In this this third instalment from the Antidote we comes to John Reading's answers to Samuel Fisher's objections to the baptism of the infants of believers.
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.
Fisher Objection 1
If baptism of infants be no ordinance of Christ, then it is unlawful: But the baptism of infants is no ordinance of Christ: Ergo.
If it be ordained in the Testament of Christ, then it is to be found where; Ergo, &c.
1. The minor is again denied; for the matter in question is to be found in several places, from firm and good consequence.
2. If otherwise, you argue negatively from Scriptures in respect of express terms. We further say:
a) That the like reason might be urged against baptizing of women, and administering the Lord's Supper to them, there being no express or particular precept in terminis for either; nor express example of the latter, nor promise to it in all the Scripture: And if you say women are comprehended in the general precepts; we answer, so are infants of believing parents, as parts of families and nations: if you say women are admitted to the Communion, because Christ died for them as well as men: we say so to; and that he as certainly died for infants.
b) The command for baptizing Infants, is Matt. 28:19. The examples, Acts 16:33, 1 Cor. 1:16. And the promise, Acts 2:39.
Fisher Objection 2
If infant baptism be an ordinance of Christ, then it is expressly set down: But it is not expressly set down; Ergo, &c.
1. If the question be concerning the example of Christ or his disciples baptizing infants; and you would reason thus, They did never baptize infants, because it is not expresly written: We have often said, à non scripto ad non factum, non valet argumentum: Christ and his Apostles did many things which are not expressly writ∣ten.
2. We may understand this word ("expressly") to signify either a writing in terminis; that is, so many words and syllables (Go and Baptize Infants) if you would have it so strictly understood, that it is not the ordinance of Christ that any should be baptized, but such as are so mentioned in Scriptures; then you must also conclude, that the baptism of women is no ordinance of Christ (and indeed there might appear more colour of doubting concerning their baptizing, who were not sealed under the Law, than of male infants which were) and then giving the Eucharist to women must be no ordinance of Christ; nay, baptizing of men and women of ripe years, must then be no ordinance of Christ; for where can you show us, where Christ expressly said, Go and baptize men and women of ripe years? Where can you shew us in terminis, Thou Thomas, John, Andrew, &c. shalt be baptized and saved? This you will put upon necessary consequence, where you have no express word: And why shall we not have the like liberty for Infant-Baptism? Or we may understand this word ("expressly") in a greater latitude, to import a general and implicit command in such terms and grounds, quibus positis, alia necessariò consequuntur: So we say Christ expressly commanded Infant-Baptism, where he said, without any limitation or exception to infants, Go baptize all nations: whereof infants then and ever were, and are a great part; because (except in case of some evident incapacity) eadem est ratio partis & totius.
3. Taking ("expressly") in a proper and strict sense, as it seems you here do, for (in terminis) so many words and syllables: We say from other instances, that your assertion may appear false and erroneous: For there is no express place of Scripture which names three persons in the unity of the Deity, which yet we must believe; again, there is no express precept for abrogating the Jewish Sabbath, and religious observation of the Christian Sabbath, as hath been noted.
Fisher Objection 3
If Matt. 28:19 Christ gave commission to teach those whom they were to baptize; then not to baptize infants: But Matt 28:19 he gave commission to teach those they were to baptize: Therefore there he gave no commission to baptize infants.
1. Your major is Amphibologicae (ambiguous): For it is doubtful whether you affirm by (those whom they were to baptize) all those, or only some of those: If you mean All, your minor is false: for Christ gave them no commission to teach infants, as such, though he gave them commission to baptize them into future faith and obedience: If you mean thus, Christ gave commission, Matt. 28:19, 20. to teach some of those whom they were to baptize; therefore he gave them not commission to baptize infants: then the sequel of your major is lame, and cannot follow; for though Christ there gave them commission to teach and baptize the parents first; it follows not thence, that therefore he gave them not commission to baptize their infants; but contrarywise he therefore gave them commission to baptize the infants of such: For the parents being taught and sealed, entitled their children to the seal of the same promise and Covenant of God, which is jointly to sealed parents and their children, Gen. 17:7. and so Christ commanded them to teach those who were capable of doctrine, and only to baptize them who were capable of baptism only, as infants.
2. Christ not repeating there an exact copy of his commission formerly given them at sundry times, and on sundry occasions (for there he mentions not any particular heads of doctrine or discipline, nor so much as the Eucharist) but to those things relates in general, verse 20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you—whereof he names the two first and and most usual things, teaching and baptizing, for the making of disciples, and gathering a Church of all nations: So that he names not here the matter or subject of baptism in particular; but says in general—baptizing them &c. teaching them to observe all, &c. Now although children cannot be first taught before they are baptized, as such, as their parents might and ought to be, yet might they be first baptized, and in due time taught, as Christ commanded. And it is here to be noted, that children of sealed parents were called disciples, and so accounted in both Testaments: See Acts 15:10, John 9:28. We are Moses's disciples,—said the Jews: Now the only thing which entered them into the School of Moses, or denominated them Moses's disciples, was their circumcision in their infancy, which obliged them coming to years, to the observation of the whole Law, Gal. 5:3. delivered by Moses. So baptism of infants does not anticipate profession of Christianity, but oblige unto it in due time; and therefore is baptism a sign that the baptised professes himself a disciple of Christ, who appointed it as a mark and cognizance of his disciples: Baptism makes infants disciples in the first form of his school, into which they are thereby entered, though not actually for the present taught, because they are not yet capable of doctrine:
Yet so is fulfilled in infants baptism that same μαθητεύω (in Christ's commission, Mat. 28. 19.) make disciples, baptizing them &c. and children of believers are counted disciples, Acts 15:10. Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples? What yoke? Why circumcision; as appears verse 1. Now those upon whom the false teachers would have laid this yoke, are called by the Apostle disciples: and that yoke of circumcision was put upon children most commonly, in respect of whom the proselytes were very few: And there is no great doubt but that those false masters who would have grown disciples circumcised, as much, at least, urged, that their children should be circumcised; therefore infants were accounted disciples. And I see not but that Christ spoke of infants, Matt. 10:42. as well as others—Whosoever shall give to drink, unto one of these little ones— in the name of a disciple, that is, as is interpreted, Mark 9:41.—because ye belong to Christ (as do baptized infants) and so Matt. 18:5. Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me— that is, a child which is a Christian: Nor do the following words, v. 6. (Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, which (as our common translation hath it) believe in me) conclude that he spake there only of such as were little in their own eyes; that is, humble (as 1 Sam. 15. 17.) though of years, or of such children as were of years to believe: for the words may as well be translated, One of these little ones of those that believe in me; or of believers in me; that is, any infant of a believer or Christian.
3. In Matt 28:19, 20 Christ spoke concerning the plantation of Christian faith and conversion of nations, in which work preaching must go before baptism. So was it in the beginning, and so must we do now, if we were sent to convert Turks, Pagans, or Jews: but where the Gospel is planted, and believing parents are received into the Church by baptism, their children are first to be baptized, and afterwards taught, so soon as they are able to learn; So that the cited place can conclude no more, then that administration of baptism began first on the parents that received the word, and were made disciples by baptism, and so it descended to their children: So was it in circumcision.
4. Children are to be taught when they are capable, concludes nothing against their present baptizing, of which they are passively capable: one affirmative excludes not another thereto subordinate: nor do affirmative precepts which bind always, bind to all and every particular time, as negatives do: teaching them therefore concludes not a present teaching the baptized, but a duty of teaching them as they became capable of being taught.
5. Christ saith not baptize some, or only those who are taught (indeed such a determination of the subject, would have excluded infants, as such, from baptism,) but nations baptising them; that is, men, women, and children of belie∣vers and baptized parents of all nations: it is not now as when religion was, as it were, shut up in Judea; now the stop of the partition wall is broken down; now Christ will have all nations come and be sealed into the Covenant of his free grace and mercy: and this enallage or change of gender is often found in Scripture, as Rev. 2:26, 27, Rev. 19:15, Act. 15:17, Act. 26:17, Act. 21:25, and Eph. 2. 11. So here he says collectively, teach, or disciple ἔθνος (nations) and distributively,αὐτός (them), baptizing them, one by one, of what nation soever they are. So Mat. 25:32 before him shall be gathered ἔθνος all nations, and he shall separate them one from another; some on the right hand and some on the left; but all by par∣ticulars must be distributed without exception of any person, age, or condition: otherwise it might seem that some nations should be gathered to judgment, and not some others; which cannot be, because God is impartially just.
Fisher Objection 4
If the children of Israel had only a ceremonial holiness, then the pretence from circumcision to baptism of infants is invalid: but the children of Israel had only a ceremonial holiness; ergo, &c.
The minor being denied, was thus attempted to be proved:
If the Covenant Gen. 17. 7. &c. was only for the land of Canaan, then the Israelites had only a ceremonial holiness: but the Covenant Gen. 17. 7. &c. was only for the land of Canaan; ergo, &c.
1. If by ceremonial, you mean federal holiness as appertaining (by God's promise and covenant with Abraham and his carnal seed) to some of the Israelites, not of the election to salvation, it may be granted you without prejudice to our cause that such carnal Israelites had only a ceremonial holiness; not because God's covenant held forth no more then external and temporal things unto them; but because through unbelief they apprehended no more. But if the proposition be universal, as also relating to the chief and best part of Israel, to wit, the Elect, for whose sakes others enjoyed secular blessings with them; then your minor is apparently false; for they had internal circumcision of the heart, as well as the external in the flesh, Deut.10:16, Deut. 30:6, Rom. 2.:29 and Jer. 4:4.
2. To say that God made no promise of spiritual things in the covenant of the Old Testament is evidently false, as appears Gen. 17. 7, 2 Cor. 6:18. I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and my daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. See also John 1:12, 13, 1 John 3:1, 2, 8, 9 and 1 John 2:25. God covenanted in Gen. 17:7. to be their God, and repeats it, Lev. 26:12. and applied it to the Gentiles, 2 Cor. 6:16, Jer. 31:1-2, 2 Cor. 6:18, and Act. 2:39 whence it may clearly appear that the main substance of the covenant and promise of God, with and to Abraham and his seed, was for eternal life, as also in the New Testament, 1 John 2:25. The land of Canaan, and other secular blessings were promised as other temporal goods subordinate, and as an addition over and above, or an accession to the main, as Mat. 6:33. & 1 King. 3:10, 11, 13 and also for a figure of their heavenly inheritance, Heb. 4:8, 9, 11 and for a confirmation of their interest therein, to which they were to come through the red sea which figured our baptism.
3. If the Covenant of God with Abraham and his spiri∣tual seed, that is, believers, had been only for the land of Canaan, and temporal blessings there into be enjoyed, than that gracious Covenant had entitled him to no more then many wicked enemies of God, and mere reprobates had, and at this hour have: for the impious Canaanites then had all that good land and the temporal profits thereof, as the more impious Turks now have; as it is written Psal. 73:12. Behold these are the ungodly who prosper in the world, they increase in riches: but this were foolish to affirm, and against the whole analogy of Scriptures, which expressly affirm that godliness has the promise of this life that now is, and of that which is to come, 1 Tim. 4:8.
Fisher Objection 5
The seal of circumcision was set to Abraham to seal him up only to the honour of the father of the faithful, that is, under that notion only (as a seal) to honour him as the father of the faithful, &c.
This makes nothing to the proof of the former assertion; yet we say, it was not only to seal this honour unto him, but for a seal of the righteousness of faith, Rom. 4:11. and to seal him personally, or to his own perso∣nal interest in Christ to come, as it is written, Abraham rejoiced to see my day, John 8:56.
Fisher Objection 6
That which was set only to honour the greatness of Abraham's faith, not to strengthen the weakness of his faith, was set to him only as a seal to honour him as the father of the faithful: But circumcision was set only to honour the greatness of his faith, not to strengthen the weakness of his faith. ergo, &c.
We answer to this caption and weak argument:
That Abraham's circumcision was set both to confirm his strong faith, and also to carry a remembrance thereof to posterity, and to confirm that which was weak; for faith has certain degrees, and the greatest measure thereof may be greatened (because it is not infinite) and so more confirmed. Abraham circumcision. Gen, 17:23, 24, 26 was a seal of the righteousness of faith which he had being yet uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also. Rom. 4:11. his faith preceded the seal who believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations. Rom. 4:18. this was when God spake to him, Gen. 15:6. and he not weak in faith—being fully persuaded, &c. Rom. 4:21. of what? See Gen. 15:4, 5, 6. so shall thy seed be; and he believed in the Lord— he was afterward circumcised,Gen. 17:24. and his great trial of faith was some years after his circumcision: and then to confirm his faith yet more, the Lord said Gen. 22:16. By myself have I sworn—blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, Gen. 22:17, 18 and the effect of this faith the Apostle magnifies, Heb. 11:17 by faith Abraham when he was tried offered up Isaac—and mentioning the same, Heb. 6:13, 16, 17. he saith, an oath for confirmation is to them and end of all strife: wherein God to shew more abundantly unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: what in respect of Gods truth? nay, but nothing can be added to an infinite: such is God's truth, which is no accident in him, but his essence; for whatsoever is in God, is God: it was therefore that the heirs of promise (of which number you will allow Abraham to be one) might be confirmed, and have strong consolation to lay hold upon the hope set before them: whence it appears that even Abraham's strong faith might be confirmed; and so his circumcision had other ends then to honour him as the father of the faithful: nor is that of any better value which was farther objected to the same end.
Fisher Objection 7
That which was not set to any of his posterity to confirm them in their faith, was set only to Abraham to honor his faith, &c
That. What? the seal of circumcision? Your minor is so false that it needs no more confutation then denial; for circumcision the seal of the righteousness of faith was set to Abraham's seed and posterity to confirm them in the same faith, and to assure them that God was their God, as he promised Gen. 17:7. and indeed Abraham was not styled the father of the faithful in regard of Israel's carnal propagation; for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, John 3:6. and they which are of the faith, the same are the children of Abraham, Gal. 3:7. nor as the first believer; for many others believed before him, as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Shem, &c. moreover 'father' is used by the Hebrews to signify divers relations, as Prince or Lord, 2 King. 5:13. first teacher, 1 Cor. 4.:14. God our heavenly father, Deut. 3:2. Mat. 6. Isa.9:6. or Master, 2 King. 2:12. (hence disciples were called sons of the Prophets, 1 Sam. 10. 12.) or a Counsellor, Gen.45:8. or an Inventor or Author, as Jabel was the father of such as dwell in tents, Gen. 4:20. and Jubal, the father of all such as handle the harp and organ: but Abraham is called the father of the faithful, as being first sealed with this seal into the covenant of the righteousness of faith: and as a pattern and example to which we must frame our lives in faith and obedience faith is the condition of our covenant with God in Christ, made with Abraham and his seed: that is, believers; and thereupon the first seal of the righteousness of faith was given to his natural seed: and now a believing parent, being by faith of the seed of Abraham, the first seal of the present covenant, is by the same proportion to be given to his natural-born infants.
Fisher Objection 8
In that commission in which those only are meant which are capable of being taught, and to learn, infants are neither named, intended, nor meant: but such is that commission Matt. 28:19, 20, therefore there is no commission to baptize infants.
For proof of the minor, which was denied, was offered this reason:
He that gives commission to teach persons before they are baptized, requires no more to be baptized then are capable to be taught, &c. ergo.
Though enough hath been said to satisfy herein; yet to satisfy your instance, we say further,
1. The minor is fallacious, the condition, is here considerable; without which it is a paralogism or fallacious disputing: we affirm not a present capacity or actual docility of infants, but an habitual; that is, that infants have reason whereby they will in time to come be capable of being taught (though for the present they have so slender an use thereof, that they cannot apprehend spiritual things) otherwise we might not baptize them, could they not bear the image of God: to baptize bells, altars, &c. or beasts, were a most detestable and blasphemous profanation of the holy sacrament.
2. If (capable of being taught, and to learn) be taken for a present capacity, and the sense of your proposition runs thus in that commission in which only persons of years are meant, infants are not intended or meant: 'tis easily granted; but then your minor being this: in that commission Matt. 28:19, 20. only persons of years are baptized, is a gross begging of the question, which is, whether in that commission Christ intended only the baptism of persons of years, and for the present apt to be taught and learn, or also with such infants of Christian parents? which we affirm.
3. It appears by that which has been formerly answered to Obj. 5. that Christ says in the cited place, make disciples, baptizing them, &c. and though children, as such, cannot be taught, yet they may be made disciples of Christ, by being admitted into his school, their parents giving their names to Christ, both for themselves and their families: and in Christ's commission in that place, teaching does follow baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost—which we do, teaching our baptized infants, so soon as they become fit to be taught, what Christ hath commanded.
4. Though Infants, as such, are not capable of teaching, yet are they capable of baptism, that is, of being washed with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, of being prayed for, and of being received into Christ's congregation; and so were infants capable of circumcision the eighth day.
Fisher Objection 9
Those that are not in the cited place, commanded to be baptized, are not to be baptized: But infants are not there commanded to be baptized; therefore they are not to be baptised.
1. The minor is false: It is there commanded to baptize Infants.
2. If you mean that the command is not addressed to infants, you trifle, the Amphibologie being in (those that are not commanded) and so that being understood personally of infants, there is an Ignoratio Elenchi in the minor, we not affirming that which you assume; to wit, that infants in their own persons are commanded.
3. The major is fallacious in another respect, in this word commanded, which may import either implicitly comprehended; so are infants commanded to be baptised: explicitly and in terminus, which if you mean, which say again, neither are women nor persons of years there or elsewhere in terminis,commanded to be baptized, though by the series of Holy Scipture and necessary consequence, it is certainly implied. See more Obj. 14.
Fisher Objection 10
The Apostle (1 Cor. 7:14) intended by holy, legitimacy, not sanctity: for if it were not the faith of the parents, but their matrimony, which the Apostle there spake of, then it was not sanctity or holiness, but legitimation which he there intended: But it was not faith, but their matrimony that the Apostle there spake to; ergo, &c. the argument for Infant-Baptism thereon grounded, is invalid.
1. The scruple of the Corinthians was concerning, spiritual pollution by a believer's cohabiting with an husband & wife not converted: the Apostle answers in effect, that they need not fear that; for the unbelieving husband is sanctified ἁγιάζω, in the wife, that is, in respect of the wife, not as if an unbelieving husband were made holy by the faith of the wife: but because the believing wife may with good conscience live as a wife with such an husband (for why should another's conscience make her guilty of sin?) for unto the pure by faith, all things are pure, Tit. 1:15. marriage, meats, all, being sanctified by the Word allowing them, and promising a blessing to believers, as also by prayer of faith obtaining the same. This he proves by their children's holiness, as from the absurdity and falshood of the contrary, else were your chil∣dren unclean, but now are they holy, that is, within the covenant of the Lord, who saith, I will be a God unto thee and thy seed after thee: and this he leaves on a known and common practice of the Churches everywhere, that if but one of the parents were a believer, the children of him or her, were brought to baptism as the seal of the Covenant.
2. This cannot reach to children born of both unbelieving parents, though so born in lawful matrimony, they were civilly legitimate, for that would make the Apostle's supposition void: for what was it to his purpose to speak of legitimacy or illegitimacy of heathen children? neither could civil legitimacy give them any privilege in God's covenant, out of which can be no holiness; nor illegitimacy exclude those from the seal thereof, who converted, professed their faith and desired the same. That which is said Deut. 23:2. A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord, even unto his tenth generation—is not to be under∣stood, as if it barred them from salvation, or any means thereto subordinate, the covenant of God, seals thereof, sacraments, or public service of God; but that it excluded them from a right to bear any public office, Ecclesiastical or Civil: neither may Jephta's extraordinary calling to public office, make void the general rule: in the forfeited place it is said—the Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord, &c. what, not in case of their becoming proselytes? nay, but Ruth the Moabitess is rehearsed in the genealogy of our Savior Christ, and there was but one law to him that was home-born, and unto the stranger; he may not bear any public office, but he might be received into God's covenant, and so be capable of all holy duties. So v. 1. the maimed or Eunuch shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord &c. what? might he not be sealed or saved? the contrary expressly appears Is. 56:4-7, Mat. 19:12. To our present purpose, the Apostle gathers that matrimonial conjunction between a believer and an unbeliever, is holy, because the denomination and estimate being from the better part, their children are within the covenant of God, by an argument from the effect to the cause.
3. The Apostle discoursed not there of civil policy, but of conscience; and how could it satisfy any Christian's conscience to take an argument from the civil laws of any of the Nations? it is notorious that among those, many things were established by their laws, which a Christian's conscience would, and must abhor: yea, even such divorces without the ease of adultery, as were in civil respects tolerated by Moses, for the hardness of the Jews hearts, excused not the offenders conscience, though that permissive law would bear him out before men?
4. When the Apostle says the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife; if any ask, what wife? we cannot say in a wife as she is only civilly legitimate; for so far that husband has as good and evident a ground of sanctification on his part and in himself without any accession of privilege from his wife; for he must needs be as lawfully her husband as she is his wife: we can therefore no otherwise rationally answer, than, a believing wife: and so on the other side. Now seeing the Apostle puts it on a peculiar privilege, which is sometimes in the man when he is a believer, and his wife is not; and sometimes in the wife, if she be a believer, and her husband is not so; it appears that the foundation of comfort here intended by the Apostle, is laid in faith peculiar but to one of the two, and not in ma∣trimonial legitimacy common and equal to both.
5. Faith which renders us acceptable to God in Christ, purifies us, and all estates and possessions to us: that sanctifies marriage, not marriage it; that unites us by one Spirit to Christ, and is therefore far more excellent then marriage, which unites man and woman only in one flesh: faith therefore gives our children a denomination and right to the seals of the covenant as they are holy, not marriage, which though civilly lawful, may yet be impious before God; as where one puts away his wife for less than adultery and marries another, or another man marries her so put away: it is therefore the faith and Church-privilege of parents which thus denominates children holy.
6. The Apostle could not here mean legitimacy of chil∣dren: for that can neither sanctify them, nor entitle them to the seal of God's covenant; neither is sanctification here or in any other place of Scripture taken otherwise then for separating some way from some thing profane or impious. So persons, times, places, &c. are said to be sanctified, which legitimation cannot do: neither can (holy) necessarily imply (no bastard) for some holy men have been such; neither can (no bastard) conclude a man holy. The children of infidels, and aliens from the covenant of God, born in lawful wedlock, are legitimate and no bastards; and yet as such, far from holy: and bastardy, though the effect and product of foul sin of parents, and the child's indelible dishonour before men, yet makes them not such as belong not to the covenant of God, as appears in Pharez and Zarah, Gen. 38:18, 29, 30. Jephtah, Judg. 11:1, 2. &c. it must needs be therefore, that the Apostle in that term of holy, signified some thing peculiar to those that are within the Church of God, and not communicable to children of Infidels, as such: so Tertullian speaks of the unregenerate, from Joh. 3:5. he shall not enter into the Kingdom of God: that is, he shall not be holy: such every soul is counted in Adam, until he be recounted in Christ.
7. We must consider that legitimacy of children (which our Antagonists would here have intended) is a proceed of legitimacy of marriage, which is, of one man and one wife joined together in matrimony according to God's ordi∣nance, as it is written, they two shall be one flesh: not they many: and he that made them at the beginning, made them male and female; now the institution of marriage is in place of a perpetual law, the violation whereof is sin and wickedness: Therefore Christ refuted their objection from Moses permission of the bill of divorcement from the original, and God's first institution of marriage, because he in the beginning appointed it otherwise, and the same sanction is inviolable. So when the Prophet would recall the Jews from polygamy to pure wedlock, he said, did not he (that is God the Creator) make one? that is, did he make any more wives for Adam then one? or did he at first make any more then one husband and one wife? yet had he the residue (or excellency) of the Spirit, that is, he had power enough if he had pleased, to have made more: that therefore is illegitimate which agrees not with the first unrepealable law and institution of God, who created but one man and one woman for the fountain of all human propagation, as it is written Gen. 1. 27. God created him—male and female created he them: both one flesh, and so but one—and wherefore one?saith the prophet—that he might seek a godly seed: that is, a generation according to God's holy institution, which is between one man and one woman lawfully joined in matrimony: this he opposes to their polygamy, secretly here intimating that all they are spurious who are born of polygamy; because they cannot and ought not to be esteem legitimate, who are begotten otherwise then in that matrimony which God appointed, which is only between one man and one woman. Now this legitimacy all the tribes of Israel (though they were otherwise holy) had not in the prophet's sense; but they had it in the Apostle's sense, 1 Cor. 7:14. for (not to question more) Dan and Nephtali, Bil∣hah the hand-maids sons, and Gad and Asher, Zilpah the other hand-maid's sons, had not this legitimacy, and yet were they and their posterity holy to the Lord: it must needs be therefore that it was from some other fountain of holiness than civil legitimacy can give; and that could be none but federal holiness from the covenant of God made with Abraham and his seed, wherein he contracted to be their God, and that they should be his people, sealed and set apart to him according to his own appointment: which privilege, neither the wisdom, power, honour, will of man, consent of Nations, nor any civil laws or ordinances of man, ever could or can give; but God alone who freely bestows that favour, and appoints the conditions thereof.
Fisher Objection 11
Only believers are the lawful subject of baptism (that is, such as appear to believe with all their heart, Act. 8:37.) but children appear not to believe so; therefore they are not the lawful subject of baptism.
1. That such are to be baptized, is granted; so that you may conclude affirmatively for such persons of years; but this cannot conclude negatively to the exclusion of infants born within the Church of Christ.
2. If believing with all the heart were the rule of lawful administration of baptism: who could securely presume to baptize persons of years, concerning whose hearty believing they cannot be certain: as for outward appearance, that many times deceives the most discerning men: Jerusalem and all Judea, &c. came and were baptized of John Baptist, yet many of them proved blasphemers and persecutors of Christ: some of them came so far as to be professed disciples, and yet proved apostates: others were said to believe in Christ, yet he discerning their hearts, would not commit himself unto them. John 2:23. Ananias and Saphira came up to so real a profession as to sell their possession for the advancement of the Gospel: and did these believe with all their heart, or were they not baptized? I might add hereto, Judas, Demas, and Simon Magus; all these shew that outward appearance demonstrates not faith in the heart: and therefore, if only believers, that is, with all their hearts, be the lawful subject of baptism; either your supposed rule of baptizing, leaves it uncertain to you, whom you may, or may not baptize: or else admits of hypocrites, whom God abhors, and on whom Christ denounced so many woes, and excludes believers infants from the seal of God's covenant, in which God himself testifies children of such are, and whom Christ embraced in his sacred arms, testifying that of such is the kingdom of heaven.
3. Shew us a rule in all the New Testament in terminis (as you require of us for infant-baptism) for baptizing only persons of ripe years to make profession of their faith, and at once (if you can, set an end to this unhappy controversy which has so much troubled the Church) put it out of doubt that none may be baptized untill there be an appearance of their faith and repentance; or give us some infallible proof, that all those whom you baptize are indeed and certainly belonging to the kingdom of heaven: nay, shew us any necessary consequence for the exclusion of our infants from baptism: what? because those of years professed their faith, and confessed their sins? therefore infants who cannot so do, may not be baptized? it follows not: nay, yet further, were there an express precept, if any believe not with all the heart, baptize them not; it would no more exclude infants from their right to baptism, then that which the Apostle saith (as hath been noted) if any would not work, neither should he eat, excludes them from their right to be fed. To conclude, we shew you an infallible word of Christ, that infants belong to the kingdom of heaven; and therefore the appearance (from those words of Christ, and the covenant of God with believing parents and their children) is as good and certain that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the infants of constant professors whom we baptize, as any profession of new converts can show; for men and women may and often do deceive men, who know not the heart, or future conditi∣on of professors, whatsoever they now seem or say: but Christ who knows all things, yea the secrets of every heart, and ends of all that are or shall be, could not be deceived in so judging of infants. The foundation of the Lord remains sure, and hath this seal, the Lord knows who are his: and his covenant being that he will be to the covenanted and his seed a God, whose promises are therefore sure to them; and the parent, as such, being as well known to be converted, as any new proselyte is or can be known to be converted; God's promise to me concerning my children, is more sure to me, then man's judgment concerning the sincerity of any new convert can be, whatsoever appears in his words, or professions.
4. The interest of sealing into the covenant of grace depends not on the sealed persons worthiness or unworthiness, sex, age, or condition, but upon God the author and free appointer thereof: so circumcision was one and the same in the external seal, to the elect and reprobate, infant or proselyte of years. The commandment of God did not put any difference, but equally enjoined it to all sorts of males within the pale of Israel: he said not circumcise only believers, the penitent, &c. (though in persons of years, that was to be understood) but circumcise every male child the eighth day; when 'tis sure they could neither actually believe, repent, nor make any appearance thereof; as then the external seal was one and the same, though the effect in the sealed was variable; so is it in baptism; the secret unworthiness or apostasy of the receiver foreseen only by God, did not make them uncapable of the seal; therefore man administering, was to do his part according to the general command of God, and to leave the particular success and effect to God, and so is it in baptism.
5. Though unbelievers who reject the word of God, may not, as such, be baptized; yet infants, who at most may be called but negatively unbelievers, cannot be included in that rule which excludes contemners, seeing they have faith as they have reason, in the seed, not in the fruit, in the root, though not in the leaf; in some inward operation, though not in any outward expression, as Tilenus cited by the learned Dr. Feat∣ly well observes.
6. None are required to manifest their faith and repentance before baptism, but such as having the use of reason, have been taught and instructed in the same; for God requireth no impossibilities in respect of the abilities which himself ever gave: so that in common reason, all texts of Scripture which require confession of faith, repentance, &c. are to be understood of such as have the use of reason and tongue, whereby they are enabled so to do.
Fisher Objection 12
If the parents to whom the Apostle spake, Acts 2:39. were not believers, then the promise was not to them and their children: but they were not believers; ergo, &c.
The Apostle saying expressly—the promise is to you and to your children, your dispute, labouring to prove that the promise was not to them and their children, is point blank against the express Word of God; and you denying that principle, are not worthy of further answer: yet for the pious readers sake, we say further,
a) That believers may be taken two ways: first for such as do in heart believe unto righteousness: this God alone can judge of; and therefore man is not to expect his rule and direction for his ministration from hence.
b) for such as profess faith or show good and probable signs and symptoms thereof, as those hearers of Peter did: for they received the word gladly and were baptised: and before that there appeared an excellent sign of faith in them, in that the word which they heard, profited them to compunction of heart and repentance, with desiring remedy: but where the Word of God is not mixed with faith in the hearers, it profits not, as appears, Heb. 4:2. Therefore that assumption is irrational where you say, they to whom the Apostle spake were not believers.
2 There may be an amphibologie in the major, believers being either such only in profession and bearing the external seal of the righteousness of faith, or for such in the heart; and so the sequel is unsound: for the promise of God's covenant was to all Israel: as being the seed of Abraham within that covenant; although many of them through unbelief obtained not remission of sins and eternal life held out to them in the same: which made not the promise of none effect to them who believed; and many unbelieving parents had and have believing chil∣dren: but a covenanted parent's unbelief bars not his infant born within the Church from the external seal of the covenant: so that the promise did belong to them though their parents had secretly been unbelievers and impious persons; much more, seeing they so expressed and professed their faith, repentance, and care to be saved.
Fisher Objection 13
If those children in Acts 2:39 were entitled to baptism in their infancy, then they were, or must have been baptized in their infancy: but they were not baptized in their infancy, but their fathers only, who received the word gladly; therefore they to whom the promise is Act. 2:39. were not entitled to baptism in their infancy.
We deny your minor, and you can never prove it: their fathers were first baptized; but it appears not that they only were baptized.
a) It hath been often said, and you need still to hear it; it follows not that it was not done, because it is not written. Christ spake and did many things which are not written.
b)If you could from Scripture prove that de facto they were not baptized in their infancy; yet that would not prove that de jure they might not be baptized. The parents neglect of their duty, or any other intercident obstructions could not make void the children's interest. Moses son was not circumcised on the eighth day, nor many thousand Israelite infants in the wilderness for 40 years; yet we cannot hence conclude that they ought not to have been circumcised had there been no hindered, or that they had no interest in the seal because there were hinderances.
Fisher Objection 14
Only Abraham's spiritual seed are to be baptized: but infants are not the spiritual seed of Abraham; therefore infants are not to be baptized.
1. This is the same argument under another synonimical dress, to which we have answered: there you said, only believers are to be baptized; here you say only Abraham's spiritual seed are to be baptized; whereas believers and Abraham's spiritual seed are one and the same in the Apostles account, Gal. 3:7.
2. Many thousands which were Abrahams carnal seed, were baptized; which were indeed not his spiritual seed, that is, true believers: See Matt. 3:5, 6 and Act. 2:41 which being done by John Baptist and Christ's di∣sciples, and so precedentially to us, shows the falshood of your major.
3. If Abraham's spiritual seed, by your own confession be to be baptized, then infants of believers within the Church must be baptized, they being Abraham's spiritual seed, (except you will say that God's promise was to some who were not within the covenant made with Abraham) and indeed the whole mystical body of Christ, is the spiritual seed of Abraham, of which none can rationally deny infants of covenanted parents to be a part, who acknowledge Christ to be their Saviour. See Eph. 5:28. and that out of him and his body the Church, is no salvation. So that by the way we may note, that to exclude Christian infants from being a part of Christ's visible Church in general, is to exclude them from the ordinary state and way to salvation: and so to deny them to be Abraham's spiritual seed, is to exclude them from the same, and to leave them to an extraordinary means thereto; in which some Pagans, Turks, and obstinate Jews &c. by the mercy of God, (illuminating & converting them to the faith of Christ by extraordinary means) may be saved: and this is to suppose infants of Christian parents as bad as Heathens, without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise—without God in the World. Add hereto, that if parents may not sorrow as men without hope for their deceased infants, they cannot have sound hope without faith, nor faith without a promise or word of faith, that is, Scripture-promise to confirm & ground it on: and that not in general, but such as properly concerns their children, as that Gen. 17:7. Act. 2:39. Luke 18:16, 17. &c. Now to deny children's interest herein, or that they are the spiritual seed of Abraham, is to leave afflicted parents hopeless of their children's salvation, in that by such an an unchari∣table & impious tenet, parents must not believe those comfortable promises belong to their children; and that God will not so much as by an external seal, assure them that he is by covenant a God unto their infants. Nor can we think that ever any were saved ordinarily, if at all, touching whom God never made any promise, neither in respect of internal and saving faith, nor so much as in respect of external right to sealing thereto: so that to avoid this, we must say, that Christian infants are Abraham's undoubted spiritual seed & therefore they have at least an ecclesiastical right as to the covenant made with Abraham, so to the Church-privileges respectively; that is, to baptism, which is now the seal of God's covenant in Christ exhibited.