William Attersoll's Badges of Christianity (7) - Of the Fourth Outward part of Baptism (The Body
The last outward part of baptism is a the body that is washed. For we have shown before, that the sacraments without their use are no sacraments. And albeit the word joined to the sign make a sacrament, yet this presupposes a minister to administer it, and receiver to take it: and then the rule is most certainly to be admitted. Now whether the whole body should be washed, or a part of the body: whether it should be washed once, or oftener: whether it should be dipped, or sprinkled: we are neither curiously to enquire, nor seriously to contend, nor rashly to determine: but rest in practice of the church, and in the custom of the country, as in a thing in it own nature indifferent. The dipping and plunging into the water used by John Baptist and the Apostles in Judea and such hot regions, are not a necessary rule to be drawn into imitation, especially in these cold quarters and countries.
But let us see who they are that have right and interest in baptism, and who are capable of this Sacrament. For not every one without respect, without difference, without distinction, is to be admitted to this privilege, because they are not fit receivers thereof. If a minister should take the outward element, and use the word of institution, baptizing in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: yet it can be no Sacrament, unless the receiver have warrant and authority to receive it. If he should baptize a stone, or an image, or a brute beast without reason and understanding, these are no fit receivers, here is an apparent and flat nullity: where by appears farther, the truth of the former rule, that besides the joining of the word to the outward sign, their is necessarily required a fitted person to be partaker of the sacrament.
To proceed, we must know that the receivers are such as are within the covenant and such as profess the truth, whether in truth or not, we leave to God, that searches the hearts and reins: let us not judge another man's servant, he stands or falls to his own master. Again, such as are born in the covenant are of two sorts. First, men and women of years: secondly, infants that are the seed of the faithful. For the faithful do believe for themselves and for others: as in bargains they contract for themselves and their heirs after them for ever. Although children cannot be said to be saved by their father's faith, no more then to live by the father's soul, inasmuch as the prophet teaches. That the just shall live by his own faith: yet the faith of the parents makes their children to be counted in the covenant, who by reason of their age cannot yet actually believe, as they that want all knowledge and understanding, not discerning the right hand from the left. Every man lives this temporal life by his own soul: so every man liveth the eternal life by his own faith. True it is, baptism is a common seal. But as all have not interest to the pasture, herbage, and privileges of a commons, but only such as are tenants according to the custom of the manor: so all have not title to baptize a Sacrament of the church, but only such as are the Lord's people according to the tenor of the covenant.
Touching the first sort of such as are to be baptized, they are men and women of riper years, who adjoin themselves to the church, testify their repentance, hold the foundation of religion, and confess their faith, as Act. 8, If thou believeth, thou shalt be baptized. The second sort, are infants within the covenant, which have both their parents, or one at the least faithful, as 1 Cor. 7:14. The unbelieving husband is sanctified to the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified to the husband, else were your children unclean, but now they are holy. Where the Apostle shows, that albeit a believer be unequally yoked and matched with an unbeliever: yet he is not to be forsaken, nor the marriage bed to be accounted polluted, inasmuch as their children are sanctified to God and the Church, as well as if they were born of both parents faithful. For so the children of the Israelites being of the posterity of Abraham, are included in the covenant of God. We are not curiously to enquire into the secret counsel and election of God: we must hold all the seed of the faithful holy, until they cut off themselves, and in process of time openly declare themselves to be strangers from the promises of salvation. Again, the same Apostle says in Rom. 11. If the first fruits be holy, so is the whole lump: if the root be holy, so are the branches. So likewise God testifies in Gen. 17. I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee. Such only were circumcised as were within the covenant.
Notwithstanding, they which were born of unbelieving parents and were strangers of the commonwealth of Israel, and aliens from the promises of salvation: if they acknowledged the errors in which they lived, and sought forgiveness of their former sins, were accounted the children of faithful Abraham, were admitted into the Church, and received circumcision, as the Apostles said to the jailor, humbled under the mighty hand of God, and desiring to be instructed in the way of salvation, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy whole household. So the Scripture testifies the like of Zacchaeus, when he had once received Christ into his house, nay which is more, into his heart: then Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come unto this house, for-asmuch as he is also become the son of Abraham. Thus when the Sun of righteousness shineth upon the head and master of the family, the beams thereof by a gracious influence begin to comfort and concern all the rest in the house: like the precious ointment upon the head of Aaron, that ran down upon the beard, and descended upon the borders of his garments: or like the dew that falleth from heaven upon Hermon and the Mountains of Sion,which goeth down into the valleys, and maketh all the plain country fertile.
The Uses of this Outward Part
The knowledge of this point offers diverse profitable uses to our consideration and consolation.
The First Use - The duty of Believers to be baptised.
First, it is the duty of all those that are within the covenant to give their bodies to be washed, and to receive that washing in the face and presence of the congregation. Let such as are of years desire and crave this Sacrament: let them claim this privilege: let them demand to be baptized, according to the example of the eunuch Act. 8, so soon as he was instructed in the faith of Christ by the preaching of Phillip, as he came to a certain water, he said of his own accord, See here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? And to the same purpose Acts. 22, Ananias stirred up Paul to this duty, saying, Why tarry thou? Arise and be baptised, and wash away thy sins.
The Second Use -The Condemnation of the Popish practice of "baptism of belles".
Secondly, this condemns the blind, ignorant, and superstitious practise of baptizing belles practised in the church of Rome, whereof now they begin to be ashamed, and seeking fig-leaves to cover their shame, they say they were not baptized, but only hallowed and consecrated to holy uses, as Bellarmine betakes himself to this shift, as to a place of refuge, Lib. 4, de pon. Rom. cap. 12. Where the Cardinal confesses, that the people call their solemn blessing and sprinkling with holy-water, the baptism of belles. And indeed what can it else be called and accounted. They give names unto them as to their children: they have Godfathers appointed unto them as children have when they are baptized and confirmed: they have new garments put upon them, as the persons baptized among them like wise have: it is also permitted only to the by shops suffragan, who exacts great sums of money for the baptizing of belles: they ascribe to them a spiritual power against storms and tempests, against thunder and lightning, against winds and evil spirits: Lastly, they sprinkle them with holy-water, bless them, cross them, and so horribly corrupt this Sacrament of baptism. Yea Durand a principal schoolman, not in the schools of the prophets but of the papists (a fit teacher of such schoolers) sets out solemnly the praises of belles, making them public preachers and drivers away of devils. But the devils are not feared and frayed away by sight of crosses, by sprinkling of water, by sound of belles and babies: This kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer, as our saviour teaches. And the Apostle wills every Christian to take unto him the whole armour of God, that he may be able to resist in the evil day. Stand therefore having your loins grided about with verity, and having on the breast plate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit, the preparation of the Gospel of peace, and the grace of prayer in the spirit. Here is the universal armour of God: here is the complete furnishing of a Christian Soldier: here is perfect direction given to understand, and to withstand the assaults of the devil: but among these, we have neither the sign of the cross, nor the hallowing of belles, nor the sound of such preachers, and therefore they are no part nor parcel of spiritual armour, to furnish us to go into the field against the enemies of our salvation. For evil spirits which fight against the soul are not driven away by hallowing of belles. If then, there were ever profanation of baptism, this may justly be judged to be one of the most vile and miserable corruptions thereof, to be detested of all true hearted Christians that groan under the burden of them.
The Third Use - The love of God to all Believers
Thirdly, we may see the great love of God to all believers, seeing he vouchsafes not only to be their God, but the God of their seed after them, as God himself promises to Abraham, Gen. 17. I will make my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, I will be their God: walk before me, and be thou upright. And ought we not to walk in the uprightness of our heart before this merciful and all sufficient God, Who thus abounds in kindness toward us, and the fruit of our body? Let us return unto him love for his love, who loved us first.
The Fourth Use - That Infants are to be baptised
Lastly, this teacheth that infants are to be baptized, and have as great right and interest in this Sacrament, as they which be in years, able to make confession of their faith. Of which we will intreat in the chapter following, where we will prove this truth by testimonies of the scriptures, and maintain it against the Anabaptists and other heretics that condemn the same.