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An Antidote Against Anabaptism - John Reading. Part 1: Infants of Christian Parents ought to be Bapt

John Reading (1588-1667) was a conforming English Puritan who was appointed by the Westminster Assembly to be one of nine commissioned to write annotations on the New Testament (which were published in ‘Annotations upon all the Books of the Old and New Testament 1645).

Here we begin a presentation of John Reading's: 'Antidote against Anabaptism, in a Reply to the plea for Anabaptists.'

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.
What is Baptism?

I need not be long in describing this sacrament; only I say that baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, succeeding circumcision the seal of the Old, appointed by Christ for our inlet into his Church, our implantation into Him, and the similitude of his death and resurrection, in which the water sanctified by the Word, represents the blood of Christ, seals and exhibits to the elect all the benefits of his inestimable merits, death, passion, and resurrection, to our regeneration, remission of sins, and cleansing our bodies and souls from them all; though not presently so, that we have no sin; yet so, as that believing in Christ we have no guilt of original or actual sin imputed to us to condemnation: for the water, by the ordinance of God, touching the body, the Spirit of Jesus baptises body and soul. Hence Baptism is said to save us, 1 Pet. 3:21.

The end of Baptism is, that being baptised we might be illuminated; being illuminated, we might be adopted sons of God; being adopted, we might be perfected, that we may become immortally blessed. In our being baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we do as it were, by a solemn oath or covenant, declare and protest, that we are wholly devoted to one God in trinity of unity; and God on his part herein testifies, that by this seal of his covenant, he receives us into the participation of his free mercies in Christ, and into the holy communion of his Church, the body of Christ, 1 John. 5:7, 8.

The Protestant Church holds, that the subject of baptism are all they who either are, or (professing faith, repentance, &c.) desire to be admitted into the Church and covenant of God: and that infants of Christian parents, being within the same, ought to be baptised, forasmuch as the covenant and promise of God is to parents and their children.

The Pelagians and Donatists (long since condemned of heresy by the Church) and now again of late, the Anabaptists deny the baptism of children to be lawful, until they come to years that they may be taught, and profess their faith, and repentance, and desire of baptism, upon these and the like grounds:


Objection 1

Christ saith Go therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: therefore teaching must go before baptism; and consequently infants may not be baptised before they be taught.

Unto which we answer,

1. That in the cited place there was not intended an exact and complete model of Christ's commission to the Apostles; for there is no mention of the Lord's Supper: Christ only names the two more usual things for making or initiating disciples for the gathering of a Church, that is, teaching for them who were capable, thereof, and baptising for them and their children not yet capable of doctrine; that having their names given unto Christ, and being admitted into his school, they might as they grew up to capacity, be instructed concerning the mysteries of salvation in Christ: neither was this the first institution of baptism; for when Christ spake these words, he was about to ascend up into heaven: he had some years before that time appointed baptism among the Jews converted to the faith, and confirmed it by his own reception of baptism, not that he needed it, or had any sin to be washed away therein; but to sanctify the element of water by his sacred body, to the use and end of baptism; that is, to appoint for us a laver of regeneration: and in the cited place (being to leave the world) he enlarged the commission of baptism on the receivers part; as if he had said, Hitherto ye were not to go into the way of the Gentiles, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel: but now go and call the Gentiles also, go baptize and teach all nations the mysteries of the Gospel, as I have taught you: now therefore the order and laws of baptism are not hence to be derived.

2. Christ then sent his disciples to convert and baptise those Gentiles, who possibly had not so much as heard of Christ, much less of faith in him, and baptism into his Church: it was necessary therefore that the Apostles should first instruct them what they were to do in baptism, and why: but when the parents were baptised and instructed, so that there were churches settled among the Gentiles; then their children were also to be baptised into the same covenant of God, which runs to covenanted parents and their children; which before their parents sealing and admission into Christ's Church might not be: so that (as has been often noted) we must distinguish between a Church to be constituted and settled, and a constituted or settled Church: as also between persons of years, and infants presented to baptism. In a Church to be constituted and converted from Judaism or Paganism, those that are of years must necessarily first be taught, and afterward baptised; but in a constituted or settled Church, infants are first to be baptised, and then to be taught when they are able to learn: no otherwise was it in circumcision which was the former seal of the same covenant and righteousness of faith, into which we are now, under the Gospel, baptised. When Abraham according to God's commandment, came to circumcise the men of his family, doubtless he first instructed them, and preached to them the reason, use, and end of that sacrament, according as the Lord said, Gen. 18:19. I know him that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord: but when Isaac was born, he did not expect till he was come to years of discretion to learn, but circumcised him on the eighth day, Gen. 21:4.

3. In the cited place, the word μαθητεύω signifies also make disciples; which was to gather a Church both by preaching the Gospel, and administration of baptism, the sacrament of initiation, and first entrance of infants thereto. So these two means are expressed in the very next words of Christ that is, baptising them in the name of the Fa∣ther, Son, and Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded. Some do well observe that μαθητεύω is to teach them that are strangers to doctrine, that they may become disciples (and so in any human school also, schoolers are entered or admitted, before they are therein taught,) but μαθητεύω signifies to teach them that are disciples. So Matt. 27:57 it is said of Joseph of Arimathea, μαθητεύω who also was Jesus's disciple. And so the same word is expounded John. 4:1 to make disciples—the Pharisees heard that Jesus made and baptised more disciples than John. So that here appears no such necessity of the order (by our adversaries pretended to) as can conclude that none may be baptised, but such as are first taught.

4. If the order of those words must determine the order of the actions, then by the same reason, repentance must be before faith; for Mark. 1:15. it is said, Repent ye and believe the Gospel. So Rom. 10. 9. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, &c. thou shalt be saved. Does it follow therefore a man may make confession of Christ with his mouth to salvation, before he believes in him in his heart? and indeed if the order of words may determine in what order we must act in this business, then from other places of Scripture it may be concluded that baptism must precede teaching, as Mark. 1:4. John did baptise in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance, and Matt. 28:19, 20. when Christ had said—baptising them, &c. he presently infers teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded. So John. 3:5. the water is named before the Spirit, and Eph. 5:26. the washing of water, that is, of baptism, is named before the word.

5. Christ doth not in the cited place, in one syllable prescribe or limit the Apostles, whom they should baptise, and whom not, but only enjoins that they baptise all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all those things which he had formerly taught them: his principal end being there to command them to preach and to set to the seal of the Gospel-covenant; mentioning no particulars, but intimating, that all those that were of capacity should be taught; and that those that were not of present understanding (yet if born of such persons as had given their names to Christ) should be admitted to the seal of the righteousness of faith in Christ, that they might be instructed when, and as they were able to learn.


Objection 2

There are two conditions of baptism, believe and repent, which seeing infants, as such, cannot do, their baptism ought to be deferred until they can.

We answer,

1. These are the conditions, if the question were concerning persons of years to be baptised; but it is concerning infants, on whom no such condition is, or can reasonably for the present, be laid.

2. The argument is impious and ridiculous, as if one should say, the condition of eating is labouring, which seeing infants cannot do, let their eating or feeding be deferred till they can. The Apostle saith, If there be any that will not labour, let him not eat, 2 Thess. 3:10. Who (of any sense) does not understand that of those that can, and will not? and why not so in believing and repenting, seeing that God requires impossibilities neither in things temporal nor spiritual?

3. As in the baptism of those who are of years, a previous faith is required, so is a subsequent faith of those who are baptised infants, which if they afterward have not, they forfeit the benefit of the seal which they received.

4. Though infants, as such, cannot have actual faith, yet have they the seeds thereof in baptism, covered or shut up in the habitual beginning of grace, which Christ both can, and doth work in them. Nor is it simply necessary that the sacraments should in the same moment in which they are administered, effect all things which they figure or represent—yea a dilatory paction has place, when in the making thereof there is some invincible let to present performance, as want of the present use of reason is to infants faith, repentance, and obedience to the Gospel, unto which they are by covenant bound in their baptism: and indeed to be within the covenant gives the infant a just capacity to the seal of the same: Now infants of believing and baptised parents are within the Covenant, Gen. 17:7. Act. 2:39.


Objection 3

Christ was not baptised in his infancy, although the deity hypostatically united, dwelt in him fully; but deferred the same until he was about 30 years of age: therefore what ever habitual faith or seeds of grace can be pretended to for infants, they ought not to be baptised until they come of years to know what they do.

We answer,

1. Christ requires not that we should imitate him in all that he did, which is proposed to us for doctrine, but not for imitation: for example, he was both circumcised (as being of the seed of Abraham under the law, the righteousness whereof he was to perform, Mat. 3:15) and also baptised: if we should be so, Christ should profit us nothing, Gal. 5:2.

2. The time was not come at the birth of Christ, for the repealing of the seals of the ceremonial law, nor was the seal of the new Covenant to be instituted until the time drew near wherein he was to publish it by preaching the Gospel, and accomplishing the great work of our redemption in his blood: therefore he that was Saviour both of Jews and Gentiles, was circumcised in his infancy, and baptised as soon as that sacrament was instituted.

3. They that herein require imitation of Christ, intimate a necessity of deferring baptism until the age of 30 years,which our antagonists (that I know of) do not practise.

4. A bare example without a precept doth not bind to imitation: Christ administered the communion with unleavened bread after supper, in an upper room to twelve men only and no women: but seeing we find no precept in the Gospel which commands us to do the same, we believe we are not bound by that example. There was neither neglect, contempt, nor danger in so long delaying Christ's baptism; there must needs be some of all these in the delay of our children's baptism: Christ had no sin, but we have both Original and Actual: he not only foreknew, but foreordained (as God) the manner and time, as of his nativity, so also of his death: we neither know nor can appoint the time of our departures hence; therefore we may not defer our children's baptism; they may suddenly die.

5. Christ would not before that age be baptized, and enter into his public ministry, among other causes, for this al∣so, that the truth hereof might answer the type preceding in the Levitical Priests, who although they were received into the College of Priests at five and twenty, yet were they not admitted to exercise their ministry until they were thirty years old, Numb. 4:3.


Objection 4

The Lord's Supper may not be given to infants, by reason of their incapacity: on the same ground neither ought baptism the other sacrament.

We answer, that the reason why we may not administer the Communion to infants, is because God hath given an express command,—Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup— And there follows a dreadful reason,—For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body: Now infants can neither examine themselves, nor discern the Lord's body, because they cannot understand the institution, end, use and condition of that sacrament: Therefore we do not administer it unto them until they can be instructed therein. No such limitation can be shown concerning baptism; for though faith and repentance be mentioned as conditions of baptism and remission of sins, and salvation to persons of years; yet the case is far otherwise with infants, who though they cannot (as such) actually believe and repent, yet we doubt not of their remission of sins and salvation: neither could those infants who were circumcised actually be∣lieve and repent, yet that barred them not from the seal of the same righteousness of faith. Again, that which is said Mark 16:16, is very considerable (as has been noted). He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that be∣lieveth not shall be damned: It shows that the condition of believing is proposed to persons of years, who may be∣lieve, or obstinately reject the Gospel, which infants (as such) cannot do: and therefore it cannot for present concern them, without involving them all in the sentence of damnation; which opinion were damnable and Antichristian, Christ having positively pronounced for them—Of such is the Kingdom of God: To Infants, to be born within God's Covenant, and to receive the seal thereof obliging them to future faith, repentance and obedience, is instead of all these. Lastly, baptism is the seal of initiation, entrance and admittance into the Church; that therefore we give infants, that when they shall be capable of the Sacrament of Confirmation (the Lord's Supper) they may receive that also.


Objection 5

The Spirit acknowledges no other means of regeneration than the incorruptible seed, the Word of God, 1 Pet. 1:23. which seeing infants cannot receive, they cannot be regenerate; therefore their Baptism is effectless to regeneration.

We answer, the major appears false by Titus 3:5. St. Peter speaks there only of those believers who had been taught by the preaching of the Gospel, comprehending under it the seal thereof, baptism, the laver of regeneration, which is taught in that word as a means of regeneration.


Objection 6

Faith must go before the sign or seal thereof as Abraham believed first, and then received the seal, circumcision; therefore until infants can actually believe, they must not be baptized.

We answer, that if we speak of persons of years, they must first believe, or make profession of their faith; because by baptism they are to be admitted into the Covenant of God, and communion of his Church, to which they were formerly aliens and strangers: But it holds not in infants born of Christian parents, they being already within the Covenant and Church, and so having present right to the seal thereof: so in Isaac's circumcision at eight days old, the seal went long before the faith or profession thereof.


Objection 7

God brings not the blind into his Covenant, but enlightens them, that they may know the will of God for their salvation: but infants, as such, are not capable of illumination; therefore they are not to be baptised.

We answer:

1. God calls the poor, maimed, halt, and lame unto the great supper, that is the Communion of Christ, Luke 14:21.

2. The Greek Divines were wont to call baptism, illumination; and it can be no less than impious presumption to affirm, that God does not in the baptism of elect infants, secretly infuse such a light as he knows sufficient to their salvation; seeing that it is certain, that as God dwells not in all that know him, Rom. 1:21. so neither do all those presently know him in whom he dwells by the spirit of illumination and regeneration (until they have received such a further measure of the Spirit which is of God, that they may know the things which are freely given to them of God, 1 Cor. 2:12.) which appears, in that elect chil∣dren are saved; which, without the spirit of regeneration, none can be, John 3:3, 5. and doubtless the soul of an infant in God's divine presence in heaven, has therein more illumination then the most knowing mortal in the world hath.

3. Neither did the Apostles themselves presently understand all these things necessary to salvation which Christ taught them; neither did he propose doctrines to them above their present capacity: I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now: He patiently expected their future abilities; with a—What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know,—John 13:7. which both Peter and the rest had experience of, when the promised Comforter taught them, and brought all things to remembrance which Jesus had said unto them, and the Spirit of Truth guided them into all truth; and shall we not believe that God will graciously bear with an infants present defect of understanding, which himself gives him by degrees, and in such measure and time as his self appoints?

4. As faith and confession sufficed the penitent thief, without baptism; so baptism, the seal of the righteous∣ness of faith and repentance suffices an elect infant, dying without confession of faith, and actual repentance; and the living, until he come of age and ability to know and make profession.


Objection 8

With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, Rom. 10:10. But infants can do neither of these; therefore they profane the holy seal, who give it to them who cannot be profited thereby.

We answer.

1. The same might have been objected against circumcision, where the seal sufficed, until the sealed came to years and ability to believe and confess.

2. The Apostles speaks there concerning persons of years, it nothing concerns infants, as such.

3. If giving the seal to those who cannot be profited thereby, be profanation of the same, how often do you profane the holy seal? How can any mere man know whom to baptise, though of years, and whom to put by? None can foresee men's final estates but God alone. We know that Judas and Simon Magus were baptised, though whatsoever they confessed with their mouth, 'tis certain they did not believe with their heart unto righteousness. Did their baptisers profane baptism? If not, how maliciously is this objected against us, baptising infants of believers, Christ himself expressly avowing them as subjects of his Kingdom?


Objection 9

The seals of the New Testament are perfect and spiritual: but infants are carnal; and, The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2:14. Therefore these seals agree not to, and with infants present incapacity.

We answer, the Apostle there speaks concerning the understanding of divine mysteries, not comprehension of profane and carnal men: Now infants being carnal, as born of flesh, want regeneration, that they may become spiritual, and enter into the Kingdom of God; and because they are by corrupted nature imperfect, therefore they ought to be admitted to the ordinary means by God appointed to make them perfect.


Objection 10

The Apostle bids us, draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water, Heb. 10. 22. Which seeing infants cannot for present do, the washing of their bodies with the pure water of baptism belongs to others who can have a good conscience, not to them.

We answer, the Apostle there shows, what we who are baptised, and of age ought to do, and with what confidence, not who ought to be baptised; and so it nothing concerns infants till they come of age.


Objection 11

Baptism which saves us, is with the testimony of a good conscience: this infants cannot have who have no knowledge; Therefore infants ought not to receive that baptism which cannot save them.

We answer,

1. The Apostle speaks not there of the subject of baptism, but of the fruits and effects thereof in those who are of ripe years; the fruits which indeed elect infants, if living, shall here reap in due time; and into which they are for present sealed: Now the outward administration of the sign of the covenant (concerning which our present question is) is one thing, and the inward effect thereof another: As it is also in the Word preached, the administration must be indifferently to all, Mark 16:15, whether stony, thorny, highway, or good ground, God's seeds men must diligently sow; the fruit and efficacy will be to believers only, Heb. 4:2. but that no mere man can foresee.

2. What illumination infants have by the secret working and influence of God's holy Spirit, belongs to God's secret counsel, and therefore not to our inquest.

3. Sanctification, more then ecclesiastical, in order of time does not always precede the seal and sacrament thereof, as may be proved from infant circumcision, but by the sacrament which implants us into Christ, and which is therefore the washing of regeneration and renovation, the seeds of faith, sanctity, and good conscience are sowed in us, which by a powerful and secret working of the Holy Ghost, shows itself in due season; without which work of the Spirit, the Gospel most powerfully preached, and sacraments duly administered to the most knowing men and women, could bring forth no better effects, than a savour of death, unto death and condemnation: Seeing then the effect to sanctification and salvation is neither in the minister, nature of the water, and washing therewith, but in the ordinance of God; nor in the capacity or ability of the most prudent sons of men, but in the sole working of God's gracious Spirit; why should any rest in opere operato, the work it self done? or deny it to any within the Church, needing regeneration, that they may be saved?


Objection 12

Christ joins these two together, teach and baptise; and, believe, repent, and be baptised: But infants are not capable of faith and repentance; therefore they ought not, as such, to be baptised.

We answer,

Here is an Ignoratio Elenchi [missing the point] in the mistake of the question; which is not, whether that teaching ought to be divided from baptism, which we affirm not: but the contrary; persons of years ought first to be taught to believe and repent, and then to be baptised: but our question is not concerning the baptism of adults, or persons capable of these things for the present, but of infants; here again the question is mistaken, and therefore such disputes are fallacious. It is true, the water without the Word can make no sacrament, nor give any sacramental effect; therefore neither young nor old may be baptised, where the Gospel is not first preached and received: For baptism is a seal of the Gospel; but believing parents have been taught, received the Gospel, and been sealed into God's Covenant; therefore they ought to present their children to baptism, who are joint covenanters with them. Again, baptism is administered with the words of institution by Christ appointed; take away the Word, and what is the water but ordinary water? The Word is added to the element, and makes the sacrament. What is this so great virtue of the water, that it but touches the body, and cleanses the heart, but by the Word; not because it is spoken, but because it is believed. Moreover, though God taught Abraham concerning the sacrament of circumcision, and so he was circumcised and all his males, yet he circumcised Isaac at eight days old; and so long before that word of faith could be preached to Isaac, he received the same sacrament and seal of the same righteousness of faith in Christ, in whom believing we also are saved. Men of ripe years were first instructed concerning the institution, end and use of circumcision, and then received the seal; but infants (as such, not capable of instruction) first received the seal of faith; and if they lived to years, then they were taught, yet the Word and the seal were not parted in either: So is it in infant baptism now.


Objection 13

Those Infants whom Christ blessed, and of whom he pronounced, Theirs, or, Of such is the Kingdom of heaven; were such as were fit to be taught: And Christ in the persons of children, blesses those that were such in humility and innocency, not in age.

We answer, 'tis true, that in their persons Christ commended humility and innocency; and also showed their interest in the kingdom of heaven, saying, of such is the King∣dom of Heaven; that is, of such persons, and of persons of such quality; for he proposes infants for a pattern: Now as they are called παιδίον, which sometimes signifies a son or servant of years; yet not always, as common use of that word shows, Matt. 2:13, 14, 20. Luke 2:21, &c. so are the same called παιδίον, Luke 18:15. which without controversy properly signified infants lately born; as Luke 2:12, 16, Acts 7:19, 1 Pet. 2:2. new born babes; and sometimes children in the womb; as Luke 1:41, 44. that which is said, 2 Tim. 3:15. βρέφος: From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, is as much as the Greeks proverbially said; and the Latins, à teneris unguiculis, from thy tender years; that is, so soon as it was possible for thee to learn: so Psal. 58:3. The wicked are estranged, רֶחֶם from the womb, they go astray בֶּטֶןab utero, as soon as they are born speaking lies: So Psal. 22:9. Thou didst make me hope, אֵם when I was upon my mothers breasts; that is, very soon, very young. The Syriac, 2 Tim. 3. 15. translates 'from a child' (from thy tender years, so soon as it was possible for thee to learn) by a word indifferently signifying infancy, childhood, or youth; but that Luke 18: 15. the same render by the word which signifies infants, 1 Tim. 2:15. Acts 7: 19, 1 Pet. 2:2. and Mark 10:16. it is said that Christ took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them— which shows, that they were little portable children; had they been of man's growth, though never so humble or innocent, they would have been too heavy to have been carried in the arms. Last∣ly, there can be no rational doubt, but that he blessed infants, properly so called, who took on him infancy to save them: nor may we think that they are less then blessed of Christ, who are saved by his blood, as infants are.


Objection 14

That which God commands not in some express precept concerning his worship, is not any better then man's invention, will-worship, and may not be done: but infant baptism is no where in scripture commanded in any express precept; Therefore it is no better than man's invention, will-worship, and may not be done.

We answer,

1. By demanding, quanta est major Proposition [what is the major premise] if it be universal, the sense running thus, all that is will-worship, which is not commanded in some express precept; it is evidently false: for there is no express precept for many things left arbitrary, and falling under the rule of decency and order, which yet are not will-worship.

Next we say, that the substance and institution of God's worship, must have an express precept for it, or it will fall under the notion of will-worship; but in the circumstances and accidents it is not always so; for example, had not Christ somewhere commanded to baptise, it had been will worship for any man to have instituted that sacrament: but though Christ say nowhere baptise children at seven days, six months, seven years; or though he say nowhere baptise women; yet neither of these are will worship, because the substance and institution of baptism is grounded on his express command; age and sex are accidents.

Lastly, If the major proposition be particular, the rule is well known, of mere particulars nothing is concluded.

2. There was an express command for the sealing of Abraham's sons in their generations, in their infancy, Gen. 17:7. &c. and believers are expressly the sons or children of Abraham, Gal. 3:7. that is, his spiritual seed, who have no less privilege in things belonging to salvation, then his carnal seed. And the Apostles who were Jews and brought up amongst them, who were sealed in their infancy, did not (that we read of) so much as ask Christ any question what they were to do with Infants: and Christ giving them no prohibition concerning them, he did thereby sufficiently intimate, that he having not repealed the law of sealing infants into his covenant, would have them proceed accord∣ing to the analogy of the first seal of his covenant. The greater doubt might possibly have been concerning baptising of females, who were not formerly sealed, the doubt concerning the Gentiles sealing, being removed by an express precept, baptise all nations, Mat. 28:19.

3. On this very ground on which Anabaptists deny infant baptism, the old Sadduces denied the resurrection of the dead, because they found it not expressly written in the books of Moses, which only, they received. See what has been answered to the pleader near the end.

4. Although we read not in terminis, and so many words and syllables in holy scripture, baptise infants, yet we read it in most firm and evident consequence, if we but hold these three certain conclusions. 1) That children are conceived and born in sin, the children of wrath. 2) That God would not have them perish, but rather be brought into the holy communion of Christ and his Church, that they may be saved. 3) That he has appointed no other external ordinary means, to us known, for infants regeneration, but baptism.

5. If the matter must be put upon express words of scripture, let our antagonists show us where they are expressly forbidden to baptise infants? where is there any syllable express, or probable for re-baptising any? where have they any express precept for dipping over head and ears? where have they any express precept for their long prayers, for baptizing women, or administering the communion to them? show us any express precept for the change of the Sabbath.


Objection 15

That which we read not expressly mentioned in scripture that the Apostles did, that we may not do: but we read not in express words in scripture, that the Apostles ever baptised infants, therefore we may not baptise them.

We answer,

1. If your principle were true, it might thence be concluded, that the Lord's Supper may not be administered to women, for we no where read in express words, that the Apostles ever administered it unto them.

2. Express words in scripture are not always necessary to prove a thing which necessary consequence does conclude: we have no express words in scripture naming an holy unity, in trinity and trinity in unity, most undeniable consequence we have Mat. 28:19, and 1 John 5:7. Again, we have no express word that the Apostles were baptized; for Christ himself baptised none, John. 4:1. &c. and we read not where, or when John Baptist baptised them; yet certainly they were baptised: we read not expressly that the Apostles in baptising mentioned the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; but most certain consequence concludes it; because Christ so appointed it, and it was of the essence of the sacrament: and why should we more tie the baptism of infants to express words, then any of these fundamental things are tied? and on the like consequential grounds, why should we doubt whether the Apostles did indeed usually baptise infants of Christians, because it is not expressly written; seeing that many other words, matters, and actions of the Apostles, and Christ himself, were not written?

3. Christ expressly commanded to baptize all nations, in no one syllable, title, or word therein excepting infants, who are and ever were a great and numerous part thereof: and that which concerns all alike, concerns every part thereof.


Objection 16

When Peter was asked what was needful to be done for the Jews pricked at heart, Acts. 2:37, 38. he said, repent and be baptized: but infants can neither actually repent, nor contribute any thing towards their baptism: therefore they ought not to be baptized. And again, Matt. 3 they confessed their sins and were baptized, which infants cannot do.

We answer,

1. Forasmuch as infants cannot actually (as such) repent or confess, it concludes that these things for the present, concern not infants; (for no impossibility is reasonably enjoined any) but belong to persons of years, or those who were not yet sealed into the communion of Christ's Church, and it is apparent that unto such Peter spake: as far as his words concerned infants is also express, —be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins—for the promise is to you and to your children; What promise? why that of Gen. 17:7. To what children was that promise made? what, to those who had been children, but were now of years to be taught, believe and repent? No, but to those first who were to be sealed the eighth day after they were born; who certainly could then no more actually believe, or repent, then can our infants now: therefore 'tis plain to those who will understand, that persons of years to be taught, must first repent, &c. but infants, to whom the promise, covenant, or seal thereof jointly belongs, must be sealed as joint-covenanters with their parents, before they can actually believe or repent: for why else after this exhortation to repentance and baptism, does he mention their children? were they no ways liable to this double precept, repent and be baptized every one of you? who? they only who can actually for the present repent? nay, but Peter knew well that children of whom he spake, could not do that, by reason of their present want of the use of reason: yet he knew they had need of remission of sins by Christ, and that the promise of God was made to them (without which it were but vain for men to seal) and as firmly concerned them, as their enchurched parents, and therefore he mentioned them.


Objection 17

There appears neither act nor habit of regeneration in infant baptism, until they be taught the Word; neither any more promptitude to learn it, then is in unbaptized children coming to years; therefore their baptism is effect∣less, and consequently unlawful.

We answer,

1. The Kingdom of God comes not with observation, Luke 17:20, and the internal acts of the Spirit are secret: for what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is within him, 1 Cor. 2:11.

2. If outward appearance be a good argument to the denying of internal acts and habits; you might by the same medium as well conclude that infants are not reasonable creatures: infants inspired by God's Spirit may be said to be believers, as they are said truly to be rationals; that is, actuprimo, non second [first act not the second act]: and they confess and avouch the Lord, in their parents avouching of him, as appears, Deut. 26:16, 17, 18. Deut. 29:9-15.

3. It is not true, that baptised infants have no more promptitude to learn the mysteries of salvation when they come to years to be taught, then other unbaptised children, have caters paribus [other things being equal]: for the Holy Ghost doth not desert his own ordinance in the elect; though for causes very just, yea, when most unknown to us, it does not always alike show its power: as for the reprobate, the seal or administration of man can nothing profit him who abuses it, and where God ever denies inward baptism by his Holy Spirit of sanctification.


Objection 18

Reprobates who cannot be profited by baptism, ought not to be baptised, lest we add to their condemnation: but of infants some are such, and we cannot say which of them, offered to baptism is elect, and which not: therefore seeing we cannot distinguish them, nor can they express themselves, we ought not to baptize them until they can.

We answer, if the major proposition in this argument be universals vegans [universal negative], it is most false; for Simon Magus and Judas, who were not profited by their baptism, were yet rightly baptised; if particular, though granted, it would conclude nothing against infant-baptism; for by the same reason they may deny baptism to persons of years: for alas, many of them are reprobates. Neither can any mere man distinguish between the one and the other, seeing that whatever profession of faith and repentance men make, 'tis possible they may dissemble or fall away. Now we in charity, hope the best, where the contrary is not manifest, and therefore deny them not baptism, who do but profess faith, repentance, and desire of baptism: and if we can have as much charity to innocent infants, we must also allow them baptism, who being born of Christian parents, are within God's covenant of grace. And indeed the final estate of infants or aged people, being alike secret and known to God alone; we must perform our ministry respectively, and leave the fruit and issue thereof to God: so in preaching the Gospel, the sincere milk of the Word, 1 Pet. 2:2. we do often as it were, draw out the breast like the mother of the living child, 1 King. 3:20, 21 to some dead (in belief, sins, and trespasses) laid in our bosom; who know not who shall profit by it, nor to whom it shall prove a favour of death unto death; that must be left to God, but we must instantly preach the Gospel.


Objection 19

When the Eunuch said to Philip, Acts 8:36: see here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? be answered, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest: therefore he that believeth not may not be baptized: such are Infants.

We answer,

1. It is manifest enough that Philip spake to a man who could hear and read, and was then something instructed in the Gospel of Christ: what does this concern infants?

2. Infants have now as much capacity of baptism, as under the law they had of circumcision; both had faith, as reason, in the seed, though not in the fruit: and the sacrament of baptism now performs the same to us, which circumcision did to them: as that was to them a sign of their receiving into the Church and people of God, so is baptism to us, the first mark which severs and distinguishes the people of God from the profane and wicked aliens.


Objection 20

Faith ought not to be separated from the seal thereof; therefore infants, who cannot actually believe, ought not to be baptised until they can.

See what hath been said Obj. 12. to which we here add, that this proposition is true concerning persons of years; but concerns not infants in whom we cannot know God's present work: but in baptism, the seed of faith, regeneration, mortification, and newness of life is sowed in them: and all know that precedence concludes not separation. Last∣ly, we say that if faith and baptism must so indivisibly be united, as that none may be baptised but they who do actually believe, whom might our adversaries baptise, or whom put by, though of years? If they say they profess faith, there is much difference between professing and actual believing: and I much fear that many will too late find as much distance between justifying faith, and temptation of security, as is between heaven and hell.


Objection 21

Such are to be baptized as confess their sins, Matt. 3:6. as gladly receive the Word. Act. 2:41. as give heed to the Word preached, Act. 8:6. but this infants cannot do, therefore they are not to be baptised.

We answer, the affirmative may from such places be concluded, such ought to be baptised: but the negative cannot (therefore none but men so qualified may be baptised) it no more follows, then if you should say, Cornelius and those that were with him when Peter preached, received the Holy Ghost in the extraordinary gifts thereof; therefore none but such as have received the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost may be baptised: nay, but though it well concluded affirmatively for them, that they were to be baptised; it cannot conclude negatively against others, that they may not be baptised who have not received such gifts.


Objection 21

If baptising infants be grounded on circumcision, the males only must be baptised: but that is not true, for females also ought to be baptised.

We answer, here is a fallacy accidents [fallacy of accident], an arguing from the substance to the circumstance: whereas baptism succeeded circumcision in substance, not in eve∣ry circumstance: The substance was; that was a seal of faith, and Church privilege; so is this; that was administered to all that would join in the faith of Abraham, and their children as being in God's covenant; so must it be here: in that was sealed to the covenanter the promise of grace and mercy by Christ, which is always one and the same; so here; that signified mortification, and a promise on man's part, of faith and obedience to God; so it is here: that was the inlet to God's Church, the sacrament of initiation, admission, and ingrafting into the Church; so is baptism: so they agree,

1) In the end, Rom. 4:11, Tit. 3:5.

2) In signification, Col. 2:11, 12. Deut. 30:6. Jer. 4:4. Rom. 2:29. Mark. 1:4. Rom. 6:3.

3) In the effect.

In circumstance they differ, as hath been formerly shown.


Objection 22

Though Christ took little children into his arms and blessed them, yet he baptised them not: therefore, though we may pray for our infants, yet we may not baptise them.

We answer,

1. If you speak of Christ's baptising personally, he baptised none, John 4:2. but it follows not that therefore none ought to be baptised.

2. It cannot appear that Christ commanded not some of his disciples to baptize those infants, neither that ever he commanded them not to baptise infants.

3. If it could appear that these infants were not now baptised, there might be some obstruction and let which we know not; as possibly their parents were not yet baptised, &c.

4. These children were not brought to Christ that he should baptise them, but that he should touch them: and that he did, for he laid his hands upon them, and blessed them; and his blessing them was as effectual to their salvati∣on, as if he had christned them: for Christ's grace depends not upon the virtue of the sacrament: but contrarily the virtue of the sacrament upon his grace and blessing.

And that which Christ did to them, is more then the ministry of all the men in the world could, or can do in baptising or blessing them; for Christ's blessing makes men truly and really blessed: See what hath been said Reply num. 14.


Objection 23

Infants circumcised were inserted into the Covenant and Church privileges by an express command: but we have no such express command for baptising infants, therefore we may not on that ground baptise them.

To that which hath been said, we further add for answer, because they were expressly commanded to put the seal of the same righteousness of faith on infants; therefore (neither that faith nor the object thereof being changed, in the change of the seal) there needed not a particular, or express command concerning the subject or persons to be sealed, seeing the commission was so much enlarged as the whole world, and the nations thereof, were greater then the land of Canaan, and Abraham's carnal children therein planted. Add hereto, that which has been noted, those whom Christ sent to baptise were sealed in their infancy, and daily used to infant sealing: so that they needed no express command, or other information concerning infants, then that which they had sufficiently learned in Christ's bles∣sing infants, blessing and embracing them, as it were, with special affection to them: and in that they could not be ignorant that baptism succeeded circumcision in all the substance thereof; and that the same cause still remains for infants reception of the seal, to wit, baptism for the remis∣sion of sins.


Objection 24

Christ appointed the sacraments for a remembrance of his death and blood-shedding for our redemption: But infants, who have no acts of understanding, cannot remember; therefore they ought not to be baptized.

We answer, this argument would conclude, that infants, as such, may not receive the Lord's Supper, because they cannot do it in remembrance of Christ, nor show his death thereby, therefore we do not administer it unto them. But baptism is the laver of regeneration, which they have present need of, and whereof they are passively capable, because their parents are within the covenant, which is to them and their children; and the seal thereof is a part and condition of the same to their children, as well as to themselves: Neither was the covenant on Abraham's part ful∣filled any more then two halves, before he had sealed his children; and by proportion, neither do we fulfil our covenant with God in baptism, if we refuse to baptise our infants, who have as indefeasible a right to the same as we; the same promise for the main being to us and our children, Acts 2:39.


Objection 25

In the Old Testament it was not lawful to offer sheep or goats so soon as they were cast, but at a certain age and maturity of their perfection: This figured infants not presently to be offered to God, or sealed.

We answer:

1. By the same argument (if it were good) neither ought the Jews to have circumcised their infants on the eighth day.

2. Allegorical arguments, when they are well applied, illustrate rather then prove: and if you will plead thus, tell us why every first-born of man or beast, so soon as it came into the world (that is, every male) was sacred to the Lord; and the first-born of the unclean beast was to be redeemed or destroyed? and why seek ye further, omitting the type of circumcision?


Objection 26

Christ saith, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, Mark 16:16 without believing there is no salvation, nor saving effect of baptism: but infants cannot believe; therefore their baptism is effectless and vain.

We answer:

1. That wholly concerns those who are of years; who when the Church was to be collected and settled, were first and generally such persons as were first to be instructed in the faith of Christ, and then to be baptised; it concerned not infants.

2. That which immediately follows, but he that believes not shall be damned—manifests that it concerned not infants, who though they cannot actually believe, yet shall not all be damned, though dying infants.

3. If those words were to be presidential to all churches and times as a rule, what persons we are to baptise, and what not; that is, that we ought to baptise none but such and so qualified as are there described; then it would follow, that you must baptise none, but those who appear to have a justifying faith; for such there Christ speaks of, and only such, relating to their salvation: And how few have this? and how can you who baptise discern this? Secondly, they must be such as can cast out devils, speak unstudied languages, take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them, such as can cure the sick: for Christ there thus marked out believers of those times.

4. He saith not, he that believeth not shall not be baptised; for that indeed might have concerned infants baptism: But he saith, he that believeth not shall be damned; which cannot concern infants, except you will say they have faith (and so you must grant them a capacity of baptism) or pretend that they all are damned who die in infancy, which is a damnable fancy.

5. Lastly, we must distinguish between an interest in, and the effects of baptism. Many thousands born within the Covenant, have therefore a just interest in the Covenant of Grace, and the seal thereof, who neither believing nor obeying, have no effects thereof, nor grace of the Covenant: So some put on Christ only sacramentally, and others to sanctification and salvation also.


Objection 27

It is absurd and to no purpose to baptise any unto they know not what: such is infants baptism; therefore they are absurdly and to no purpose baptised.

We answer:

1. Circumcision was to Isaac an evangelical ordinance and seal of God's Covenant of the same Grace common to him and us; yet that being administred to him at eight days old, he knew not what he was circumcised to; yet was it neither in vain nor absurdly administered to him.

2. Some mysterious things have been done to them, who though of age, knew not for the present what was done unto them; yet not absurdly, nor to no purpose; as when Peter's feet were washed, John 13:7, &c. Christ told him, What I do, thou knowest not now—yet was it not absurdly, or to no purpose done.

3. No circumcised infants knew what was done to them for present, yet was it to purpose done to all, either to salvation, or further condemnation.


Objection 28

That tenet and practise, which being put, or supposed baptism, cannot be administered as John the Baptist and the Apostles administered it, agrees not with the practice of John the Baptist and the Apostles: But the tenet and practice of infant baptism being put, baptism cannot be administered as John Baptist and the Apostles administered it; Ergo.

We answer:

1. Here is an Ignoratio elenchi, the argument driving at that which is not in question. The question is not whether John and the Apostles did baptise infants; for in case they had not opportunity so to do, it follows not, that when opportunity was, baptising such agreed not with their practice; no more then to have circumcised men of years had not agreed with Moses's institution of circumcision, because we never read that he ever did circumcise any Jews of years.

2. The minor can never be proved. How know you that John or the Apostles never baptised any infants? You have been often told, à non scripto ad non factum follows not: No man can certainly say, that John and the Apostles never baptised infants: the contrary appears in that which has been said.


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