In this second part of the Antidote John Reading lays out the arguments and justification for the baptism of the infant children of Christians.
This work of Reading followed his earlier treatise on baptism entitled Anabaptism Routed and his famous debate with the General Baptist Samuel Fisher at Folkestone, Kent on 10th March 1650. In the third part of this series we will recount Master Readings rejoinders to the objections of Fisher at Folkestone.
Editor’s Note: The original work has been re-formatted and edited by the writer and it is hoped that such revisions have not detracted from the intent or meaning.
1. All they who are members of Christ's body the Church, are to be baptized that they may be admitted into the same by the initiatory seal thereof, which is baptism, that they may be externally known to be of the Church: but infants of Church-privileged persons are members of Christ's body the Church; ergo, they ought to be baptized that they may be admitted into the same by the initiatory seal thereof, which is baptism, &c.
The major is thus confirmed; such persons as were circumcised under the Law, that they might be known to be of the Church, ought to be baptized under the Gospel for the same end; for baptism answers circumcision; and is called by the same name, Col. 2:11, 12, as having the same end and effect to seal up the same grace unto faith, mortification, remission of sins, and admission into the visible Church. If it be excepted that under the Law, there was an express command for infant-circumcision on the eighth day, but there is none for infant-baptism; We say, 1. Because there was an express command under the Law never repealed in the Gospel, and the same end and use still remain; therefore there need be none in the Gospel more then that general opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers, in taking away the stop of the partition wall by that which is said, Baptize all Nations. None but Israelites and their proselytes were sealed under the Law, none but male children at eight days old; but now go Baptize all Nations, without exception to nation, age, sex, or condition. 2 There is in all the Scripture no express prohibition, neither can any by any sound consequence imply it.
The assumption is thus confirmed, those whom Christ saves are members of his body, (for he is the head of the Church, and Savior of the body, Eph. 5:23.) But Christ saves infants of believing parents; therefore infants are members of Christ's body the Church. The major is evident; for Christ saves none but those who are members of his body the Church. The minor is as evident, it being granted that any infants are saved, which is apparent from the covenant of God, Gen. 17:7, and the words of Christ, of such is the king∣dom of God, as also by this argument: Those whom Christ loved, and for whom he gave himself to death, those he will sanctify and cleanse with the washing of water by the Word, Eph. 5:26. that they may be received into the Church, and be made partakers of the benefits of his death: but Christ not only loved and gave himself for persons of years, but also for infants; therefore he will sanctify and cleanse infants with the washing of water by the Word, &c.
2. All Infants were by birth capable of sin and the expressions of God's justice punishing the same by death, sickness, but infants are not less capable of the grace and mercy of God in Christ in respect of the expressions thereof, then they were of his justice in Adam: Therefore infants are capable of the expressions of God's grace and mercy in Christ, which in the ordinary dispensation thereof is baptism. The major is evident, Rom. 5:12, 1 Cor. 15:22. The minor Rom.5:20 where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that is, God's grace doth more abundantly appear in holding out the visible remedy, then his justice inflicting the denounced punishment; which could not be, if infants (visibly involved in the condemnatory sentence and execution thereof) should be excluded from the ordinary and visible means of recovery and salvation by Christ, which in them can be no other external means but baptism the laver of regeneration: and it can be no less then a sacrilegious injury to the grace and mercy of God in Christ, to suppose that the sin of man is more powerful to hurt then the grace of God in Christ is to heal and save.
3. If we ought not to baptize infants, then there must be some apparent stop and impediment thereto, either on God's part prohibiting, or on the Minister's part, or in the sacrament itself, or in the incapacity of the receiver; but there is no apparent stop or impediment on the part (or in any) of these therefore there is none at all:
(a) There is no impediment on God's part, for God no where expressly or by good consequence saith, Baptise not infants, or Baptize none but those who do first testify their faith and repentance.
(b) There is no impediment on the Minister's part, for he can as easily baptize infants as persons of years.
(c) There is no impediment in respect of the sacrament itself; for all the essentials of baptism may be placed on children: profession of faith, repentance, &c. are conditions of baptism in persons of years, and effects of it, which may in due time appear and follow in baptized infants: those therefore are not of the essence of baptism, nor so much as universal conditions thereof; for the sprinkling, washing, or dipping in water, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are the essence of baptism: so are not faith, repentance, or newness of life for it may be a true baptism, where these graces do neither precede nor follow it, though without these preceding or following, baptism cannot be effectual to salvation; which need not seem strange to him that considers that Judas, Simon Magus and many who were, and now are truly baptised, are not saved.
(d) Neither can the stop be in the receiver, who cannot by any actual hardness of heart, impenitency, or positive unbelief, or contempt of the ordinance of God, refuse or despise the grace of God offered in baptism. Therefore they are to be admitted to that whereof they are apparently undeniably capable; which is the external seal at least: which is all that man for present can administer, or we will contend for; being most willing to leave secret things to God, and to hope the best, where the contrary cannot appear unto us: only add hereto, if the issue be put upon the capacity or incapacity of the infant, with relation to any condition so much insisted on, let any of our Antagonists shew us how or wherein infants under the Gospel and covenant of grace in Christ, have less capacity in respect thereof then infants under the Law of Moses had, or that baptism is not the seal of the same righteousness of faith in Christ, whereof circumcision for the time was the seal.
4. That which without any expressed exception to particulars Christ's commission holds forth to all nations, belongs to infants as well as persons of years; for infants are always a great part of all nations: but Christ's commission holds forth baptism to all nations without any expressed exception to particulars: therefore baptism belongs to infants (of believing parents) as well as to persons of years.
5. No man may forbid water, that is, the outward administration, where God has given the inward operation of his Holy Spirit (which maxim the Apostle built on, in that then—difficult question, whether the Gentiles might be sealed into the Covenant of Grace.) But God hath given the inward operation of his Holy Spirit to infants. Jer. 1:5. Luke 1:15, 1 Cor 7:14 therefore no man may forbid water, or the outward administration for the baptism of infants. The reason of the major is that all they who are partakers of the grace both signified and exhibited in baptism, have right to the sign and sacrament thereof, and therefore may not be barred from it; for that were to withstand God, Act. 11:17. In reason where God has bestowed the grace signified, man may not deny the signifying element; and in common right, the apparent heirs are unjustly denied the deeds and evidences whereby that right is assured upon them: for these are a part of their inheritance, and ought by right to follow the same: moreover 'tis impious to divide that which God has joined, the sign from the thing signified; as they do, who allow children, grace, remission of sins and salvation by Christ, and yet deny them baptism into Christ; they will yeild them the jewels, but not the cabinet, the treasure, but not the purse.
6. All that are capable of the initiatory seal of future faith, ought to be baptized: but infants are capable thereof, therfore they ought to be baptized. So under the law infants were capable of circumcision, the seal of their future faith: and our infants have no less capacity thereof then they had.
7. All they to whom God's Covenant of Grace extends, are to receive the initiatory seal thereof (for sealing of the covenant respectively, is a part thereof, Gen. 17:10, 11. Mark 16:16.) but God's Covenant of Grace in Christ extends to infants of covenanted persons: therefore infants ought to receive the initiatory seal of the covenant, which is baptism. The assumption is proved from Act. 2:38, 39. Be baptized every one of you—for the remission of sins—for the promise is unto you, and to your children. What promise? that upon which the Covenant was sealed to Abraham and his seed, the faithful: and when, where, or how have infants of Christians forfeited their right to the seal, who as such, cannot forfeit?
8. If circumcision and baptism were for substance, both respective seals of the same covenant of God in Christ, then those sorts of men who were capable of the one, are capable of the other: but circumcision and baptism were for substance both respective seals of the same covenant of God in Christ, therefore those sorts of men (to wit, infants as well as persons of years) who were capable of circumcision, are capable of baptism. The major may appear in that God never made any Covenant of Grace but only in Christ, and the same Gospel was preached to Abraham, and he believed in the same Christ, Gal. 3:8. add hereto, there is the same efficient primary cause, to wit, God making a covenant with his, and appointing the respective seals thereof: the same necessity on the receiver's part, original sin in infants, who have therefore as much need of regeneration and admission into the covenant of God for remedy, as they had under the law, and there is the same power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost still remaining; otherwise God's grace in the New Testament, and covenant in Christ exhibited, should be more restrained, and of less latitude, then it was in the Old, under that severe Schoolmaster the Law; and, which were impious to affirm, then Christ's coming into the world should be so much disadvantageous to believers, as that the Gospel should take away the seal of Gods covenant of grace from our children, which the Law allowed them under the severity therof.
9. No part or condition of the covenant by God appointed for remission of sins and salvation, may be withheld by man from those who have right to the covenant and promise of God, under severe punishment: but the initiatory sacrament, baptism, now is a part or condition of the covenant by God appointed for remission of sins and salvation, whereto infants have right: therefore it may not be withheld from such infants as are within the covenant, and have right thereto and to the promise of God, See Exod. 4. Luk. 3:3, Act. 2:38, 39, and Titus 3:5. now the initiatory seal of the covenant was, and is a part or condition of the same, Gen. 17:10, 11. Mark. 16:16 and John 3:5.
10. All they whom God accounts holy, have a capacity of baptism the seal thereof: but God accounts children of believing parents holy, 1 Cor. 7:14. Therefore children of believing parents have a capacity of baptism; nor does that ridiculous interpretation which Anabaptists have borrowed of the Jesuits concerning legitimacy, overthrow this argument.
11. All those who being redeemed by Christ, have right to the kingdom of heaven, have right to the ordinary port and inlet into the same, that is baptism: but children of believers have right to the kingdom of heaven, Mark. 10:14, Matt. 19:13. therefore children of believers have right to baptism. Christ expresses the entrance or means to regeneration and the kingdom of heaven John 3:5 to wit, water of baptism, by which the Holy Ghost does ordinarily work thereto; and presently gives the reason—that which is born of the flesh is flesh: that, as such, cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 15:50. now infants are from their natural birth, but flesh and blood, Ps. 51:7. Eph. 2:3. therefore if they must enter into the kingdom of God, they must be born again of water and the Holy Ghost: it is true, that God can and does regenerate many infants without baptism by his Holy Spirit, so that they dying without the sacrament, are yet saved in an extraordinary way: but for us to deny them baptism, and to put their salvation upon extraordinary means, where God has appointed and declared the ordinary, is as much as man can do to shut them from the kingdom of heaven; and so though their want of baptism shall not be their eternal loss whom God has elected, yet is it their great sin who neglect or despise the ordinance of God, and thereby (except in case of repentance) they shall exclude themselves.
12. Whatsoever Christ commanded Ministers to do, and which the Apostles in the ordinary office of Ministers did do, that is right and just to be done, and we ought to do: but Christ commanded Ministers to baptize all nations without exception of children; and that the Apostles did do (for above all contradiction they obeyed Christ therein) therefore it is right and just to baptize infants, as being a great part of all nations, and we ought to do it.
13 That which agrees with the nature of the seal of the righteousness of faith and the institution of Christ, ought to be done: but infant-baptism agrees with these; therefore it ought to be done: it agrees with the institution of Christ, who commanding to baptize all nations, well knew that there were many infants therein, yet makes no exception of them, but gives them so high an eulogium, that we may know that the initiatory seal belongs principally to them, as it did under the Law: what though God name not infants to be baptized, in so many words and syllables? yet seeing he neither names men of years nor women, it must needs be that under these words all nations, he comprehended all those of which, nations, as their integrant parts, consist; which are men, women and children: it agrees also with the nature of the seal, which is the initiatory sacrament of regeneration, implantation into Christ, faith, mortification, putting off the old man, putting on Christ, remission of sins, deliverance from the wrath of God and curse of the Law; all which is as necessary for infants that they may be saved, as for any others, and into these either for present or future they are baptized.
14. God ever since his covenant made with Abraham, appointed infants some seal of his covenant as well with them as their parents, whereof they were some ways capable, and whereby they might be externally known not only to God (that they are long before any man can seal them, 2 Tim. 2:19. Titus 1:2. Rom. 8:29. & 9:11.) but also of men (or otherwise he must have cast our infants under the Gospel from right to the seal of his covenant which he gave them under the Law) to be within God's covenant; therefore God hath appointed baptism to infants: add hereto, that whereas poor infants need mercy for remission of original sin; they are not for present capable of the other ordinary means appointed persons of years, as hearing the Word, receiving the Lord's Supper, prayer, repentance, &c. they are passively capable of baptism, as under the law they were of circumcision; therefore seeing remission of sin is simply necessary; baptism, the ordinary means thereto, is necessary, if it may be had.
15. Whatsoever infants of believers are capable of, as interested in God's covenant, without the help of present understanding, that man ought not to bar them of: but such infants as interested in God's covenant, are capable of baptism without the present help of understanding: therefore they ought not to be barred thereof by man. The major appears in infants circumcision on the eighth day; that was the seal of the same faith and covenant of God in Christ, and a part or condition of the same, as baptism now is, as hath been proved. The minor appears Gen. 17. 7. I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, &c. that is, with thy infants also as well as with thee: and by virtue hereof Isaac at eight days old received the seal of the righteousness of faith without the help of present understanding: and there is the same reason of baptism in respect of God's promise, Act. 2:39. and the alteration of the seal alters not the covenant in substance, subject or end. I suppose all know that children of Christians without the help of present understanding, are now as capable of baptism the more easy seal, as they were of circumcision the more painful and bloody: And lest any should think that this privilege of infants-sealing, belonged only to Abraham's carnal-seed the Jews, the Holy Ghost testifies that they which are of the faith, the same are the children of Abraham, Gal. 3:7. and again, the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are a far off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call: Now he hath called us Gentiles to the faith in Christ, who were once a far off: Therefore infants of those who by calling are interested in God's Covenant, are capable of baptism: Moreover, as has been noted, as the worldly wise men (by the creatures, Rom. 1:21.) knew God, but loved him not (by grace dwelling in them) neither glorified him as God. So these (infants) may have him, before they can know him; that is, they may be regenerate by the Holy Spirit before they have the use of understanding, that they may know the things which are given them of God; and certainly all elect infants, though dying young, are regenerate, (else could they not be saved) yet so young they can have no actual knowledge of their regeneration, or means thereunto belonging; and if they are saved, and have the inward seal of God's Spirit, how injuriously are they barred from the external seal by man? To conclude, infants are interested by God's promise, which depends not on any man's understanding, sanctity or excellency, but on the free grace of God, who made this Covenant with us when we were all in the course of corrupted nature, enemies, without Christ, aliens, strangers from the Covenants of Promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, Ephes. 2:12. Lastly, as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, and so sin is communicated to all mankind, yea, to those who have not yet the use of reason; for we see that infants do as well as old men: So by one, Christ's righteousness imputed, many are made righteous in baptism the Laver of Regeneration, though they yet understand it not: So put they on Christ, though it be not yet given them to know the things which are given them of God. (See Argument 2).
16. The command for baptizing is for all that are to be saved. But among those are many infants; therefore the command for baptizing is for infants also, or without exclusion of all infants.
17. That opinion which makes the Covenant or privilege of the Gospel worse to Abraham's spiritual seed, then it was to his carnal, is false and erroneous, yea Antichristian: But to deny believers infants baptism, (the initiatory seal of the Covenant, and the privilege thereof) makes this worse than that; Therefore it is false &c. The major is confirmed in that God avows the Gospel to be a better Covenant then that of the Law, Heb. 8:6. The minor likewise, because under the Law, infants had the privilege of the initiatory seal. The Gospel-Covenant holds forth an enlargement of the signs and subject of God's mercy: It was before only to the Jews generally, who had the ordinances of righteousness, as Gideon's fleece the dew, while all the floor (which then figured the Gentiles) was dry: But now Christ saith, Go teach all nations, baptizing them— So far was it from diminishing, or contracting the grace of God by the coming of Christ like rain into the fleece, that now he sent it to all nations, who before gave it only to one. And the Covenant of God made with Abraham, was testified by an external seal, to comfort parents in assurance that God had care for, and a covenant with their children also. Now they that take this away from children under the Gospel, make the Gospel-Covenant much worse, as being less testified then that under the Law. Add hereto, that the coming of Christ (which set an end to legal ceremonies, and appointed baptism) diminished not the grace of his Father in the signs and dispensations thereof, making it more dark, or less testified by a seal towards those who are within the Covenant of Grace; but rather increased or communicated it more clearly, and therein it is a better Covenant, Heb. 8:6. not in respect of God the appointer thereof, he is one and the same for ever; not in respect of Christ the Mediator, he is the same under the Law and Gospel; but in respect of the exhibition of things promised and shadowed out in the Law, and clearer manifestation of God's grace and truth in Christ. Now they who deny infants of believers the initiatory seal of God's Covenant, as much as in them lies, diminish the grace of God; and make the Covenant seem worse by Christ's coming, in that they diminish the comfortable assurance of our children's implantation into Christ, and of his care of, and favour to them, if they may not so much as be marked with the external sign and seal thereof, which yet elect and reprobates, if of years, may by your leave, and do receive.
18. That which is evil to be done, is forbidden in some express and known law and Word of God: But infant-baptism is forbidden in no express and known law and Word of God; therefore it is not evil, as our Antagonists would make the world believe.
19. That whereof God will severely punish the contempt or neglect, we must not omit: But God will severely punish the contempt or neglect of his Covenant of Grace and mercy, whereof baptism is a part or condition, as well with infants as persons of years; therefore we may not omit it. See Gen. 17:14. Exod. 4, Mark 16:16, & Heb. 10. 28, 29. and that being supposed (which has hitherto been proved) that infants of Church-priviledged parents, ought to be baptized, the Minister who upon such fancies and insufficient grounds as are alleged by our Antagonists, refuses to baptize them (or the parent who will not have them baptized) must needs be under woeful condition; the Apostles argument being good from the dispensation of the Gospel committed to him to the necessary administration of the same, as in preaching the word, so in the seals thereto belonging, whereof he expressly saith, 1 Cor. 9:16. Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel: For though his principal and first office was to preach, as being appointed the Doctor of the Gentiles, first to be taught, and then respectively to be baptized, yet it is manifest that the dispensation of baptism, the seal of the Gospel, and Covenant of God in Christ, went along in charge with preaching of the same, and was committed to the Apostles, and all Ministers their successors, and so woe will be to them if they baptize not (where Christ intended the seal of his Grace) as surely as if they preach not the Gospel.
20. They are to be held as Heathens and Publicans, who refuse to hear and obey the Church of Christ: But such are Anabaptists; nor is it any excuse, but an aggravation of their sin to bespatter the Church with impious calumnies: It had been and ever was, as easy for all sorts of heretics in and since Christ and the Apostles' time, and in the purest ages of the primitive Church, to have said for a pretended defence of their error and contumacy, you are not the true Church; but in spight of Satan and the powers of hell, we are through the mercy of God, a member of the true Church of Christ, and therefore their schism & contempt is the more condemnable.
21. Those to whom the things signified belong, unto them belong also the signs and seals thereof, except in case of some apparent condition making an evident exception (as want of ability to examine themselves, bars infants from the holy Eucharist). But the thing signified by baptism belongs to infants, and there is no apparent condition making any evident exception to bar them from it; therefore baptism belongs to them. The things signified by baptism, are, that we are thereby received into God's favour, for the blood of Christ shed for us, to bind us to a sincere obedience to faith, and endeavour to newness of life; God's promise of grace and mercy in Christ, marking us for sheep of his pasture; our putting on Christ, regeneration, washing from our sins, justification and salvation by Christ; these things belong to all the elect, whereof infants of believers are a very considerable part: And these things are held forth in baptism as things signified in the sign by God appointed to all receivers sacramentally, and to an external communion, of which lambs as well as sheep, infants as well as the aged are capable: Therefore baptism belongs to infants of Christian parents.
22. To whom the Covenant in force runs in the same tenor in the New Testament as in the Old, to such persons the application of the initiatory seal of the New Testament ought to be administered, as well as was the initiatory seal of the Old: But the Covenant in force runs in the same tenor, &c. therefore the initiatory seal of the Covenant ought now to be administered to such persons as the initiatory seal of the Covenant was administered to in the Old: The tenor of the Covenant was to parents and their children upon condition that they should be sealed according to the promise, that God would be their God, who would observe the laws and conditions thereof: the same is still for substance in force, though the seals are changed: So that as infants were circumcised, so ought they now to be baptized: and except this be allowed to our infants as well as to ourselves believing in Christ, we are not (as the Apostle affirms, Col. 2:10.) complete in him—In whom we are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands—Buried with him in baptism, &c. Nor are we and our children so sealed into our implantation into the death of Christ, that we may (in the ordinary way) thereby be assured, that as he put off the infirm affections of the natural body, so we put off the body of sin spiritually. See Rom. 6:3, &c.
23. Such persons as were typically baptized unto Moses, are capable of the real and true baptism under the Gospel of Christ: For in the main the argument holds from the type to the truth, though possibly not in every circumstance: But children as well as persons of years were baptized in the cloud, and in the red-sea unto Moses, 1 Cor. 10:2. and their washing with rain from the cloud, prefigured our washing in baptism, and by the Spirit; therefore children of covenanted persons are capable of the true and real baptism under the Gospel of Christ.
24. Where there is a command for a thing never remanded or countermanded, there that thing is still in force: But there is a command for the signing of infants of believers with the sign of God's Covenant with their parents and them, never yet remanded or countermanded; Therefore the signing of believers children with the sign of God's Covenant, which is baptism, is still in force.
25. That which depends not on any age, or act of man, but on the mere institution and gracious promise of God, as its ground, may not be denied by man to any comprehended under the general term of All Nations, in respect of any age, or defects thereof, as want of understanding, and the acts thereof in faith, repentance, &c. in infants: But baptism depends not on any age or act of man as its ground, but on the mere institution and gracious promise of God; therefore taught not by any man be denied infants, in respect of their present defect or want of understanding, or the acts thereof in faith, repentance, &c. they being comprehended in All Nations.
The minor appears in St. Peter's answer to his hearers pricked in heart, Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins; for the promise is unto you and unto your chil∣dren, &c, He saith not, be baptized, for ye have repented, ye are of age, and a good understanding; but, be baptized, &c. for the promise is to you and to your children; though they cannot yet actually believe, repent, understand, &c. yet they have God's promise for the ground of their sealing, on whose grace and ordinance the whole power and virtue of the sacrament depends: But his grace and ordinance depend not on any excellency, ability or act of man; therefore the Apostle fetched not the reason of his exhortation from their age or repentance, but from the promise and mercy of God calling them who were far off.
26. For conclusion, I take up this congeriem of arguments out of the learned Ursinus. That opinion is pernicious which robs poor infants of their right, which obscures the grace and mercy of God (who would that infants of believers should from the womb be reckoned members of his Church) which derogates from the grace offered in the New Covenant, making it less then that in the Old; which weakens the comfort of the Church and faithful parents; which denies infants that seal which should differ them from the children of Heathens and Pagans; which the Apostles reason (Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?) which keeps infants (as much as man can) from Christ; he expressly saying, suffer little children to come unto me, which without a covenant they cannot do spiritually, nor without the external seal, sacramentally: Now such is the opinion of Anabaptists, denying Christians infants baptism.