William Attersoll's Badges of Christianity (10) Baptism: The Profit of Infant Baptism
In the final instalment from the Badges Attersoll shows what evident and necessary uses may be gathered from the baptism of the infant children of believers, 'for the strength of faith, and the increase of our obedience.'
Editor’s Note: The original work has been edited and re-formatted by the writer and it is sincerely hoped that such revisions have not detracted from the intent or meaning.
Now as we have seen the truth proved by the scripture, and maintained it against all the ignorant cavils of the Anabaptists and other Arians of Transylvania, that have impugned this truth: so let us come to see the benefit of this doctrine, and what profit comes by baptism of children that are without knowledge, without understanding, without faith, and without repentance. What use can there be of this? Much every way, as well as by circumcising an infant of eight days old.
The Profit to Us
First, consider from hence, a plain and palpable error of the Church of Rome, that teach that the baptism of children is by tradition, not by divine institution, from their word unwritten, not in the Word of God written. But we have confuted the Anabaptists by the Scriptures, and convinced them by the institution of circumcision, by the tenor of the covenant, by the holiness of their birth, by their redemption through the blood of Christ, and by the practise of the Apostles. This is better armour, these are stronger weapons, this is a sharper sword to cut in sunder the corrupt heresy of the Anabaptists, then the wooden dagger of human tradition which the Church of Rome draws out against them. The Scripture is all sufficient to prove all truth, and to beat down all false doctrine that lifts up itself against God. Wherefore, we hold their traditions, to be superstitions: and their unwritten doctrines are written lies. As we retain the baptism of children, so we have always been ready to maintain it by the Old and New Testament, as by the sword of the spirit against all the adversaries thereof.
Secondly, let us learn from hence and acknowledge a difference between baptism and the Lord's Supper. For in baptising of children, not faith, not repentance, not regeneration is required, but only to be born in the covenant: but the Supper of the Lord requires knowledge, discerning, trying, and examining of ourselves: which are not required, neither can be performed of young children, who know not light from darkness, nor good from evil.
Thirdly, if infants have interest in baptism, then hence it flows that all are conceived and born in original sin, and whatsoever is of the flesh is flesh. So the Apostle says, As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. There is no difference, all have sinned, and are deprived of the glorious kingdom of God: we must be justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: by nature all are the children of wrath, and born dead in sins and trespasses, infants not excepted. We learn therefore that whatsoever is begotten of man is sinful and corrupt, it must be cut and pared away, we must be renewed and born again by the spirit of God, cleansing us from our sins: yea the children of the faithful parents, whose corruptions are mortified, whose lusts are subdued, whose flesh is tamed and brought under the obedience of the will of God, are notwithstanding brought forth in sin, because they are born by carnal generation, and not by spiritual regeneration: as corn winnowed from the chaff yet grows up again with it, and as the foreskin cut off from the parents returns in the child.
Again, have infants of the faithful right to be baptised? Then acknowledge hereby the difference between them and the children of infidels, Jews, Pagans, and Turks. As the children of the Jews, being heirs of the covenant, were separated and distinguished from other chi∣dren of the wicked idolatrous nations, and were therefore accounted the holy seed: so for the same cause and reason the children of Christians are called holy, born of either party and parent being faithful and a believer, and do differ from the profane seed of idolatrous people. Indeed whosoever makes a true profession of the faith which he holds, and is ready to lead his life according to that confession, though he be not the seed child of the faithful, yet is to be baptised, though he came of the race of Turks, or Pagans, as appears by the speech of Phillip to the Eunuch, If thou believest, thou mayest. Thus we see, that the children of those that profess the faith, belong to the Church of God: the children of Pagans belong not to the church of God: see how great a difference there is between them. Hereby then, the children of the faithful are discerned and distinguished from the profane multitude of Atheists, Epicures, Libertines, Arians, Anabaptists, Turks, Sarazens, Persians, and other barbarous nations, which are without Christ, without hope, without God in the world: whereas the holy seed of all the faithful belong to the church of God, and are reckoned in the company of the Church. For this cause, the Apostle calls the whole posterity of Abraham, holy, that is, consecrated and hallowed to God, If the root be holy, the branches are also holy.Not that the children of the faithful do want original sin, or that they gather any actual holiness or inherent righteousness by carnal generation and propagation from their parents, but because by benefit of the covenant of God, and by force of his gracious promise, they are separated from profane infidels, and brought into the bosom of the church, as Noah was into the Ark?
Fifthly, this doctrine sets forth the honour and glory of God. For is not God greatly glorified, when he shows himself true in his promises and has mercy upon the faith∣full for a thousand generations? And is not occasion offered to us continually to glorify him? Can we deserve that God should be our God? Nay do we not deserve, that he should not be our God? And yet behold he will be the God of our children also? Let us therefore never forget his mercies: let us fill our mouths or rather our hearts with his praises: let us confess before the Lord his loving kindness, and his wonderful works before the sons of men.
Sixthly, all parents are hereby wonderfully comforted, they have their faith strengthened, and are confirmed in the love of God, when they see themselves so beloved of God, that it descends and flows even to their children, as they are assured by this visible sign. This is that worthy and wonderful promise which we must receive by faith, I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee, I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee. A sentence to be written, not only in gold, but in the tables of our hearts to dwell with us forever. When we must leave the world and our families in poor estate behind us, and go unto the Father: let us not be dismayed, discouraged, or discomfited: this is the stay of our hope, this is the staff of our comfort, this is our Anker-hold, that he will not shut up his mercy toward our children, but be a gracious God to them as he hath been to ourselves: so that we may assuredly say unto them with faithful Abraham, My son God will provide. Let us be content with those things that we have, for he hath said, I will not leave thee neither forsake thee, so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, neither will I fear what man can do unto me. Godliness is great gain, and he that is truly godly, is truly rich. He that hath Christ, hath all things: he that wanteth him, wanteth all things. Heaven and earth are the Lord's: all the gold and silver are his, who hath promised to be an husband to the widow, eyes to the blind, a covering to the naked, a father to the fatherless, and he will not forget his kindness towards us forever.
Wherefore, let us lift up our hands and our hearts which hang down, let us strengthen our weak knees, and make straight steps unto our feet, God is able to work contentedness in all his servants, whose power is best seen in our weakness and whose glory shines brightest in our greatest wants, remember what the prophet saith Psal 37: 25 I am young and now am old, yet I saw never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. And again, Taste ye and see, how good the Lord is, blessed is the one that trusteth in him .Fear the Lord ye his saints: for nothing wanteth to them that fear him. The lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they which seek the Lord, shall want nothing that is good. Lo, how the man shall be blessed that fear God, not only in his own person, but in his children: inasmuch as our seed is no less dear to him then we are, as Psal, 115. He will bless them that fear the lord, both small and great: the Lord will increase his graces toward you and toward your children. And to the same purpose the prophet Jeremiah, Chap, 32:38 saith. They shall be my people, and I will be their God, and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever for the wealth of them and of their children after them. Let us all rest in his words, and rely upon his merciful promises. He is not as man that he should lie, nor as the son of man that he should deceive. He hath said, he will be our God, and the God of our seed that we leave behind us. Behold, O Lord, the words of thine own lips, consider the promises that are gone out of thine own mouth. We know thou art true and faithful in all thy sayings, thou wilt not alter the things which thou hast written with thine own finger: on thee we wait and in thee we put our trust, let it be unto thy servants according to thy free promise, and according to thy gracious covenant, that we may feel the accomplishment thereof in our souls.
Seventhly, all parents are hereby to be warned and admonished, that seeing the promise of forgiveness of sins and the kingdom of heaven belongs to their seed, and consequently the sign and seal thereof: they must be careful to bring them up in the true knowledge and fear of God, as Eph, 6. Fathers provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in instruction and information of the Lord. So Moses teaches Exod, 12: 26, 27. When their children should ask them touching the paschal lamb, that then it is their duty to declare and deliver to them the true cause and occasion thereof. Likewise so often as we consider how our children are by grace accepted, by baptism consecrated unto God, and made heirs of life and salvation: it stands us upon, to plant and water the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus in them. For what should it profit us to leave them great riches and large possessions, and make them for want of instruction and information in the ways of God the children of hell? If we do no more but feed them, and give them meat and drink: what do we for them, which we do not the ox and ass? Or if our chiefest care be to clothe them well, and to apparel them warm: what do we which the Turks and infidels do not, as well as we? Have not they as great a portion in this, as we? but our obedience to the will of God, and duty to our children must exceed theirs, if we will enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whereby we see, that they are greatly deceived, who when, they have made honest provision for the sustenance and sustentation of their children in this world, will say they have done their part, although they have not taught them to know God, these have the greatest and chiefest account to make for their souls. Now if this be a previous sin, to neglect the teaching of our children the fear of God: then they increase and double their iniquity, who by their corrupt example do lead them into evil, and so murder their souls. For children instead of godly and religious instruction, do oftentimes hear their fathers swear, swagger, lie, rail, and slander: see them deal deceitfully and unjustly, and mark their walking in every evil way, making their houses as it were any image and representation of Hell itself, by practise of all manner of abominations leading thereunto.
The Profit to Children
This doctrine is very comfortable to children themselves. For howsoever they cannot know or remember their own baptism: yet they are to consider that they live in a church and among a people, where infants are ordinarily baptised, and sealed with the sign of the covenant of God.
Seeing therefore children are baptized, and have by this means no assurance given them of their baptism: they have a marvellous benefit bestowed upon them, that they so soon obtain the partaking of Christ and all his benefits. God works in the children of the faithful belonging to his covenant by ways unknown to us, as John Baptist is said to be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb: and they are called holy by the Apostle, insomuch that they cannot perish: whom God calls, some sooner and some later, all in his own appointed time, as seems good to his heavenly pleasure. The remembrance whereof, when children come to age, greatly comforts them in the love and fear of God, when they call to mind that they are so greatly esteemed and highly regarded of God, from the first coming into the world, before they had the use of speech, of reason, and of understanding. Christ Jesus shed his blood for them, he died for all the children of God, he redeemed them whether they be old or young, small or great, as John 11. He must die, not for that nation only, but should gather together in one the children of God which are scattered. And the same Apostle Rev. 12. saith, I saw the dead both great and small stand before God, and the books were opened, and another book was opened which is the book of life, and the dead were judged of those things written in those books according to their works. Wherefore, when children shall come to years of discretion and understanding, they must hereby be pricked forward to an earnest care and endeavour to walk in the fear of God, and to serve him in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life, by whom they were received for sons and adopted for his children by a solemn pledge of their adoption, before they were able through their age, to know and acknowledge him for their father.
Let them give the first fruits of their life to God: let them learn to bear the yoke of obedience from their youth let them redress and reform their ways by taking heed to the word of truth: and seeing God hath remembered them in their baptism, let them also remember their creator in the days of their youth and begin to be wise betimes, least death come suddenly and cut them off, as the sluggard that forsakes the seasons of plowing and reaping, wishes for them in vain at another time of the year.
Thus we have shown the baptism of children: the certain truth thereof has been evidently proved: the objections against this truth alleged, have been sufficiently answered: and the uses of it to the great comfort of all faithful parents and children have been particularly remembered.