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CHAPTER V.: of the baptism of infants. - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 3 
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 3.
Part of: The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols.
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of the baptism of infants.
He proceedeth to the. baptism of infants; a point of great both difference between us, and weight in itself; and which concerneth all churches, at all times, whereas the former respects only such churches as come out of a state of apostacy.
And to prove infants incapable of baptism, he begins with the covenant of the gospel, or new testament, which he rightly makes one, as, indeed they are in substance; though the new testament may be taken in a stricter sense, for the gospel more clearly dispensed since Christ came in the flesh.: touching which covenant he speaketh thus:—
“This is the covenant, saith the Lord, that I will make with the house of Israel, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jer. xxxi. 33; Heb. viii. 10. And our Saviour Christ declares this more fully, Mark xvi. 16, where he saith, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel; he that shall believe and be baptized, shall be saved.” And here, saith he, pages 162–166, is the new covenant set down both on God's behalf, and theirs, with whom it is made. On God's that he would write his law in men's hearts, by the power of his Spirit in the preaching of the gospel, and will be their God, and save them: and on the people's behalf, to believe the gospel and to be baptized. And hereupon he infers, and concludes that children are not within the covenant of the new testament, or gospel, and therefore not to be baptized.
Let the reader in the first place observe, that the word covenant in the Hebrew, חידב, as Jeremiah hath it, signifieth any compact or agreement upon a difference, between two or more. Which the LXX. in the Greek Bible, and so the apostle after them, turn by a word, διαθηκη, signifying a will or testament properly. So that he who aright understands, and well weighs the very word, will plainly see, how Mr. H. erreth in making the writing of God's law in men's hearts, the covenant on God's behalf, or baptism any part of it on men's behalf. The covenant is the very agreement and promise by mutual accord, for the things to be done, and not the doing of the things, which is the keeping of the covenant or promise made. And so all that can he concluded hence is that God receiveth none into his church but such as in whose hearts he promiseth to write his law; which he promised to do to the infants of the faithful, in promising Abraham to be the God of his seed: and more particularly in promising to circumcise (which is all one with writing his law in) the hearts of the seed of his people. Deut. xxx. 6. By which it is also evidently proved, that the infants of faithful parents are, together with them, within the Lord's covenant.
But to answer more fully: the intent of the prophet, and so of the apostle following him, is to oppose the old covenant, or testament of works written with ink in tables of stone, and the new testament, or covenant of grace written in the hearts of men by the finger of God's Spirit. Exod. xxxi. 18; Ezek. xxxvi. 96, 27; 2 Cor. iii. 3. Now the persons with whom the Lord made these covenants, primarily and expressly, both the one and other were men of years; but in whom their infants were included, and so within these the Lord's covenants, though secondarily, and as was agreeable to their estate.
These men profess everywhere, and truly, (although not upon good grounds) that the Israelitish infants were within the old covenant, or testament; and yet when God either proclaimed it upon Mount Sinai, or wrote it in the tables of stone, they knew not what it meant, neither could they have the same use of it with their parents, and others of discretion, as may appear in the particulars contained in the scriptures, Exod. xix. 10, 11, 15, 21, 25; xx. 1, 3, 8, 12, 18, 19, amongst others, where it is set down; doth it therefore follow that those infants were not within the compass of the old testament, or law? So neither followeth it because the infants of the faithful now cannot for the present observe the conditions of the covenant of grace, or reap all the fruits thereof, and particularly, to have the law written in their hearts by the ministry of the gospel, and work of the Holy Ghost, that therefore they are excluded from the covenant of grace, or testament of Christ. Children may with far better reason be denied to have been within the covenant of the old testament, or law, upon which the curse followeth, than to be shut out of the new covenant of grace, and mercy. Gal. iii. 10. And upon this ground infants should not be within either the natural covenant or bond with their parents, or the civil covenant with their magistrates, because they cannot for the present “Honour father and mother,” which is the condition of these covenants on their behalf. His exception then, that “infants cannot by the preaching of the gospel, have God's law written in their heart,” this being but a condition of the covenant, which respects men of riper years, is of no force.
When the Lord saith to Israel, “I am thy God,” his meaning is not to exclude their infants, though he spake not unto them, but to exclude other peoples, and nations; so where he makes this new covenant with those in whose hearts he writes his laws, he doth not debar their children, but wicked men destitute of the Spirit of God, and from under his promise. So for Mark xvi. 15, 16, which he also alleges, where Christ sends his apostles into the world to preach the gospel, and adds that “he who believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved,” he no more intends to exclude the infants of the faithful from baptism, because they believe not, than from salvation because they believe not, which is yet more plain in the words following, “but he that believes not shall be damned.” Shall children now be damned because they believe not? There is, hence, more colour for that, than that they shall not be baptized because they believe not: for Christ saith not, “he that believes not” shall not be baptized, but “shall be damned.” The thing then is, Christ neither excludes the children of believers from baptism, nor from salvation, for want of faith, but unbelievers, and such as refuse the gospel from both. So that the stone upon which these men stumble, is the ignorance of the opposition in the scriptures they bring; which is not between believers, or sanctified persons, and their children, but between them and unbelieving and profane persons; who are shut from the Lord's “covenant, baptism, and salvation.” But where in sharing this covenant “on man's behalf,” into faith, and baptism, he makes the one part thereof, his being baptized, he speaks he knows not what, and yet wonders that all men believe him not. For as baptism is indeed no part of the covenant, but a sign and seal of further confirmation, so is it principally and in the main end performed, not on man's behalf toward God, but on God's behalf towards men; God, by the outward washing of the body with water, signifying, confirming, and applying the inward washing of the soul, by the blood, and Spirit of Christ, and for the further testification of the admission of the party baptized into the family of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, into whose name he is baptized: whereas, in a second, and inferior respect, it is a work of man unto God, for the profession, and exercise of faith, repentance, and thankfulness, in them who received the former covenant, and promise with the confirmation thereof, on God's part, towards them, and theirs; as it is also, thirdly, a sign of union between the members of the church; and in the fourth and last place, a badge of Christianity, and sign of distinction between the true church and all false churches. The same considerations are to be had of the Lord's Supper. And they who know not these things, had need have the foundation of the doctrine, of baptism, and other principles of Christian religion laid again, Heb. vi. 1, 2; and yet the want of the knowledge of this, and, in especial, that the sacraments are in their first and main end works of God to men, by which he can both declare, and effect his goodness towards infants, though for the present, they neither know it, nor can do anything again to the Lord in answer thereunto, is a main ground of that offence, which these men take at our receiving and baptizing of infants. And if the new covenant or testament consist so much in baptism, as these men think, then could not Adam, and Abraham, and other the holy patriarchs, and prophets unbaptized, have been within the compass of the covenant, and promise of grace, or have had their parts in the testament of Christ, the promised seed. Also if baptism were, especially so great, a part of the covenant, so oft as any either person or church, renewed their covenant, especially after any greater sin, they should so oft renew their baptism also.
These things thus laid down by way of answer, it remains I prove by the Scriptures, and further arguments, that the infants of the faithful are within the compass of the new covenant here spoken of.
And since all children coming naturally of Adam, are conceived, and born in sin, and, by nature, the children of wrath, Psa. li. 5; Eph. ii. 2; if these men believe, as they do of all, that their children so dying shall be saved by Christ, then must they have a part in his testament, or in this new covenant, which are all one. There are not two new covenants, or testaments established in the blood of Christ, but one. And since Christ is propounded unto us as the saviour of his body, which is his church, it is more than strange, that these men will have all infants saved by Christ, and yet none of them to be of his body or church. Eph. v. 23; Col. i. 18.
It pleased God, in his special love, to send his Son to take upon him our nature, and so our childhood, that as the head thereof, he might sanctify even that estate for his body, the church: with which he did also in the days of his flesh, visibly communicate his grace, consecrating unto his Father, as their true high-priest, the infants of the Jewish church, by laying his hands on them, and blessing them. Mark x. 13,16.
I add, if any, either children, or men of years, be to “enter into the kingdom of heaven,” they must be born again: and this new birth must be by the Spirit of God working in either, according to their kind, and writing God's law in their hearts; in those of years, distinctly, and by the preaching of the gospel, in infants, otherwise, according to the efficacy of the power, and grace of God.
Lastly, It is evident that the children of the faithful are within this covenant of the gospel or new testament, by that covenant which God made with faithful Abraham, and his seed, adding the seal of circumcision to ratify it. Gen. xvii. 10–14. But, that this was the covenant of the gospel, or new testament, Mr. Helwisse denieth, and opposeth. I will therefore answer what he objecteth, and then prove my exposition, and affirmation by the Scriptures.
And first, he lays down this covenant, Gen. xvii., on the Lord's behalf, thus: “I will establish my covenant between me, and thee, and thy seed after thee, and their generations for an everlasting covenant to be God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee,” ver. 7, and on Abraham's behalf, and his seed, in these words, “This is the covenant that thou, and thy seed after thee shall keep, Let every man child among you be circumcised: you shall circumcise the foreskin, as well of him that is born in the house, as of him that is bought with money:” adding for exposition, page 166, that “thus the Lord declares in every particular his covenant with his people, as well what he will do for them, as what he requires them to do, in obedience to him.”
A great untruth, and full of ignorance. Is the land of Canaan all that the Lord covenants and promises to give unto Abraham and his seed? What is this but to make the Lord's people an herd of oxen which are promised to be brought into a fat pasture, there to feed at ease? And is circumcision of their males all, in particular, which God requires of his people by covenant, which any profane Shechemite might do, and did as well, and as [diligently as they? and which being done without faith, and repentance, doth no way please but offend God. Isa. i. 11, 12; Heb. xi. 6.
The Lord promised to be a God (even all-sufficient, as ver. 1,) unto Abraham, and his seed, ver. 7, that is, to be all happiness and bliss unto them: for blessed are the people that have the Lord for their God. Psa. cxliv. 15. And except we will say they had only bodies, and no souls, God in promising to be their God, promiseth not only to be the God of their bellies, and backs, but of their souls most; as the soul of a man is most the man. And so Christ himself teacheth against the Sadducees, that God in calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so of their seed the Hebrews, means, that he is the God of their souls, and that most specially, which lived when their bodies were dead. Exod. iii. 6; Matt. xxii. 32.
The apostle Paul, who well understood the Lord's meaning, doth interpret the promises of this covenant with Abraham, as meant of better things than Canaan, and indeed as comprehending in them, (though more darkly, according to the dispensation of those times) Christ himself, and in him all spiritual blessings. And so speaking of this covenant, or promise, with, or to Abraham, and his seed, avoucheth, that by his seed is meant Christ, Gal. iii. 15, 16, viz., as the head with his body, the church of the Jews, and Gentiles also in their time “made one in him,” Eph. iii. 6; as he also proveth, Rom, iv. 3, 18, and Gal. iii. 6; that Abraham's believing the promise of God for the multiplying of his seed, Gen. xv. 5, 6, and xvii. 4; was imputed to him for righteousness to justification: therein teaching, evidently, that in this promise was comprehended Christ, and spiritual things: otherwise, how could Abraham be justified by believing it? And how carnally soever these men are conceited of this covenant, and promise, Abraham in it saw Christ's day, and seeing it, rejoiced. John viii. 56.
And for the land of Canaan, albeit in itself, and naturally, but like other lands, yet was it by the Lord sanctified to spiritual ends, and uses: as to be the peculiar inheritance of God's peculiar people, unto which it was allotted from the first division of the sons of Adam, and distribution of their possession by the Most High, Deut. xxxii. 8; whither he would bring his people, and there plant them in the mountain of his inheritance, in the sanctuary, which his hands had established, Exod. xv. 17: where he would have his tabernacle pitched, and temple built, for his most solemn presence, and worship: out of which land when the ten tribes were carried captive, he is said to have put them out of his sight, 2 Kings xvii. 18: the very land being figuratively holy, and a sacrament of God's presence, and the resting of God's people there a sign of their eternal rest in heaven, Heb. iii. 11; iv. 5, 8: into which not Moses, but Joshua or Jesus, the type of our and their true Jesus, was to bring them. Neither did the Lord indeed promise either entrance into, or continuance in that land, but upon the conditions of eternal life: true faith in the gospel, with the love, and fear of God, and faithful obedience of his commandments: godliness having then as it hath now, and always, the promise of good things for this life, and the life to come: of earthly things then more distinctly and fully, but of heavenly things more generally and sparingly: where now on the contrary, there is a more clear, and full revelation of heavenly things, but the promise of things earthly, more general and sparing. Heb. iii. 17–19, with” iv. 2; Lev. xx. 1, 2, &c.; xxvi. 39; Deut. x. 12, 13, with xi. 1, 8, 9, 22–24; 1 Cor. x. 5— 7; 1 Tim. iv. 8, 9. It is therefore an ill collection he makes, that because God promised earthly Canaan, therefore not heavenly things: the promise of them was contained in the other, which all amongst them but hypocrites understood and tasted of.
The like folly with the former showeth he, in affirming that the circumcision of their males was all the obedience which God required of Abraham, and his seed, for the keeping of the covenant on their part towards him. For, 1. Circumcision (which must be well considered) was not appointed of God principally for a work of their obedience towards him, but for a sign or seal of confirmation, on his part, towards them, of the righteousness of faith imputed to Abraham, the root, in the promised seed. Rom. iv. 11. 2ndly. It is evident that this covenant unto which the land of Canaan was an appurtenance, was contracted and made with Abraham many years before circumcision was once mentioned. Gen. xii. 3, 6, 7; xiii. 14–16; xv. 1, 4, &, 18. Which covenant God also renewed with the Israelites his seed in the wilderness, the most of them being uncircumcised. Deut. xxix. and xxx., compared with Josh. v. 2–6. By which it is evident that circumcision was so far from being the substance of the covenant, as that it was not so much as any substantial part of it, but only a sign of ratification, and that specially on God's part, as was Canaan an accessory unto it. 2dly. The apostle, Rom. iv., proving at large, justification by faith, without works, and so specially without circumcision, of which as of a special work the Jews made account, takes Abraham for an instance, and shows, that he was first justified by believing God's free promise touching his seed, Christ, and so the church in him, as well as of uncircumcised Gentiles in their time, as of circumcised Jews: and adds, that after this, he received the seal of circumcision, for the confirmation of this bond of promise, on God's part, having the promise itself before. Which, circumcision, therefore, whosoever presumed to use, whether upon himself, or his infant, not having before the promise of Christ, and faith for justification, with Abraham, he did treacherously usurp the great seal of the King of heaven and earth. The lawful using, then, of circumcision did presuppose, both God's promise, and his faith who was to use it, either upon himself, or his child. And since without faith no man either can, or ever could please God, especially, in the matters of his worship, whereof circumcision was one; and that God appointed his people so to worship him in it, and all other things, as they might please him therein, it followeth necessarily, that he required true faith in all, whom he enjoined, or rather privileged to circumcise their infants. Gen. iv. 4, with Heb. xi. 4–6; Matt. iii. 17; 1 Cor. x. 5; Heb. iii. 17. Neither indeed do the Scriptures of those times, more plenteously testify any one thing, than, that the Israelites did most heinously transgress, and break God's covenant with Abraham and them, when they did use, and observe circumcision very diligently: which had the covenant, on their part, stood in circumcision, they had not done. Isa. xxiv. 5; Jer. xi. 10; Hos. viii. 1. And (for conclusion) that the Lord God should separate a people, as his own peculiar, above all the peoples in the earth, into covenant with himself, to worship him, and to enjoy his special presence, and yet should require no more of them for the keeping of this covenant, than the cutting of their foreskins, is a mere mockery, unworthily blemishing God's great majesty, and from the imagination whereof all godly-wise men do abhor.
Now though this which I have spoken be more than enough, yet will I, for more clearness, annex a few other reasons to prove this covenant with Abraham, and his seed, the covenant of the gospel, and the same with ours, now, for substance; and established in Christ to come, as ours, in Christ come in the flesh.
And, 1. The apostle to the Galatians, iii. 8, expressly teacheth, that the gospel was preached unto Abraham, “In thee shall all the Gentiles be blessed;” and, ver. 17, that the covenant with, and in Abraham's seed, was confirmed of God in respect of Christ, and that 430 years before the law, or old testament was given. And here also the apostle answereth Mr. Helwisse his objection, and removeth that great stone of offence, which he, and others cast in their own way; which is, “that the old testament, or covenant with the ordinances thereof is disanulled, Heb. vii. 18, and that we ought not to frame the new covenant like the old, as we do, in the baptizing of infants, because infants then were circumcised.” The apostle answereth directly (to let pass other things) that the covenant with Abraham was confirmed in respect of Christ: and that it was not the law or old testament, which was added 430 years after for transgression, and so is abolished indeed, but could not disannul the former covenant of the gospel.
And because these men (whose recovery I do from mine heart desire of the Lord) do especially stumble at this, that the covenant made with Abraham, and his seed, was the covenant of the law, or old testament, I will (and that briefly as I can) show the clear, and evident difference between these two testaments. Which had such of oar later writers* as have been most followed observed and put distinctly, as others* have done, much light had been given for the preventing of this error.
And 1. This difference appears notoriously, in the time. For this old and cancelled covenant was made with the people of Israel in the day when the Lord took them by the hand and brought them out of Egypt, Jer. xxxi. 32, which was 430 years after the covenant made with Abraham, as the scriptures formerly cited teach.
2. The law, or old testament, was given in Mount Sinai, Exod. six., whereas the covenant with Abraham was first drawn in Ur of the Chaldeans, and afterward confirmed, and renewed in Canaan. Gen. xi., xii., xv., and xvii.
3. The law was given with great terror of burning, fire, and smoke, and blackness, and tempest, on the mount, with the loud sound of the trumpet, as became the glory of God's justice, Exod. xix. 16, 18; Heb. xii. 18: but the covenant with Abraham was free from all terror, and replenished with all sweetness of love, and mercy, and comfort against sin.
4. The old testament had Moses for the mediator, Exod. xix. 14, 19; Gal. iii. 19: whereas Abraham himself received the other from God, in the mediation of Christ, as I have formerly shown.
5. The law was dedicated in the blood of beasts, and established unto the people under the priesthood of the Levites, Exod. xxiv. 6, 7, &c.; Heb. vii. 11: where the covenant with Abraham was established in the promised seed Christ, and in his blood: himself being both priest and sacrifice. Gal. iii. 16.
Lastly. The covenant of the law, or old testament, had indeed, the promise of good things heavenly, and earthly, but under the condition of perfect obedience to all the commandments, Lev. xviii. 5; Gal. iii. 10, 12; Deut. xxvii. 26: and under the threatening of the contrary curse to the least breach of any of them. Whereupon, respecting man's corruption, and inability to keep it, Acts xiii. 38, and xv. 10; Rom. viii. 8, 7, it is said to be weak, and unprofitable, yea, generating to bondage, Gal. iv. 24, and the power of sin, 1 Cor. xv. 56, causing wrath, and death, Rom. it. 15, and vii. 5; the letter which killeth, and administration, of death, and condemnation, 2 Cor. iii. 6, 7. But of the covenant, and promise which God made with, and to Abraham, the Scriptures do not so speak, neither can any man having wisdom, and grace. It was profitable every manner of way, and the means both to beget, and nourish faith in him, and his.
The confounding, then, of the covenant given to Abraham with that given by Moses, is in itself a great error, and the ground of this amongst other evils, that it curseth where God blesseth. For where God promised unto Abraham, and his seed a blessing in that covenant, this other of the law bringeth all flesh, as unable to keep it, under God's curse: being given principally for transgression; that is, to discover men's transgressions, and sins, that despairing in themselves they might fly to the gracious promise made to Abraham, and in it, unto Christ to come, and so find mercy with God through repentance. Which covenant, therefore, the Lord upon their repentance, so oft renewed with the seed of Abraham: whereas the covenant of the law admits of no repentance for mercy by it, but stands peremptory in, and upon “Do this, and live:” and “Cursed-be he that abideth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” And this so oft renovation of the covenant made with Abraham doth plainly show it not to be the covenant of the law, but of the gospel, whose two general virtues are, faith in Christ, and repentance. Mark i. 15.
But it will be demanded, How the covenant made with Abraham could be called the new covenant, and that by Moses 430 years after, the old covenant, or testament?
First. In respect of the object, upon which the law worketh properly, which is the old man, or part unregenerate: which it convinceth, suppresseth, condemneth, and killeth: whereas the gospel, or gracious promise, as was that to Abraham, respects properly the new man, which it begetteth, and nourisheth.
2ndly. Even the same law in substance with that given to Moses in tables of stone, unto which the ceremonial, and judicial laws, considered apart from Christ, were subordinate, the one for explanation of the first table, the other of the latter, and so as accessories following the nature of the principal, was in substance be-fore the covenant of the gospel, and as old as Adam; in the table of whose heart it was engraven by creation: as being that image, of God in which he was made: and which is renewed in us by the Spirit's writing the same law in our hearts, in “wisdom, righteousness, and holiness,” Col.iii.10; Eph. iv. 24; Rom. ii. 14, 15: which is yet more evident in the remnants of the same law unblotted out in all Adam's natural posterity; which covenant of the law was, therefore, before the covenant of the gospel with Abraham, yea, or with Adam either.
3rdly and lastly. The whole body of the Scriptures may be divided into two parts: the law, or old testament, and the gospel, or new. Now, of the old testament Moses is propounded unto us as the minister and mediator: as is Christ for the minister and mediator of the new. For “the law was given by Moses, and grace and truth by Christ Jesus.” Not as though Moses preached not the gospel, for he wrote of Christ: and preached the gospel to the Israelites in the wilderness, John v. 46; Heb. iv. 2: nor as if, on the contrary, Christ taught not the law, for we may see the contrary, as elsewhere, so especially Matt v., where he both openeth, and enforceth it against the corrupt glosses of the Pharisees, but because the ministry of Moses was chiefly legal, and the ministry of Christ chiefly evangelical, or of the gospel. In which respect also it is, that we, though the Scriptures never so speak, use to call the writings of Moses, and the prophets, the Old Testament, and those of the evangelists, and apostles, the New Testament. Now unto those two generals; 1. The law most fully, and solemnly published by Moses; and 2. The gospel by Christ, all the particulars of what kind soever dispersed throughout the whole Bible must be referred immediately; and so the covenant made with Abraham, being referred to that clear, and full revelation of Christ come in the flesh, as a part to the head, is after the law given to, and by Moses: whom the Scriptures do everywhere, in that respect, oppose unto Christ, but never Abraham. I proceed.
The Virgin Mary, speaking of the fruit of her womb, Christ, testifieth, that God therein remembered his mercy, as he spake to Abraham, and his seed for ever, Luke i. 41, 42, 54, 56, and Zacharias in the same consideration, that he performed his mercy promised to their forefathers, and remembered his holy covenant, and the oath he sware to their father Abraham, Luke ii. 67, 72, 73, Mary and Zacharias filled with the Holy Ghost do teach that God in his covenant with Abraham, and his seed promised Christ: and, in giving him, remembered the same covenant; with what ghost then do others affirm that in that covenant he promised nothing but the land of Canaan? or how can godly men put out this clear light of the Scriptures shining in their hearts?
The apostle, Rom. iv. 11, calls circumcision, which was the sign of that covenant, the seal of the righteousness of the faith in or of that of the uncircumcision, that is of the faith which he being uncircumcised had, that in his seed Christ should be justification, for believing, uncircumcised Gentiles, as well as circumcised Jews. Whereupon it followeth, if the covenant and seal agree in one, that the covenant itself was of the righteousness of faith, which the gospel bringeth: opposed to the righteousness of the law, which Moses describeth, where he saith, “The man that doth these things, shall live in them.” Rom. x. 5, 6. In which place the apostle plainly teacheth, that the covenant renewed with Israel, Deut. xxix. and xxx., was the covenant of the gospel, and righteousness of faith in Abraham's promised seed.
Lastly, The Scriptures do most plainly, and plentifully teach, that the covenant with Abraham and his seed, the Israelitish church, was the same with ours in nature (though diversely dispensed), and therefore the covenant of the gospel. I will note some special places.
We are taught by Christ, Matt. xxi, 41, that the vineyard, which the Jews had should be taken from them, and let out to other husbandmen: and more plainly, ver. 43, that the kingdom of God should be taken from them, and given to a nation, which should bring forth the fruits thereof, Luke xix. 14. Here is “the very same kingdom of God,” or church whereof they were, and we are subjects; as they elsewhere are called Christ's citizens, and he, their king. Zech. ix. 9; Matt. xxi. 5. Likewise Paul teacheth, that the Gentiles, which before were wild olives, are by faith grafted into the same root, from which the Jews, the natural branches, through unbelief, were broken off: and into which, they should, if they abode not in unbelief, be grafted in again, Rom, xi. 17, 18, 23: making the church of Jews and Gentiles one tree growing upon the same root, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The same apostle also comparing the Ephesians before their calling, with the Jews, saith, “They were in times past without Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Eph. ii. 11, 12, 17: therein showing that the Jews in their right estate and calling, had all these; as they also were near before, the Ephesians being of far off, made near by the blood of Christ: unto which add that the Gentiles were to be made by the preaching of the gospel, co-heirs, and one body, with the Jews, who were before the heirs of promise, Eph. iii. 4–6; Heb. vi. 27: and having all been baptized, and all eaten of the same spiritual meat, and drunken of the same spiritual drink, Christ.
And such is the clearness of those places to prove the covenant and church, with and of Abraham and his seed, the same in nature with ours, and so the covenant, and church of the gospel, as that he who goes about to darken their light, would cover the sun with a ragged clout. And as every by-way, and false profession (notwithstanding any other likely things in it) hath some or other such notorious error, as that all having spiritual eyes, not dazzled too much some way or other, may discover it: so would the Lord mark out this profession of Anabaptistry, as not from heaven, by this error, that the covenant with Abraham, “I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed,” is the covenant of the law, and not of the gospel. Upon which, notwithstanding, doth depend the rejecting of infants from' the church and baptism: as also lie repeating of the baptism received in false churches, as may appear to him, who well observes their pleading for apostate Israel, as a true church because it was Abraham's carnal seed, and so had circumcision as a seal of a carnal covenant.
And, here, I think it a fit place to lay down such scriptures and grounds, as, upon which we admit the infants of the faithful into the church, and to the baptism thereof: and so, after to answer what is objected, intermingling also, amongst mine answers, other proofs, as occasion is.
Now 1. These men grant, that, according to the covenant mentioned, Jer. xxxi., and Heb. viii., the church is to be gathered, and baptism to be administered: and that the infants of the faithful (for they hold it of all), are under a covenant, or promise of salvation, by Christ; whence I conclude, that since there is but one new covenant, or testament established in the blood of Christ, therefore these infants (and of others hereafter) have interest in the church gathered according to this covenant, and in the baptism thereof.
2. If the covenant made with Abraham and his seed, whereof circumcision was a seal, were the covenant of the gospel, or new testament, as I have formerly proved, then standeth it good to all the faithful, and their seed to the world's end, notwithstanding the different ordinances according to the considerations of Christ's being to come, and being come in the flesh. And so these men denying our seed this covenant, and privilege of entrance, do deny the gospel and new testament. And if “the kingdom of God,” or church state of the Jews, which did comprehend infants with their parents, be given to us, and we made “one body” with them, then must the church now comprehend infants also with their parents: otherwise we are not the same body, and kingdom with them. Matt. xxi. 43; Eph. iii. 6. And if with the unbelieving Jews, their infants were “broken off” (who are, otherwise, unbroken off at this day), then must our infants be planted in with us, whom God hath given to believe: otherwise we are not “planted in their place.” And if the Jews shall be “grafted in again,” which “again” shows it to be of them who had been grafted in before, if they continue not in belief, then must the infants be grafted in with their parents at the first, and so our seed with us. Rom. xi. 17, 23.
3. That God did, out of his special love, separate from the world, the infants with their beloved parents into his church and covenant under the seal thereof, before Christ's coming, the Scriptures expressly teach, and every one will grant. Gen. xvii. 7; Lev. xx. 24, 26; Deut. xxix. 10, 11. Except these men can show where God hath cast the infants of those beloved parents out of the church into the world, and taken that his love from them, they must remain in the church to the world's end. For what God hath once established, God only can repeal: and that this covenant with Abraham was not the old cancelled covenant, or testament, I have proved before. They bid us prove that children are of the church, and to be baptized: but we require of them proof how they are cast out of the church, and baptism thereof: and how the grace of God is so shortened by Christ's coming in the flesh, as to cast out of the church, the greatest part of the church before, the infants of believers?
4. The Lord Jesus sent out his apostles, Matt. xxviii. 19, to “teach,” or make disciples, “all nations,” and to “baptize them:” opposing all nations to that one nation of the Jews: as if he should have said thus: I have formerly declared my will to that one nation, and circumcised it: go you now, and “teach all nations,” and baptize them. Now if Christ's meaning had been, that they should not with the parents (being made disciples and baptized) baptize the children, as before they had with the parents (being made disciples and circumcised) circumcised the children, it had been needful he had given them a caveat to leave the children of the faithful out in the world, though they had formerly been in the church. If it be objected, that they who were taught, and. “believed, were to be baptized,” therefore not infants, I deny the consequence: which should be, if it were true, and therefore not infidels, and such as refuse the gospel. And this is the opposition which the Scriptures make, setting impenitent and unbelieving persons, against the penitent and believers, and not children against their parents, which is childish to imagine.
5. The apostle Peter, Acts ii. 38, 39, exhorts the Jews to repent, and to be baptized, upon this ground, that “the promise was made to them, and their children, and to all afar off as many as the Lord should call.” As if he should say, God hath promised unto Abraham, that he would be his God, and the God of his seed, in that blessed seed Christ. He hath now remembered his holy covenant, or promise, and Christ is come to you his own. Luke i. 72; John i. 13. Do not by your unbelief, and impenitence deprive yourselves, and your children of the fruit of this gracious promise: but that it may be profitable to you, and them, repent, and so be baptized for your confirmation: and let the seal be set to the covenant in which you and your children are.
To elude this place alleged in my former book, Mr. Helwisse, in page 177, comments upon it in these words: “The apostle saith to and of all the unbelieving Jews, and Gentiles, The promise is made to you, and to your children, even as many as the Lord shall call:” and so taking his own imagination both for text and exposition, he bids me “prove that by children there are meant infants.”
These words, “to them that are afar off,” which he leaves out in his accustomed boldness with the Scriptures, with the words following, are not meant of the Gentiles at all, but of the Jews “far off” in time, as the original Greek beareth it. For neither was Peter himself yet so well informed of the calling of the Gentiles, neither, had he so been, was it then a fit time to speak of it to the weak Jews. He speaks, then, indefinitely of the Jews as the seed of Abraham, and within the Lord's covenant, or promise: whom therefore, Acts iii. 25, he calls the sous of the covenant: and to the Jew alone, as is evident, where, Acts ii. 14, 16, 22, 29, he quotes the prophecies of Joel, and David: which to unbelieving Gentiles had been in vain. Yea, that of the promise he directs distinctly to such Jews only, as had the work of grace begun in them: being “pricked in their hearts “for the crucifying of Christ, and earnestly set to know, and do the will of God. ver. 37, 39.
That by “children” here are meant infants, I have, by the drift of the place, and conference of other scriptures, proved; and that the Holy Ghost speaks of the covenant with Abraham, neither was there, otherwise, cause of naming their children.
Where he further bids me prove that “the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven goes by succession of generation, as the land of Canaan did,” he begets bastardly errors of his own, and then would have me nourish them. For neither did the land of Canaan come by succession of generation, but by God's promise made upon condition of faith and holiness, as I have formerly proved; much less doth the kingdom of heaven, but by God's gracious promise and gift, both to young and old. These men think the kingdom of heaven comes to all infants so dying; and doth it, therefore, come by carnal generation? If it come otherwise to all, and by the free grace of God in Christ, as they suppose; can they see no other way, but it must needs come to the infants of the faithful, by carnal generation? as if their estate were worse than the estate of all the rest?
Add to this scripture that which we read, Acts xvi. 14,15, that God having “opened the heart of Lydia,” to attend to and believe the word of Paul: “she was baptized, and her family.” She believed, and the fruits and effect thereof was, she and her family were baptized. With these things doth agree Christ our Lord's taking the little children (to wit of the Jewish church) in his arms, his blessing them, that is, his communicating his grace with them, and pronouncing that of such is the kingdom of heaven: as also his commanding the bringing of such unto him. Mark x. 14, 16. In blessing them visibly, he shows them to be lawful members of his visible church or body; and more plainly in pronouncing the kingdom of heaven, which is his church upon earth, to be of such. In commanding such to be brought unto him, he commands them by consequence, to be baptized; since they cannot be brought unto him personally, as then, nor otherwise outwardly, or by men, save by baptism. And if infants be to partake of Christ's blood, and Spirit, there must be some ordinary means to apply them, God working ordinarily by ordinary means, and the same none but baptism, that lavacher (laver) of the new birth, as the apostle calleth it. Tit. iii. 5.
6. Lastly, Paul testifieth, 1 Cor. vii. 14, that if one of the parents be a believer, the “children are holy,” viz. with the holiness of the covenant (secret things being left to God) ‘who otherwise, are unholy. Neither is it truly answered, that they are only holy to their parents' use, as is the unbelieving wife to the use of her husband. For, 1. They must either be holy in their persons, or they cannot be saved. 2. He saith the unbelieving wife is sanctified in, or to her believing husband: but he saith not that children are sanctified to their parents, but simply that they are sanctified, or holy. 3. It is not true that children are sanctified to the parents there spoken of: the one of them being unbelieving to whom nothing is sanctified. Tit. i. 15. Lastly, The very drift of the place proves, that the apostle hath reference to the covenant of Abraham, “I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed.” The thing he intends, is, to prove it lawful for a believing husband, or wife to abide with an unbelieving wife, or husband. This he proves by the covenant made with Abraham, and with every faithful son and daughter of Abraham, that he will be the God of his or her seed: and so endow them with the holiness of the covenant: and that, therefore, they should not make scruple of living with their (though unbelieving, if otherwise lawful) wives, and husbands. And in this interpretation is force of argument, both for the apostle's meaning, and Corinthians' satisfaction. And so, the seed of the faithful being holy with the holiness of the covenant are, necessarily, within the same covenant which halloweth them.
Now, whereas, some marvel why the Holy Ghost speaks not more plainly, and expressly of the admission of infants into the church and baptism thereof, they must remember, 1. That none must presume to teach the Lord how to speak, but that all are with reverence to search out his meaning. 2. That they may with as much reason marvel, why there is no express mention made of the casting out of the Jewish infants with their unbelieving parents. In the very same places the Holy Ghost speaks of the taking the kingdom of God from them, for not bringing forth fruit; and of giving it to the Gentiles, who would bring forth fruit: of breaking off the natural branches for unbelief; and of planting in the Gentiles by faith. Now here is no mention of the infants of either. Both the one and other are comprehended for those outward prerogatives and dispensations, in their parents, as the branches in the roots: the infants of the godly, in their godly parents, according to the tenor of God's mercy: the infants of the ungodly in their ungodly parents, in the tenor of his justice, of which more hereafter.
And here, for the better clearing of things following thereabout, it is of special use to observe the divers considerations, and respects, in which the Scriptures speak of the Jewish church and ordinances: which are in number three.
First, Considering the Israelites, in their just constitution and calling of God, they were the first-fruits and root, with the mass and branches, holy: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, faithful persons, and their posterity an holy people unto the Lord their God: separated unto him from all other people: beloved of him, and out of his love chosen to be a precious people unto himself; above all the people on the earth: in whom God saw none iniquity, nor transgression: to whom belonged the adoption, glory, covenants, constitution of the law, worship, and promises: God's children, having him their Father: being the heir, and heirs of promise: his dearest son, and the child of his delight: natural branches, and in the same regard, Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles: Christ's own: in Christ: without whom the Gentiles were: and the twelve tribes worshipping God instantly, day and night, in hope of the promised Christ. Rom. xi. 16; Lev. xx. 26; Deut. vii. 6–8; Numb, xxiii. 21; Rom. ix. 4; Isa. Ixiii. 16; Exod. iv. 22; Gal. iv. 1; Heb. vi. 17; Jer. xxxi. 20; Rom. xi. 21; Gal. ii. 15; John i. 11; Eph. ii. 12; Acts xxvi. 6, 7. So for their ordinances, in their institution and right use; their circumcision was a seal, or sign of the righteousness of faith: their offerings a sweet savour unto the Lord, for the forgiveness of sins, as leading to Christ by faith: their washings applying the blood of Christ, which they figured, Rom. iv. 11; Heb. iv. 2; Lev. iv. 26, 31, 35; Numb. xv. 24–26: unto which David had respect, when he prayed, that for the forgiveness of his adultery and murder, God would wash him thoroughly from his iniquities, and purge him with hyssop, Psa. li. 4, 9, with Lev. xiv. 4, &c., that he might be clean. Thus were the oracles given, “lively:” the law, “spiritual:” the manna and rock, “spiritual,” and sacramentally, “Christ.” Acts vii. 38; Rom. vii. 12,14; 1 Cor. x. 3, 4.
Secondly, The Scriptures, sometimes, speak of that church and ordinances by way of comparison with the church and ordinances after Christ's death, and ascension. And in that respect the apostle, comparing not person with person, but church with church, calls it, though “the heir,” yet a child, in the nonage: and the ordinances tutors, and governors, under which it was, Gal. iv. 1; ii. 4; but the church now a man of full age, and so freed from them unto greater liberty. The person is the same both a child, and a man grown: though not to be trained up after the same manner: even such is the difference between them and us. They as a child, had a harder hand held over them, and were stinted sundry ways, where we are free. They were taught by signs, and hand-writings, and pointings with the finger, as it were: where our institution is more manlike, and simple. They had earthly things more distinctly, and fully; we, heavenly. In which respect, the church since Christ's ascension, and possession of heavenly glory, is called more especially “the kingdom of heaven,” which he dispenseth, with more than kingly bounty in the largess of his spirit. Matt. xi. 11. They had the gospel by “the prophets shining as a light in a dark place:” we, by Christ, and the apostles, “as the dawning of the day, and morning star.” 2 Pet. i. 19. They had the prophecies, and “shadows of good things to come,” Heb. x. 1: we, the stories and remembrances of the same good things to come, even Christ exhibited according to the promise of the Father. 1 Cor. xi. 24. In which respect it is also said, Gal. iii. 24, 25, that faith was not come to them: but that “they were shut up into the faith to be revealed:” and that “they died, and received not the promise,” to wit, Christ come in the flesh. Heb. xi. 34, 40. And in this consideration, and comparison, neither Abraham, nor David received the promise, or had faith come unto them, or “were made perfect,” as the apostle speaketh.
Thirdly, The Scriptures do oft speak of the Jewish church, and ordinances, in respect of the degenerate state of the one, and corrupt abuse of the other, in that estate. Which, as at other times, so were the one, and other very notable in the days of Christ, and his apostles: the leaven of pharisaical hypocrisy, besides the worse error of the Sadducees, having so far infected, as that the greatest part of the Israelites being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and going about to establish their own righteousness did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God, in receiving Christ. Rom. x. 3. They did not consider the law as given for transgression and to kill them, as revealing the will of God in the rigour of justice, and his eternal, and unchangeable judgment against sin, Gal. iii. 19; Rom. vii. 11: unto which also the sacrifices, and ceremonies served in their legal, and literal use, that so despairing in themselves, they might fly to the free promise of grace in that promised seed of Abraham now come; but taking the law, and ordinances thereof, to be for outward discipline only, they imagined they might by outward obedience satisfy it, and therein be justified before God: and so did glory in the outward works, and ceremonies thereof: especially in their “circumcision of the flesh.” Rom. ii. 17. And as the most of them conceiving carnally or fleshlily of the Lord's covenant did glory in the flesh, and that they were Abraham's seed, and circumcised, and so despised the free promise of grace in Christ, so others of them receiving him in part, did mingle with the righteousness of faith the righteousness of the law, Phil. iii. 3,4; souring also with that leaven many of the Gentiles especially in the churches of Galatia. Whereupon it was, that the apostle wrote to the Hebrews, and Galatians as he did, both of the persons, and things we speak of.
The persons, whether Jews, or Judaising Christians, glorying in the works of the law, especially in their circumcision in the flesh, he calls Abraham's seed according to the flesh, carnal, and under the yoke of Ishmaelitish bondage, of whom Ishmael was a figure; who being the son of the bond-woman, and born after the flesh, or ordinary course of nature, mocked at him who was born after the promise, and was therefore cast out of Abraham's house; and so is propounded as a figure of all them, Jews, or Gentiles, who in the confidence of works, reject the promise of grace, and persecute them that embrace it; bringing themselves also therein under the bondage of the whole law. And thus all, whether Jews or Gentiles, then or now, despising the free promise of grace, and looking to works for justification, were and are rank Ishmaelites, and of Abraham's -seed according to the flesh, as the apostle expressly taxeth the Galatians, desiring to be under the law, though not descending naturally of Abraham. Phil, iii. 3; Gal. iii. 3, and v. 1, 3, 4; Gen. xvi. 1–4, and xxi. 9,10; Gal. iv. 21–23, 39–31.
Now, that I may apply these things to the present purpose, what is all this of Abraham's seed, according to the flesh, in the apostle's meaning, to the infants of the faithful, whether of the Jews formerly, or Gentiles now? Did, or do they, as Ishmael, glory in the flesh, and mock at God's promise, or any way reject Christ? Did, or do they “establish the righteousness of the law, and of works,” or “persecute him that is born after the Spirit,” as all they who are “born after the flesh,” in the apostle's meaning, did, and always do? Only they, who thus Ishmael-like, glory in works, and persecute the true believers, are by the apostle called Abraham's seed, according to the flesh, and of Ishmael. So for the ordinances, and works of the law thus abused, and perverted for justification, they were base, and beggarly, unprofitable, unholy, unhallowing, yea dross and dung: yea, pernicious, and hurtful, cursing, and killing them, who so wrought, or deemed them. And thus considered, the apostle to the Galatians, Philippiane, and Hebrews speaketh of them; giving them, as Luther used to say, ignominious names, having to do with those, who either did, or were in special danger, thus to pervert them.
And these grounds thus laid, unto that his objection, page 167, that “the covenant made with Abraham was a carnal covenant, because it had a worldly sanctuary, and priesthood, and carnal rites purifying the flesh, but not purging the spirit,” I do answer, that those ordinances were no part of the covenant made with Abraham, but accessories unto the law given 430 years after: though there might be a spiritual use of them, and was, by faith, as of any ordinances now and as of the moral law itself, to them that believe and repent: but in, and according unto this lawful use of them the apostle speaketh not, hut in respect of their abuse, as either” severed from Christ, as their end; or joined with him for justification.
His assertion, so oft repeated, that “God in his covenant with Abraham, promised but worldly things, and so inquired only carnal obedience,” I have formerly refuted, as a notorious ground of Judaism and Pharisaism. Neither was it the more a carnal covenant, because the sign was set in the flesh, than is ours now, because baptism is administered upon the flesh, or bodies of the persons baptized.
But where he adds, that “the judgment for the breaking of the covenant of circumcision was a worldly judgment,” and that “no judgment of condemnation as pronounced against any, though presumptuously breaking the ordinances, and law of Moses, but bodily death,” quoting for that purpose Gen. xvii. 14; Numb. xv. 30; Heb. x. 28, he proceeds on, indeed, from Pharisaism, which made the promises, and Messiah carnal, to plain Sadducism, which denied a resurrection, especially unto the Jews, which, as it is written of them, hath been, the persuasion of divers Anabaptists in former times. For if eternal death were not threatened the Jews for breaking the law, and commandments given by Moses, though presumptuously and blasphemously, of which he speaks, Numb. xv. 30, nor for the worshipping of false gods, of which sin Paul speaks, Heb. x. 28, compared with Deut. xvii. 2, 3, 6, then, for no sin whatsoever, and so there is no judgment to come, nor needs be no Christ to save from it.
The scriptures quoted speak indeed of bodily death, but including in it spiritual death, without repentance, as did their bodily blessings promised include spiritual. The apostle Paul speaking of the last judgment, Rom. ii. 12, saith that “the Jews sinning, in or under the law, should be condemned,” (to wit eternally) “by the law.” It is true he addeth, that “they who so sinned, might through repentance be saved:” and so may they that sin against the gospel now, except their sin be against the Holy Ghost, which was then unpardonable, as now, and in so saying, he grants, though he observe it not, that the sin then was in itself, and without repentance, damnable.
He adds, page 170, that “by our ground we must baptize all our household, and infants, both born in the house, and bought with money.” I answer, 1. That it followeth not, that if we succeed the Jews in the covenant of the Lord, and our baptism and Lord's Supper, their circumcision and passover, therefore there must be an agreement in all the particulars about them. The substance of the Lord's covenant with Abraham, was, that he would be his God, and the God of his seed: and this about his bond-servants was an accessory unto it. And of it there was a more special reason for them, than for us: because they were to be separated, even civilly, in a more special manner from uncircumcised persons, than we now from persons unbaptized, as appeareth, Ezra x. 3, 11, &c.; Neh. ix. 2, and xiii. 3, 23, 25, 30; Dan. i. 8; Acts x. 9–11, and xi. 3, &c. 2. Even the families, and households of the faithful now, if they be in the estate of Abraham's family, are to be baptized also.
And for this purpose, it shall be useful to consider, what the Scriptures both promise, and testify of families, and households. The Lord promised Abraham the father of the faithful, that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed: bids him circumcise all the males of Ms family, which he knew before he would command to keep the way of the Lord. Gen. xviii. 19. As Jacob also purged his household from idolatry, and all uncleanness, that he might sacrifice unto God with them. Thus Joshua professeth for himself, and his household, that they will serve the Lord: and David, that he who walked in a perfect way should serve him: and that none working deceit, should dwell in his house. Accordingly the Lord told Zaccheus, when he became a son of Abraham, that that day salvation was come into his house. We read likewise of Cornelius, that he was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his household: as was the jailor also converted, and baptized, with all his family. Gen. xviii. 19, and xxi. 2, 3, 12, xii. 3, xvii. 13, xxxv. 2; Josh. xxiv. 15; Psa. ci. 6, 7; Luke xix. 9; Acts x. 2, xvi. 32–34. And lastly, in the places brought by Mr. Helwisse for the gathering of the church under Christ, the Lord promiseth to make his covenant with the house, or family of Israel, and with the family of Judah. Jer. xxxi. 31; Heb. viii. 8. In all which, with other scriptures, we see how the tenor of the Lord's promise, and blessing runs upon godly governors, and their families. Nor but that it comes oft to pass otherwise, and that faithful governors have unbelievers in their households: but that this is the ordinary, and orderly state of things, and where it falls out otherwise, it is, at the least, the governors' cross, if not their sin. Now in this, as in all other particulars, we must consider of the dispensation of the Lord's ordinances, according to the orderly state of things. But to conceive, that Abraham would circumcise any unbelieving, or unholy person, so appearing, or seed of such, on both sides, is to accuse “the father of the faithful” of unfaithful dealing with the seal of the Lord's covenant, in setting it upon them, who had no part in it, nor promise of “God to be their God:” though I doubt not but, they under godly government in the family, may be admitted into the church upon the manifestation of a very small measure of grace, with promise of submission unto all good means of growth, public, and private; as might they yet with a lesser measure have been admitted into the Israelitish church, having a far less measure of revelation of grace, than we now.
He addeth, page 168, that “baptism is by John taught to be the baptism of amendment of life, and remission of sins,” Mark i. 4, the burying into the death of Christ, that men might walk in newness of life, Rom. vi. 4, and the putting on of Christ by faith, Gal. iii. 26, 27.
I answer, that these are preparations unto, and ends and uses of baptism for men of years: and should not be alleged to the prejudice of infants: no more than their want of faith, by which men of years are justified, or of works, by which they are to be judged, to the prejudice of the salvation of infants, which have them not. Christ our Lord had the same outward circumcision with the Jews, and the same baptism with us, and yet neither the same preparation unto, nor ends or uses of the one or other, with them or us. Luke ii. 21; Matt. iii. 16.
Besides, upon this ground, any might have excepted against the circumcision of infants of old. Abraham believed before he was circumcised, Rom. iv. 3, 11: so the ends and uses of circumcision were, to be a seal of the righteousness of faith, and to confirm, that God was the God of the person circumcised, Gen. xvii.: as also to teach, that nothing clean could come of the unclean seed of man, Job xiv. 4: to admonish of the circumcision of the heart, Deut. x. 16; Jer. iv. 4; 1 Sam. xiv. 6; xvii. 36; Judges xiv. 3; Acts xi. 3: to confirm faith in the time of danger especially against the uneireumcised: and to be a sign of distinction and separation from the same uncircumcised Gentiles. These were the ends and uses of circumcision, which, notwithstanding infants could not possibly propound or have, were they therefore to be kept from it? So reasons this man against the baptism of infants: which followeth in the room of the other, as I have formerly proved. It is sufficient, that the infants of believers are capable of the manifestation of God's goodness towards them, in being baptized, as of old they were circumcised, according to the covenant. The other particular ends were and are to follow, and to be attained in their times. Where let it also be noted, that whereas, in the Lord's Supper there are required for the act of partaking, sundry works implying understanding, and knowledge in the partaker; as his being put in mind, that it is Christ's body and blood given for him: that, he take, eat, and drink it in remembrance of Christ's death: there is no such thing in the act of the administering of baptism: but only the person baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The same difference may be also observed to have been of old, between circumcision, and the eating of the passover, prohibited them who were not capable of the meaning of the mystery. Exod. xii. 26, 27.
That we “hold, and profess that Christians beget Christians,” and “that only we” (whom he calls Brownists, page 172, because we are not Anabaptists) “beget infants that are heirs of salvation, and under the covenant of grace,” is but his rash, and unhonest accusation of us.
All men know we hold the reformed churches, in all places, the true churches of Christ, and so within the Lord's covenant, the faithful parents with their seed. The like also we think of such in England in their persons, and seed with them, as are made partakers of the faith of Abraham. 2ndly, we hold, that our, as all other men's, children are, by natural generation, the children of wrath, Eph. ii. 3: and that it is by the grace of God, that we, and they with us, are within this the Lord's covenant, as was Abraham and his seed.
Against our doctrine, that baptism is a seal of the covenant of the gospel, he objecteth, that then washing with water is a seal in the flesh, and makes a print, or impression. I answer, noting in the first place, how he calls the very “outward washing with water, baptism,” that, even that washing by God's appointment, is an outward seal, or sign of confirmation, of the New Testament in the blood of Christ; for that we mean by a “seal:” and to require a print, or impression, is but to quarrel about the word, or letter; when even circumcision itself, to speak properly, was no print. Where Christ teacheth, John vi. 27, that “the Father sealed him,” doth he mean that he set any print upon his soul or body, or more than this, that he designed him to the office of the Mediator? Where the Lord bids the prophet “seal up the law among his disciples,” would he have a print set in their flesh, or more, than that he should more fully declare, and confirm the law unto them? Isa. viii. 16. When Paul tells the Corinthians that they are the seal of his apostleship, doth he mean any more than that their conversion from paganism both by doctrine and signs and wonders of an apostle amongst them, was a confirmation thereof? 1 Cor. ix. 2; 2 Cor. xii. 11. So, since baptism is, by God's appointment, a declaration, and confirmation of the inward, and effectual washing by that blood and spirit of Christ, from the guilt, and contagion of sin, it is rightly, and truly called a seal, or sign of confirmation of Christ's testament established in his blood; as is also the Lord's Supper, of the breaking of his body, and shedding of his blood for our sins. And for this sealing, and confirming of Christ's testament in his blood those ordinances especially serve, and are by his servants to be used.
He tells us, that “in the new testament there is no seal, but the seal of the Spirit:” and quotes Eph. i. 17, and other scriptures speaking of that inward seal, and proving it, indeed; but not disproving the outward seals, but plainly establishing them. For if God's teaching of, and testifying unto us, inwardly, by his Spirit, that we are his in Christ, be an inward seal, then is his teaching of, and testifying unto us, the same thing outwardly, by the gospel, and sacraments, an outward seal, or seals, and so rightly called. And not only the spirit, which is inward, but water, and blood, which are outward, do bear record of Christ, or confirm, and seal up his death unto us. 1 John v. 8. In respect of which water and blood issuing out of his side, our sacraments are said to have flown thence. John xix. 34. Lastly, Abraham, our father, when he believed, was also sealed by the Spirit of promise: and yet this hindered not, but that both he, and his seed had the outward seal of circumcision added; even so our good God, knowing how frail, and feeble in faith we are, hath to his gracious covenant, and promise in word, and writing, annexed, besides the inward seal of the Spirit, the outward seals, which we call sacraments, for the confirmation thereof, not in itself, but unto us: which we are therefore accordingly to use, with reverence, and thankfulness.
His assertion, that “infants are not in the covenant of the new testament, and therefore not under the seal,” I have formerly disproved. If they be under the promise of salvation, they have a part, or legacy in the will, or testament of Christ, or new covenant, which are both one: and so in this seal of initiation, or entrance, baptism.
To his affirmation, that “parents cannot set the seal upon their infants now, as they could the seal of circumcision of old, upon theirs,” I do answer, that they cannot indeed set the inward seal, no more could they then: but the outward they can now, as then they could: unto which God also setteth the inward in due time, as he hath promised, if they make not themselves unworthy thereof.
He objects in the last place against a ground in my book,* the former part whereof is this: “The Scriptures everywhere teach, that parents by their faith bring their children into the covenant of the church, and entitle them to the promises.” This I proved from Gen. xviii. 7; Acts ii. 37; which proofs I have also confirmed against his unjust exceptions. He here objects further, page 176, that I “bring in a meritorious faith, where my faith is little enough to bring myself under the covenant of God, were it not for his merciful acceptance in Christ.”
A vain, and ignorant collection: and by which the apostle teaching justification by faith, might, as truly, have been accused for bringing in a meritorious faith, &c. I do not, then, make faith a meritorious cause to deserve, but an instrumental means, or hand, as it were, to receive God's gracious promises in Christ to the faithful, and their seed: as Abraham when God promised him to be “his God, and the God of his seed,” did by faith lay hold of, and receive this promise, and so interested himself and his in it, and the seal thereof: which promise had he not believed, he had visibly, or before men, deprived himself and his of all interest in it. The same I judge of all other faithful parents, leaving merit to free-willers, who hold particular election to arise from faith foreseen: and, as this man affirmed unto me and others, that if God showed to him any more favour, or mercy, than to the profanest man in the world, it were partiality in him.
He adds, page 177, that “Abraham's faith and earnest prayer could not bring Ishmael his child of thirteen years old, nor his other children by Keturah, under the covenant.” Gen.xvii. 18, 21. Where meaning, as he must, the covenant of circumcision, he overthrows one error, as he that interferes, strikes down one ill leg, by another. For, 1. Since Ishmael, and the children by Keturah, were circumcised, and yet had no promise of the land of Canaan, his main foundation, which is, that “God in the covenant of circumcision, promised nothing on his part, but the land of Canaan,”is raised, and so all falls, which he builds upon it. 2. Since the covenant there spoken of was the covenant of circumcision, and that Ishmael with the rest were circumcised, how saith he, that he and they were not in the covenant, to wit outwardly? Besides the Lord tells Abraham, ver. 20, that he had heard his prayer touching Ishmael: though he meant to establish his covenant with Isaac, as the root; of which both the church, and promised seed should come, and unto whom Ishmael, with the rest, should have submitted, and adjoined himself; whom because he despised, and in him Christ, he was cut off from the church and covenant afterwards. Which things till they were revealed made no difference between Isaac and Ishmael: neither can the like difference in God's secret knowledge, or purpose, till the time of revelation, exclude one of the children of the faithful now, more than another.
Of Acts ii. 39, I have spoken formerly, and therefore come to the latter part of the ground, which he putteth down thus, page 178. “God takes occasion by the sins of parents to execute his justice to condemnation, upon the children.” “Where,” saith he, “I double my sin, in that as before I made the parent's faith the cause of blessing to salvation, so here, their infidelity a cause of God's judgment to condemnation, to their children.” Where the truth is, he both doubleth, and trebleth injury upon me, and just blame upon himself. For first, I neither mention, nor meddle with either the salvation, or condemnation of infants, though he falsify my words, as if I did: our question being only about the outward, or visible covenant of the church, and privileges thereof: secret things being left to God, as I there expressly speak, alleging Deut. xxix. 29, for that purpose. Secondly, As I make not the faith of parents a cause meritorious, as he imagineth, of that good unto their children, but only a means of embracing God's gracious offer, and promise: so neither do I write, as he challengeth me, that the father's infidelity is a cause of the children's damnation, but an occasion, which God useth for the execution of his justice upon the children, being by nature the children of wrath. That then, which I have written,* and do avouch, is, that God ordinarily includeth in the parents, the infants, as branches in the root, either for blessings, or judgments visibly, or in respect of men, reserving to himself, the secret dispensation of things, according to the tenor either of his mercy or justice. That the children of the faithful are with their parents in the visible covenant of God's love, I have at large proved by the Scriptures, and might allege for that purpose many more, Deut. iv. 37; Psa. xxxvii. 25, 26: and those not figurative, and shadowish, but containing in them promises of eternal truth: howsoever these men can have no more comfort in those promises for their children, than if they were the children of Turks and Pagans.
The other part touching the administration of God's justice I proved in my book† by sundry scriptures: which because he passeth by, as unseen, I will here insert, as there I wrote,.word for word. “Cain going out from the presence of the Lord, carried his posterity with him; so did Ishmael and Esau theirs, the Ishmaelites and Edomites. “And if the Lord disclaim the mother for an harlot, not reputing her his wife, he accounts the children no better than bastards, on whom he will have no pity.” Gen. iv. 16; vi. 2; Hos. ii. 2. And if the children of the Jews be not broken off with their parents, for their unbelief, they are successively within the Lord's covenant, every one of them to this day. To the same purpose we may consider how in the drowning of the old world: the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah: the plaguing of Egypt, especially in the death of the first-born: the swallowing up of Dathan and Abiram: the stoning of Achan: the destruction of the Canaanites and Amalekites: the rooting out of Eli's, Jeroboam's, and Baashan's families, how I say in all these, and many more, though most grievous, yet most just judgments of God, the children were enwrapped in their fathers' judgments: drowned, burned, swallowed up by the earth, and otherwise destroyed with them. Gen. vi. 7; xix. 24, 25; 1 Pet. iii. 20,21; 2 Pet. ii. 6; Exod. xi. 5; xii. 29; Numb. xvi. 27,32; Josh. vii. 24, 25. With which examples join the testimony of Job, v. 3, 4, “The habitation of the fool is cursed: his children are far from safety: they are crushed in the gates, and there is no rescue:” and that of David, Psa. xxi. 10, “The Lord will destroy the fruit of his enemies from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men:” and again, Psa. xxxvii. 28, “The seed of the wicked shall be cut off.” Yea, what need we seek further for this dispensation, than David himself, though a godly man, because of whose sin, the child born in adultery died the death. 2 Sam. xii. 14, 18. What reason, then, this man had in his blind zeal thus to revile this doctrine, “as a doctrine of devils,” and me, for it as “a false prophet,” let all wise men judge.
But, saith he, “I propound this doctrine for a general rule.” I do, for the ordinary course of God's justice of which we speak. Which notwithstanding hinders not, but that his extraordinary mercy may, and doth oft, and much, rejoice against his judgment. But let us see, what he objecteth. 1. That Abijah the son of wicked Jeroboam, though young, yet was not cursed for his father's sin, 1 Kings xiv. First, I speak nowhere of any such cursing, as he casts out. 2. Abijah was not so young but he disliked his father's courses: and “had good found in him towards the Lord,” ver. 13. 3. It is evident, ver. 10, that the Lord punished his father's sin, in his death, ver. 11. That in Ezek. xviii. 14,17, is impertinent, being spoken of a son forsaking his father's sin, and doing the contrary; with whom the Lord doth not deal in the course of his justice, but of his mercy. So for Josiah, at eight years old, he forsook the wicked ways of his father Ammon, “and sought after the God of his father David.” 2 Chron. xxxiv. 1–3. And yet even for him, it appears in the Scriptures, that the Lord in giving him into the hands of the king of Egypt, had respect to. the sins of Judah, and so of his father, amongst and above the rest. In his last example, he affirmeth untruly, that the Lord did not punish the people of Israel's children for their great transgression, Numb. xiv. 26, 27, &c. It is expressly affirmed, ver. 33, that their “children should wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear their whoredoms:” though respecting their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and his promise to them, he brought the most of them into the land of Canaan, at the last: which Mr. Helwisse grants to have been God's mercy, and therein, that in his justice he might have taken them away also. And so, ver. 12, the Lord plainly showeth, that his justice moved him to the destroying of them altogether, save that his singular mercy did rejoice against judgment. And so this instance is clear against himself.
Where he further confesseth with me, that all are by nature, children of wrath, conceived, and born in sin; and then demands, page 178, whether I hold not all children alike children of wrath: or that some parents confer grace by generation, more than others; or if not, which he assures himself we will confess, how I can prove, that God should execute his justice to condemnation upon some children, for the sins of their parents, and show mercy upon others, for the faith of their parents, seeing God hath said, that every one shall receive salvation, or condemnation, according to that, which he hath done in the flesh, and not according to that his parents have done, I answer sundry things.
And, first, as before, that I do not say that infants are saved or condemned for the faith or sins of their parents, as he most untruly accuseth me. The infants saved, are saved by the grace of God in Christ; which their faithful parents also believe, according to God's promise, “I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed.” Those that perish, (though I desire, if such were the will of God, and so could gladly believe, if the Scriptures taught it, that all were saved) do perish for that original guilt and corruption, wherein they are conceived and born, being “the children of wrath by nature,” and therein liable to God's curse every way. But for that parents are, in a sort, in their children, and so punished in their punishments, their sins also may and do concur as con-causes, or causes with other of God's judgments: both the Scriptures and reason teaching, that many causes may meet together in one effect. Yet it must be here and always remembered, that our question is not about the peremptory salvation or condemnation of any, but about their admission or non-admission into the visible church. And strange it is for this man to make it all one to be saved and to be of the visible church; and to be condemned, and to be out of it, specially for children; since he will have them all saved, and yet none of them at all to be of the church. Secondly, If he were assured, as he saith, that we would “confess that no parents do confer grace by generation more than others,” I am assured he showed the less grace in accusing us in another place, page 172, against his conscience, to hold, “that Christians beget Christians by generation.” Thirdly, Since all are by nature alike children of wrath, I would know of these free-willers, how some, become the children of God and believers, and some, abide under the wrath of God? To make the things or persons, which are altogether alike in themselves, unlike, there must come something from elsewhere, and that not alike, unto them both. For either let them alone which are alike, or add alike unto them both, and they will remain alike still. It must not then he any universal grace alike common to all, which makes them who are alike to become unlike one to another.
Mr. Helwisse, elsewhere and rightly, disclaims all free-will, or power in a man's self to work, out his salvation, but teacheth, that “this grace, which is his mercy in Christ, God hath given to all, though all receive it not;” for which he quotes Phil. i. 10, 11; Acts vii. 51; xiii. 46. Where first he lays a notorious error for his foundation, in making all and every person in the world partakers of the grace of God in Christ. For they to whom God gives grace in Christ, must themselves be in Christ; and so all the unbelievers and wicked in the world should be in Christ, which is expressly contrary to the Scriptures. Rom. viii.]; Gal. v. 24; Eph. ii. 12; John iii. 3. So that wicked and unregenerate men have neither power in themselves nor in Christ (in whom they are not), to work out their salvation. They, indeed, who are in Christ by faith, and have received his spirit, are thereby enabled to work out their salvation; which Phil. i. 10, 11, proveth; as the rest also are able and have power to despise and reject the grace of God offered to condemnation, and this the other two scriptures, Acts vii. 51, and xiii. 46, do prove. Which yet a great part of the wicked in the world do not; as not having so much as heard of Christ, at least in any competent measure for salvation by him; but shall be judged according to the law of nature, written in the creatures, and in their natural consciences. Rom. ii. 12. Again, he speaks contradictions in saying, that all have this grace or power in Christ, and that God giveth it to all, and yet confessing that all receive it not. For though there may be a purpose, will, and offer to give, yet there can be no giving so as the person have the thing, especially that thing which none can have against his will, as none can have grace, except there be also a receiving. Since, then, all men are not in Christ, and so not partakers of the grace of God in him; nor yet, if they were, could a common, universal, and equal grace make them unequal who were formerly equal, it followeth that there is a special and peculiar grace, which God in Christ giveth unto some, and not to others; by which they are enabled to understand and believe the gospel, and to repent; and so by consequence, a special and particular election of those persons before the world, since God's works are known unto him of old, Acts xv. 18; neither doth he anything in time, which he did not purpose to do before time.
Lastly, Since all children are by nature children of, or subject to, wrath, and which God might in justice destroy, why should it seem harsh unto these men, that he should execute his justice upon some, and show mercy upon others, and save them? If he might in justice have condemned all, (which they must needs grant, if they believe that all are “by nature the children of wrath,” and that God gave his Son in his mercy, and that it had been no injustice if he had given him for none, no more than he did for the angels that sinned,) will they sue God at the law, because he hath not given him effectually for all, or saved all by him? Will they have him give them account why he takes some into the arm of his mercy, when he might have left all to the hand of his justice? If he condemn any, they have their due: those whom he saveth, he doth it of free mercy, unto which he is not bound. And is any man's eye evil, because his is good? or because men know no reason why God should rather choose and save some than others, all deserving condemnation, will they yield him to be no more wise, and no more holy than they? “The depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, and the unsearchableness of his judgments” appears in this, if in any other thing; as doth also man's intolerable presumption, who will yield him no more than he sees reason for.
Now though I have done it fully before, yet will I further clear by the Scriptures, that, though all children are by nature alike, yet in respect of the grace of adoption, they are not alike, especially unto us, and in that judgment, which we are to pass upon them, leaving unto the Lord his secrets.
And 1. Who will say, that Isaac, being separated from the infants of the heathen into the covenant of God's love, and so signed, as one of the Lord's peculiar people; and those infants of the world, from whom he was separated, for example, the infants of the Sodomites, about his time, who were in God's fierce wrath destroyed with fire, and brimstone from heaven, were alike in God's acceptance? We have Isaac set forth as an example of God's mercy, and love; and them, with their parents, of his justice, and vengeance. Jude 7. And who will say that the Israelitish children received into solemn covenant by and with the Lord, Neh. x. 28, 29, and the children of the heathenish women, which were shut out with their mothers, and separated, before the other could enter it, were to be accounted alike acceptable? Neh. ix. 2. The Prophet Malachi testifieth for the Lord that he “loved Jacob, and hated Esau” (to wit in the decree of his love, and hatred, by just means to be applied), “before they were born:” and this the apostle, Rom. ix., applieth to the question of election, and reprobation, touching the two parties, primarily, and distinctly; and their posterity, secondarily, and indefinitely, both for persons, and things. And lest any should say, that God thus decreed, in respect of anything, which he foresaw they would do, or prove, the apostle prevents this shift, and shows that this was not in respect of works, but that the purpose of God might stand, according to election, ver. 11. Besides had this been primarily in respect of faith, or works foreseen, and for that the one would receive the grace of God, and not the other, the apostle needed not to have broken out as he did, speaking of the reason of this his love, or hatred. “But what art thou, O man, who pleadest with God,” &c. ver. 20. The answer had been easy for a child to have given, namely, that the reason why God purposed to love Jacob was because he foresaw he would receive of himself the grace to be offered, and believe: and so to hate Esau for his sin in not receiving the same grace to be offered as effectually on God's part, as unto his brother.
It is also noted of John the Baptist, that he was “filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb,” Luke i. 15: which to affirm of all children were a vanity not worthy the refuting. Lastly, Christ our Saviour blessed the infants of the Israelites, being of the church, when they were brought unto him, Matt. xix. 13–15: but with the little daughter of the Canaanitish woman he refused to communicate his grace, accounting her as a dog, or whelp, till her mother by her faithful, and zealous confession, had obtained for her, interest in the children's bread. Matt. xv. 22. And thus it appeareth, besides the things formerly laid down, that though all children be alike in nature, yet are they not all alike in respect of God's adoption, especially outwardly manifested, of which we speak.
He adds, that “every one shall receive salvation, or condemnation according to that which he hath done in the flesh,” &c. And for answer, I would know of him, how any infants, so dying, who have done neither good, nor evil, shall either be saved, or damned? He must answer, that the Scriptures he brings concern not infants at all, but men of years; and, therefore, are, by him, misapplied to them, whom they nothing concern.
And here note, that as the church in heaven, or of glory, and this in earth, or of grace, is one in substance; this, the beginning of that, and that the consummation of this, so they, who come into the church here, must enter by the profession, which themselves make: and they that come into the church there, by the profession, which Christ shall make of, and for them, according to their works. Matt. xxv. But as it were absurd to say, that infants cannot enter into the church and state of glory, because Christ cannot profess of them, that they have “fed the hungry,” &c.: so is it as absurd to exclude them from the church or state of grace, because they cannot themselves make profession of faith, and repentance. This man by one, and the same error, which is the perverting, and misapplying of the Scriptures to infants, which are peculiar to men of years, debars them of both.
These things considered, I hope it will appear to the godly, and wise reader, that the things for which he challengeth me in this, as in other points, are only false, wherein they are, by him, falsified. Yea and if there were nothing else, two of the three last scriptures, which he brings against me, do undeniably prove as much as, yea, more than, I speak: which is, that wicked parents do enwrap their children in the same evils visibly (for so I speak), with themselves, adding in the same place, that “this is not so, as though the children were without fault, but as being by Adam's transgression, and their natural, and original corruption children of wrath, and liable to all God's curses, which he also takes occasion by the sins of the parents to execute upon the children, in whose punishments he also punisheth the parents themselves after a sort.” The former scripture is Rom. v. 14, which proves by his own exposition, that all infants are by the sin of their common father Adam, under the reign or tyranny of death: the guilt, and contagion of which sin is, by their next parents immediately conveyed unto them by natural generation. And that God hath usually punished the sins, even of the next parents, both in the death of their children and otherwise, is so evident in the Scriptures, as that no modest man will gainsay it. Yea, even for them of years, that other scripture which he brings, Exod. xx. 5, teacheth plainly, that “the Lord visits” not only their own “sins, who hate him, upon them,” but the “sins of their fathers” also. That in Ezek. xviii. 14, 17, as before I have answered, is not of an infant, but of a child of years, “forsaking his father's sins,” and doing the contrary: with whom therefore the Lord deals not in the course of his justice, but of his mercy: and so is not pertinent to the question in hand: which is about infants, and those such as with whom the Lord deals in the course, and tenor of his justice.
And thus have I answered all the particulars in his book, which either respect mine own writings, or our special cause, and practice. My purpose also was to have showed, how, whilst he pretends “the discovery of the mystery of iniquity,” himself is deep plunged in many points of popish iniquity. But for that I have drawn out the thread of mine answer further than I intended; and that most of the particulars will come, for substance, under consideration, in the “Survey of Mr. Smyth's Confession,” in the following chapters, I will here conclude for the matter of his writing: adding especially for the manner thereof, only thus much; that in him, and some others I have had great cause to observe, and bewail, in a special regard, man's misery, in lying open to this, amongst other, of Satan's dangerous practices: which is, when men have escaped his snares of gross ignorance, and profaneness, and are come to some measure of knowledge, and conscience of godliness, and have suffered something for the truth, than to bring them into love with themselves, and their own knowledge, zeal, and other graces: and withal into the contempt of the knowledge, judgment, zeal, and graces of all other men: that, so soaring aloft upon the wings of vain presumption, and beholding all others afar off, and as searce creeping upon the earth, whilst they mount on high, they might fall by rising, and that their fall might be great. But let all God's people be exhorted, and admonished to serve him in modesty of mind, and meekness of wisdom, with reverence, and fear: avoiding, as the sands of humble hypocrisy, in pinning their faith and obedience upon the sleeves of others, so much more the rock of proud presumption: which is so much the worse than the other, as it is more dangerous for any to overvalue himself, than another man. James iii. 13; Heb.xii. 28; Col. ii. 18.
Calvin, Bucer, Bucanus.
Melancthon, Chemnitius, Sohnius, Arminius.
Vide vol. ii. pages 296, 297.
Vide vol. ii. pages 296, 297.