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A particular Consideration of the Opinions of the Anabaptists.
1. IN the anabaptists, I consider only their two capital opinions, the one against the baptism of infants, the other against magistracy: and because they produce different judgments and various effects, all their other fancies, which vary as the moon does, may stand or fall in their proportion and likeness to these.
2. And first I consider their denying baptism to infants. Although it be a doctrine justly condemned by the most sorts of Christians upon great grounds of reason, yet possibly their defence may be so great as to take off much, and rebate the edge of their adversaries' assault. It will be nei ther unpleasant nor unprofitable to draw a short scheme of plea for each party; the result of which possibly may be, that though they be deceived, yet they have so great excuse on their side, that their error is not impudent or vincible. The baptism of infants rests principally and usually upon this discourse.
3. When God made a covenant with Abraham for himself and his posterity, into which the Gentiles were reckoned by spiritual adoption, he did, for the present, consign that covenant with the sacrament of circumcision. The extent of which rite was to all his family, from the major-domo' to the 'proselytus domicilio,' and to infants of eight days old. Now the very nature of this covenant being a covenant of faith for its formality, and with all faithful people for the object, and circumcision being a seal of this covenant, if ever any rite do supervene to consign the same covenant, that rite must acknowledge circumcision for its type and precedent. And this the apostle tells us in express doctrine. Now the nature of a type is, to give some proportions to its successor the antitype; and they both being seals of the same righteousness of faith, it will not easily be found where these two seals have any such distinction in their nature or purposes, as to appertain to persons of differing capacity, and not equally concern all. And this argument was thought of so much force by some of those excellent men, which
were bishops in the primitive church, that a good bishop writ an epistle to St. Cyprian, to know of him, whether or no it were lawful to baptize infants before the eighth day, because the type of baptisin was ministered in that circumcision; he, in his discourse, supposing that the first rite was a direction to the second, which prevailed with him so far as to believe it to limit every circumstance.
4. And not only this type, but the acts of Christ which were previous to the institution of baptism, did prepare our understanding by such impresses as were sufficient to produce such persuasions in us, that Christ intended this ministry for the actual advantage of infants as well as of persons of understanding. For Christ commanded that children should be brought unto him; he took them in his arms, he imposed hands on them and blessed them;' and without question did, by such acts of favour, consign his love to them, and them to a capacity of an eternal participation of it. And possibly the invitation which Christ made to all to come to him, all them that are heavy laden, did, in its proportion, concern infants, as much as others, if they be guilty of original sin, and if that sin be a burden, and presses them to any spiritual danger or inconvenience. And if they be not, yet Christ, who was (as Tertullian's phrase is) ' nullius pœnitentiæ debitor,' guilty of no sin, "obliged to no repentance," needing no purification and no pardon, was baptized by St. John's baptism, which was the baptism of repentance. And it is all the reason in the world, that since the grace of Christ is as large as the prevarication of Adam, all they who are made guilty by the first Adam, should be cleansed by the second. But as they are guilty by another man's act, so they should be brought to the font to be purified by others; there being the same proportion of reason, that by others' acts they should be relieved, who were in danger of perishing by the acts of others. And therefore St. Austin argues excellently to this purpose; "Accommodat illis mater ecclesia aliorum pedes, ut veniant; aliorum cor, ut credant; aliorum linguam, ut fateantur: ut quoniam, quòd ægri sunt, alio peccante prægravantur, sic, cùm sani fiant, alio confitente salventura." And Justin Martyr ; ̓Αξιοῦνται δὲ τῶν διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος ἀγαθῶν τὰ βρέφη τῇ πίστει τῶν προσφερόντων αὐτὰ τῷ βαπτίσματι. 5. But whether they have original sin or no, yet, take
a Serm. 10. de verb. Apost.
b Resp. ad Orthodoxos.
them in puris naturalibus,' they cannot go to God, or attain to eternity, to which they were intended in their first being and creation; and therefore much less since their naturals are impaired by the curse on human nature, procured by Adam's prevarication. And if a natural agent cannot 'in puris naturalibus' attain to heaven, which is a supernatural end, much less when it is loaden with accidental and grievous impediments. Now then since the only way revealed to us of acquiring heaven is by Jesus Christ; and the first inlet into Christianity and access to him is by baptism, as appears by the perpetual analogy of the New Testament; either infants are not persons capable of that end which is the perfection of human nature, and to which the soul of man in its being made immortal was essentially designed, and so are miserable and deficient from the very end of humanity, if they die before the use of reason; or else they must be brought to Christ by the church-doors, that is, by the font and waters of baptism,
6. And in reason it seems more pregnant and plausible, that infants rather than men of understanding should be baptized. For since the efficacy of the sacraments depends upon divine institution and immediate benediction, and that they produce their effects, independently upon man, in them that do not hinder their operation; since infants cannot, by any acts of their own, promote the hope of their own salvation, which men of reason and choice may, by acts of virtue and election; it is more agreeable to the goodness of God, the honour and excellency of the sacrament, and the necessity of its institution, that it should in infants supply the want of human acts and free obedience: which the very thing itself seems to say it does, because its effect is from God, and requires nothing on man's part, but that its efficacy be not hindered. And then in infants the disposition is equal, and the necessity more; they cannot 'ponere obicem,' and by the same reason cannot do other acts, which without the sacraments do advantages towards our hopes of heaven, and therefore have more need to be supplied by an act and an institution divine and supernatural.
7. And this is not only necessary in respect of the condition of infants' incapacity to do acts of grace, but also in obedience to divine precept. For Christ made a law whose sanction is with an exclusive negative to them that are no
baptized; "Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." If then infants have a capacity of being coheirs with Christ in the kingdom of his Father, as Christ affirms they have, by saying, "for of such is the kingdom of heaven;" then there is a necessity that they should be brought to baptism; there being an absolute exclusion of all persons not baptized and all persons not spiritual, from the kingdom of heaven.
8. But indeed it is destruction of all the hopes and happiness of infants, a denying to them an exemption from the final condition of beasts and insectiles, or else a designing of them to a worse misery, to say that God hath not appointed some external or internal means of bringing them to an eternal happiness. Internal they have none; for grace being an improvement and heightening the faculties of nature in order to a heightened and supernatural end, grace hath no influence or efficacy upon their faculties, who can do no natural acts of understanding: and if there be no external means, then they are destitute of all hopes and possibilities of salvation.
But, thanks be to God, he hath provided better, and told us accordingly, for he hath made a promise of the Holy Ghost to infants as well as to men: "The promise is made to you and to your children," said St. Peter; the promise of the Father,' 'the promise that he would send the Holy Ghost.' Now if you ask how this promise shall be conveyed to our children, we have an express out of the same sermon of St. Peter; "Be baptized, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." So that therefore, because the Holy Ghost is promised, and baptism is the means of receiving the promise, therefore baptism pertains to them, to whom the promise, which is the effect of baptism, does appertain. And that we may not think this argument is fallible, or of human collection, observe that it is the argument of the same Apostle in express terms: for in the case of Cornelius and his family, he justified his proceeding by this very medium, "Shall we deny baptism to them, who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost as well as we?" Which discourse, if it be reduced to form of argument, says this; they that are capable of the same grace, are receptive of the same sign: but then (to
Acts, ii. 38, 39.
make the syllogism up with an assumption proper to our present purpose) infants are capable of the same grace, that is, of the Holy Ghost (for the promise is to our children' as well as to us, and St. Paul says the children of believing parents are holy,' and therefore have the Holy Ghost, who is the fountain of holiness and sanctification): therefore they are to receive the sign and the seal of it, that is, the sacrament of baptism.
10. And indeed, since God entered a covenant with the Jews, which did also actually involve their children, and gave them a sign to establish the covenant and its appendant promise, either God does not so much love the church as he did the synagogue, and the mercies of the Gospel are more restrained than the mercies of the Law, God having made a covenant with the infants of Israel, and none with the children of Christian parents; or if he hath, yet we want the comfort of its consignation; and unless our children are to be baptized, and so entitled to the promises of the new covenant, as the Jewish babes were by circumcision, this mercy, which appertains to infants, is so secret and undeclared and unconsigned, that we want much of that mercy and outward testimony, which gave them comfort and assurance.
11. And in proportion to these precepts and revelations was the practice apostolical: for they (to whom Christ gave in precept to" make disciples all nations, baptizing them," and knew that nations without children never were, and that therefore they were passively concerned in that commission) baptized whole families, particularly that of Stephanas and divers others, in which it is more than probable there were some minors, if not sucking babes. And this practice did descend upon the church in after-ages by tradition apostolical. Of this we have sufficient testimony from Origen; "Pro hoc ecclesia ab apostolis traditionem accepit, etiam parvulis baptismum dared:" and St. Austin, "Hoc ecclesia à majorum fide percepit." And generally all writers (as Calvin says) affirm the same thing. For, "Nullus est scriptor tam vetustus, qui non ejus originem ad apostolorum seculum pro certo referat." From hence the conclusion is, that infants ought to be baptized, that it is simply necessary, that e Serm. 10. de verb. Apost. c. 2.
In Rom. 6. tom. 2. p. 543.