferring it with his preaching: as if he should say, This is not the chief and principal end of my calling and function to baptize, the high work of my ministry is to preach the Gospel. Indeed they are both of them parts of the ministers office, but this is the chiefest to labour in the word and doctrine, in regard of the greater gifts required, and of the fruit that flows and follows from thence to their hearers, it being the high ordinance of God to save such as believe.


That this is the Apostle's mind and meaning, appeareth by the words immediately ensuing, where he reckons up some whom he had baptized, which he would never have done or attempted without a calling. True it is, the dignity and force of baptism dependeth not upon the worthiness or excellency of the Ministers thereof, but on the authority and institution of God, who only remits sins, and baptises with the Holy Ghost. This appears by the example of such as cast out devils in Christ's name, of whom Christ saith, he knew them not. So Judas was sent out with the rest of the Apostles to teach and to preach the Gospel of the kingdom, and to heal every sickness and every disease among the people, yet he was the son of perdition that the Scripture might be fulfilled. The scribes and pharisees sit in Moses's chair. For this cause Christ himself would baptise no man John. 4:2, lest any should esteem of baptism by the worthiness or unworthiness of the Ministers. Nevertheless, if it is required that baptism be done and delivered by a Minister of the church, and one reputed so to be of the church, as may be confirmed by sundry reasons.


The First Reason - God has joined the ministry of the word and sacrament.


First, baptism is a part of the ministry, which none may undertake but such as are thereunto lawfully called. God has joined the ministry of the word and sacraments together: and what God hath coupled together, let no man separate, Math 19:6. But women or private persons may not be admitted to teach in the public assemblies in a true and well ordered church, 1 Cor 14:34, Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they ought to be subject, as also the law saith: and if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. And 1 Tim, 2, Let your women learn in silence with all subjection, I permit not a woman to teach, neither to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.


Likewise, the Apostle reproved the church of Thyatira, that it suffered a woman to teach among them, and to exercise the public ministry of the word, contrary to God's commandment and the practice of God's people. I confess, there have been prophetesses in the church, as Deborah, Huldah, Hannah, the four daughters of Phillip, with some others: but the examples are extraordinary, and therefore cannot make an ordinary case for imitation.


The causes hereof are direct and evident. For to teach publicly, is a token of authority and rule over others, in as much as the teacher is higher in place and authority then he that is taught, as Paul was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and as the less is blessed of the greater. Therefore, the woman should not be admitted to be a master in Israel, a teacher and instructor of men, as 1 Tim. 2, where the Apostle forbids them to teach publicly, and to usurp authority over the man, but requires of them to be in subjection, not to challenge dominion. Again, such is the frailness and weakness of that sex, that they are easier to be seduced and deceived, and so fitter to be authors of much mischief being the weaker vessels: therefore Paul having set down the doctrine that women should not take upon them to teach in the church, and so preach in the assembly of men, presently alleges this reason, that the woman was first deceived of the devil and was in the transgression: he made choice of her, and made her an instrument to beguile her husband.


The Second Reason - Only a Minister can offer and deliver with power and authority the outward sign.


Furthermore, the Minister represents God's person in this holy work, and therefore he only can offer and deliver with power and authority the outward sign, which answers fitly to the inward matter. Shall private persons usurp to be the Lord's messengers, to bring his letters and seals, not called, not allowed, not authorised? It cannot be without intruding of themselves and dishonour to God. As none can wash us from our sins but Christ only: so none can bear his person in the outward Sacrament of the inward washing, but he whom Christ himself hath appointed, if we will receive the benefit of the holy seal of baptism, for the assurance of our conscience that we are washed from our sins. And if the will and pleasure of a Prince, do make that only to be his seal, which he has set apart to seal his grants withal, so that albeit another be made right of the same matter, just of the same form and fashion, and in all points like unto it, no difference being to be seen between them, yet the same is none of the Prince's seal, but a counterfeit stamp: then now much more ought the known will of the eternal God (which is, that they only should minister the sacraments, that have a public calling and allowance thereunto) to have that authority, that no sacraments can be warranted to be his, but such as are signed by his officers. Again, suppose the Prince's seals should be stolen away, which he has appointed to seal his grants, and should be set by him that has no authority, not being the keeper thereof, there can by no means grow any assurance of comfort to the party that hath it applied to his writings: so if it were possible to be the seal of God which a woman should set to, yet for that she has stolen her patent, and used it contrary to God's commandment, I see not how any man can persuade his own heart by it to be partaker of a sacrament: but his comfort is weakened and impaired, and his conscience left in doubt and perplexity.

Moreover, this may yet farther appear by a comparison (a form of reasoning often used in the scripture) comparing different actions of things done by a calling, with such as are done without a calling, whereby we shall see that to have a lawful calling to do a thing, gives life, liking, and allowance unto the doing for we must, not only consider what is done; but also who is the doer. What is the reason that Joab captain of the host, killing Abner and Amasa two more righteous then himself, was reserved to judgement: whereas Phinehas killing Zimri and Cosbi, it was imputed unto him for righteousness? What is the reason that Peter is reproved for drawing his sword, and smiting the high priest's servant, being commanded to put up the sword, because so many as live with the sword shall perish with the sword: whereas the higher power which by God is said to be the minister of God, to take vengeance on him that doth evil, and not to bear the sword in vain? Was it not, that Phinehas was stirred up and called of God to do execution: but Joab was stirred up by the devil, to see and to seek his own revenge? Was it not, that Peter was a private man to whom God had said, Thou shalt not kill: but the Magistrate is ordained of God, to whom he hath said, Thine eye shall not pity him, whom I have appointed to die? Wherefore there is more to be marked of us then the deed that is done seeing the same deed performed by a person that has a calling is liked and lawful, the which done without a calling is ungodly and unlawful. This truth is so plain and apparent, that the Heathen poet doth acknowledge it.

Duo cumidem faciunt saepe vt possis dicere

Hoc licet impune facere huic, illi non licet:

Non quod dissimilis res sit, sed is qui facit.

That is.

Though two an act attempt in substance one, as doth befall,

Yet one we oft as lawful like, th'other unlawful call:

Not that the deed is differing, the doer is all in all.

So then, to say that a woman may minister baptism in cases of necessity, is all one, as if a man should say, that if there be no judge or magistrate at hand that will do his duty in executing justice against murderers and malefactors: that then a private man may take upon him to draw the sword out of the sheath to strike offenders. But as a private man, flaying a murderer, has himself committed murder, and not executed judgement, because he had no calling or commission thereunto, so such as without any warrant have taken in hand to baptise, have made a profane washing; and not administered any Sacrament of the Lord.

Reason Three - The Absurdity of permitting freedom for any person to administer baptism

Lastly, if it be not material who baptise; then if the friends or neighbours meeting together after the birth of a child, should carry the child to the church to be baptised and solemnly dedicated to Christ that died on the cross, if a private person preventing their purpose cast water on the infant and with all use the words of institution; the child should by this imagination be baptised and be carried no further to the Minister. Or, if no man of purpose pour on water, but it dash at unawares upon the face of the child, or if a shower of rain fall from heaven, and a private person speak the words of institution, it should likewise be baptism. Nay, which is more unreasonable and absurd, if it were ministered by a boy playing and in sport, if it were ministered by a fool or a mad man, if it were ministered by one that were not himself baptized, if it were by a Turk or infidel that is a sworn enemy by profession to baptism and to them that are baptised, yea if it were ministered by an Atheist that holds there is no God; yet it should be by this opinion a good, lawful, and perfect baptism. But seeing this cannot be so, we are not only to observe what is the deed done, but to consider who is the doer, and to provide it be done by the minister warranted by the church and called of God thereunto.


Objection - The Example of Zipporah the Wife of Moses


Before we come to the uses hereof, we will answer an objection from the example of Zipporah the Wife of Moses, who in case of necessity circumcised her son, and God departed from pursuing her husband to the death for omitting thereof. To this we may answer, that we must live by laws, not by examples which have no warrant. The question is not of the fact, but of the lawfulness of the fact.


Again, there is a difference between circumcision and baptism. For this falling out before the law, was more lawful, when circumcision was left more at liberty: yea under the law there was no special commandment given to the priests to circumcise, which should tie it to the priesthood. But Christ in the gospel hath appointed the same persons to be preachers of the gospel and ministers of the sacraments. Moreover, inasmuch as she did it, not in the absence but in the presence of her husband, and inasmuch as her heart was not upright, but filled with anger against God, with indignation against her husband, with murmuring and fretting against the institution of circumcision, casting the fore-skin with

great disdain upon the earth, regarding nothing less than to perform a good duty to God, railing upon and reviling Moses, the act cannot be lawful or approved. Furthermore it does not appear out of the scripture that Moses was sick (as some pretend) but it is most probable and likely, that Zipporah wanting discretion but not presumption, through her boldnes and hastiness prevented Moses, and adventured on the work, before the prophet could prepare himself unto it. Neither may we by the sequel and success conclude the lawfulness of her deed, as Bellarmine doth, because the angel ceased from vexing him, that therefore God was pacified, pleased, and appealed toward him. For the Heathen man condemns such as measure actions by the event, as by a false rule and deceitful measure. We see oftentimes evil works prosper, and evil works speed well in this world; The Assyrians that halted in the worship of God, and mingled his honor with Idols, were delivered from the lions that devoured them: yet their corrupt and confused religion pleased not God. Wherefore, we conclude, that whereas this woman administered circumcision, her example must not be drawn into imitation.


The Use of the Minister as one outward part of Baptism


Now, as the truth is plain and evident: so the use is profitable and comfortable.


First, if the Minister be one outward part of Baptism, then he must be ready and careful to perform his duty, which is, to wash the unclean body with water in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to call upon God, and to follow the institution of Christ, as it is left in the Scripture for his direction. For if there be the outward sign of baptism as the matter of the Sacrament, if there be a party to be baptized which is the receiver, and if there be a Minister to administer it: yet unless he perform his duty, there can be no baptism. So then we must know that the actions of the Minister are double:


  1. There is required of him a sanctifying of the water: The sanctifying of the water, is the seperation and appointing of it by the word and prayer to this use to signify the blood of Christ.

  2. There is required a washing of the party. The outward washing is a certain pledge unto us of our inward washing by the blood and spirit of Christ.


Secondly, if it be the office of the Minister to baptise: then this gives direction and instruction to the people to whom to repair and resort when they have any children to be baptised. It is required of them to have recourse to the Ministers as to the officers of God. We see in the affairs of the common-wealth, and in passing conveyances of houses, of lands, and of inheritances, how careful and circumspect men are to pass them where they ought to be passed, and in such courts, and under such officers as are authorised for such purpose, that there may be no error committed in the conveyance. For whatsoever is done and passed before him that has not his patent to warrant his practise, is held to be void and frustrated by masters of that profession. In like manner it stands us all upon, when a matter of an higher nature and of greater importance is in hand, then the sealing and assuring of temporal possessions, to look carefully to the diligent performance of this special duty, that the signing of our infants and sealing them in the covenant, be made by the hands of such officers as are appointed by God for that purpose, and by no other.


Thirdly, this condemns the abuse and profanation of the Sacrament of baptism in the Church of Rome, where women, midwives, and private persons without any commandment of God, nay contrary to his word, take upon them this part of the Ministers office to baptise children, which they have received from the heretic Marcion who gave women power to baptize, which Epiphanius teaches, the holy mother of Christ was not permitted to do. Such then as usurp this calling and approve thereof, never knew the force of our adoption in Christ, nor the strength of the covenant, nor that the elect are saved by the good pleasure and will of God. Therefore, there is not that absolute necessity of baptism to salvation which many suppose, that for this supposed necessity, the ordinance of God should be broken and profaned. And a man may marvel, why at such times, they did not rather commit the matter to private men to baptize than to woman (whose sex is further removed from execution of this office) not only because they be uncalled and private men, but even because they are women, and thereby are wholly incapable (though otherwise qualified) of any public charge or function in the church, they are commanded to sit still, and to be quiet.


Besides, if in time of this extremity and necessity which is imagined, it be permitted them to minister baptism: why should it not be suffered in like necessity and danger of death, that they minister the Lord's Supper, and preach the Gospel, (in case they be able and men unable or unwilling) the dignity of the one sacrament being no less then the other, and the excellency of the word being as great as of them both? If then women may justly be condemned, when they shall presume to sit down in the chair of Moses, or to minister the Supper of the Lord: they cannot be justified if they usurp to minister baptism. For, shall we make a shameful and double divorcement of those things that God hath coupled, between the word and sacraments, and likewise between the one sacrament and the other? This is to great contumely and contempt offered to baptism, to allow it in those, that may neither publicly preach, nor lawfully minister the Lord's Supper: seeing their warrant to practise the one, is no greater than to do the other. Wherefore, let all private persons and midwives consider with themselves the fearful examples recorded in the Scripture, of such as have rashly presumed to profane the holy offices of the church, and how God hath often visited this great sin with grievous judgements, sometimes with fire from heaven, sometimes the earth opening her mouth, sometimes with sudden death, and sometimes with the most filthy disease of the leprosy, whereby as by his voice from heaven, he thundered down upon men's disobedience, and so ratifies this law of the necessity of a vocation calling forever. Corah, Dathan, and Abiram taking upon them the priest-hood without a cal∣ling, fire from heaven came down consuming Corah and his company: the earth also opened and covered Dathan and Abiram, that they were swallowed up alive: none of them died the common visitation of other men, but God wrought a strange work upon them, and altered the course of nature: which ought to be a perpetual instruction and direction unto us, to teach us not to pervert or subvert that order, which God hath established to continue in his church. Hitherto belongeth that which is writen of Uzzah, who was smitten with sudden and unexpected death, only for that beyond the bounds of his calling he put forth his hand to hold up the Ark which did shake and was ready to fall, which was lawful for the Levites only to meddle with, although his intent and purpose were never so good: so that if the unlawful intruders upon baptism pretend cases of necessity, here seemed as great a necessity, yea his mind and meaning was as good as theirs, yet it displeased God, because it was done without his word and warrant. So Azariah was striken with leprosy, that he was a lepor to the day of his death, for that not being content with his kingly office, he would take upon him the priest's office to burn incense unto the Lord. These worthy examples of God's most severe judgements executed upon the breakers of this ordinance, ought to strike such a fear into our hearts, that we suffer not the sacred functions and offices of the church to be profaned, and to teach us that every one meddle only with the approved duties of his own calling. And although God does not now execute judgement from heaven, and work strange things in the earth in extraordinary manner, when his ordinances are broken: yet the sin is not thereby lessened, nor the punishment mitigated, nor the hand of God shortened, but stretched out still, though judgement according to desert be deferred: my rather the greater wrath is reserved for his adversaries, to the great day of account, when all flesh shall appear before the throne of his glorious presence. For if the profaners of the sign of the sacraments of the Old Testament did not escape, but were thus sharply and severely punished: our sacraments established by the Lord Jesus are not of less value or worthiness, so that the contempt of them shall be visited with sorer judgments.

And if God did strike with his revenging hand private men when they sinned in abusing the sacraments, and spared not kings in the pride of their hearts: how should women standing a degree off, and barred from the office by a stronger bolt, enter into the house at a window, and not be accounted as thieves and robbers? So that we conclude, that the necessity of a calling is as great as the necessity of baptism. And thus much of the first outward part of baptism, namely the minister.