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ARTICLES ON BAPTISM.
The argument for infant baptism may be presented in different lights, as we look at it from various positions.
There is one general view of the subject which, to our minds, is well adapted to satisfy every unprejudiced mind. I will give it in the words of the martyr Reformer, Philpot, from the Parker Society edition of his works.
"The Catholic truth delivered unto us by the Scriptures plainly determineth, that all such are to be baptized, as whom God acknowledgeth for his people, and vouches them worthy of sanctification and remission of sins. Therefore, since that infants be in the number or scroll of God's people, and be partakers of the promise by their purification in Christ, it must needs follow thereby, that they ought to be baptized as well as those that can profess their faith; for we judge the people of God as well by the free and liberal promise of God, as by the confession of faith. For to whomsoever God promiseth Himself to be their God, and whom He acknowledgeth for His, those no man without great impiety may exclude from the number of the faithful. But God promiseth that He will not only be the God of such as do profess Him, but also of infants, promising them His grace and remission of sins, as it appeareth by the words of the covenant made unto Abraham, 'I will set my covenant between thee and me, (saith the Lord,) and between thy seed after thee in their generations, with an everlasting covenant, to be thy God and the God of thy seed after thee.' To the which covenant circumcision was added, to be a sign of sanctification as well in children as in men; and no man may think that this promise is abrogated with circumcision and other ceremonial laws; for Christ came to fulfil the promises, and not to dissolve them. Therefore in the Gospel He saith of infants, (that is, of such as believe not,) 'let thy little ones come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' Again, 'It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.' Also, 'he that receiveth one such little child in my name, receiveth me. Take heed, therefore, that ye despise not one of these babes: for I tell you, their angels do continually see in
heaven my Father's face.' And what may be said more plainer than this? 'It is not the will of the heavenly Father that the infants should perish.' Whereby we may gather that He receiveth them freely unto this grace, although as yet they confess not their faith. Since then, that the word of the promise, which is contained in baptism, pertaineth as well to children as to men, why should the sign of the promise, which is baptism in water, be withdrawn from children when Christ Himself commanded them to be received of us, and promiseth the reward of a prophet to those that receive such a little infant, as He for an example did put before His disciples?
"The gospel is more than baptism; for Paul saith, ‘the Lord sent me to preach the Gospel and not to baptize.' Not that he denied absolutely that he was sent to baptize, but that he preferred doctrine before baptism; for the Lord commanded both to the apostles. But children be received by the doctrine of the Gospel of God, and not refused; therefore what person being of reason may deny them baptism, which is a thing lesser in the Gospel? For in the sacraments be two things to be considered, the thing signified and the sign; and from the thing signified in baptism children are not excluded. Who therefore may deny them the sign, which is baptism in water? St. Peter could not deny them to be baptized in water, to whom he saw the Holy Ghost given, which is the certain sign of God's people: for he saith in the Acts, 'May any body forbid them to be baptized in water, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?' Therefore St. Peter denied not baptism to infants, for he knew certainly, both by the doctrine of Christ and by the covenant which is everlasting, that the kingdom of heaven pertaineth to infants.
"Even so faithful people which were converted . . when they understood their children to be counted among the people of God, and that baptism was the token of the people of God, they procured also their children to be baptized."
THE WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY AND BAPTISM.
Mr. Editor: My attention has been called to an article and a P. S. (like the tail of a comet, as "threatening as the article itself.") in "The Christian Index," upon my former statement
as to the action of the Westminster Assembly on the subject of Baptism.
There is certainly no lack of confidence in the writer, and if dogmatism and assertion could determine a question of history or of lexicography, then are they here indubitably established.
I am informed that I was "most shamefully imposed upon by my informant," in supposing that the Rev. Mr. Kirkpatrick could state that the Assembly debated "whether baptism by sprinkling is lawful and proper," "BECAUSE HE holds that there cannot be any such thing as baptism by sprinkling. The absurdity of such an idea makes it perfectly inadmissible." The Westminster Assembly could not, therefore, even question whether sprinkling is the scriptural-the lawful and sufficient— mode of administering baptism, because Mr. K. is of opinion that to suppose this is an absurdity. The great majority of christians throughout the world, embracing the most learned and pious men of the present and past ages of the church, are of opinion that sprinkling is a scriptural, lawful, and sufficient mode of baptism; and a rapidly increasing number are of opinion that SPRINKLING IS THE ONLY MODE OF BAPTISM WARRANTED BY SCRIPTURE LANGUAGE, PRECEPT AND EXAMPLE-and yet because this writer is of a contrary opinion, "it is an absurdity" to suppose the members of the Westminster Assembly "could" have entertained a question upon the subject. This surely is infallibility and dogmatism worthy of a Pope.
Mr. K. has no authority for stating what that Assembly did or did not think upon this subject, except what Lightfoot has preserved. This he admits. It will not avail, therefore, with any candid inquirer, to say that "the absurdity of an idea makes it inadmissible"-that "there cannot be any such thing as baptism by sprinkling"-that the controversy "is a wonderful discovery of the sixteenth century"-that this is "an absurdity not to be tolerated"—that this "Dr. S. knows just as well as he knows that two and two make four, if he knows anything about the original word"-that the idea is too supremely ridiculous to be admitted for a moment"-and to bravado about "reckless assertions," "common sense," and "sane minds." The question is not one of opinion, assertion, or argument, but one of simple fact. What did the Westminster Assembly do in this matter?
One thing is very clear. That Assembly prepared and published a Directory for Baptism, in which they instruct the churches that CHILDREN are to be baptized, and that after giving some "instruction touching the institution, nature, use, and ends
of the sacrament," &c., the minister "is to BAPTIZE the child with water, which for the manner of doing it IS NOT ONLY LAWFUL, but sufficient and expedient to be BY POURING OR SPRINKLING of the water on the face of the child.”—[Directory, 1646, 4to.]
This is what the Westminster Assembly did, as a matter of fact, actually do. And as persons who had been brought up in the Church of England, they had no discovery to make (as is most gratuitously affirmed,) in coming to this conclusion, since it had been the law in that Church since A. D. 1281, that "the priest shall dip the child" . . . . "if the godfathers shall certify him that the child may well endure it; but if they certify that the child is weak, it shall suffice to pour water upon it."— [See Burns' Ecclesiastical Law, 7th Ed., vol. 1, p. 110.]
As it is thus manifest that, absurd or not absurd, the Assembly could debate the question "is baptism by sprinkling lawful and proper," the query is, did they as a matter of fact do so?
Lightfoot, the only authority in the case, as is admitted by Mr. K., positively affirms that they did. "Then," says he, "we fell upon the work of the day, which was about BAPTIZING 'of the child, whether to dip him or sprinkle,' and this proposition 'it is lawful and sufficient to besprinkle the child,' had been canvassed, and was ready now to vote."
Thus is it proved that the Westminster Assembly not only did debate the question of the lawfulness of baptizing by sprinkling, but that they actually and positively decided that sprinkling is not only the lawful mode of baptizing, but is "sufficient and expedient."
SHOULD BE TOLERATED WITH IT.
On this question the Assembly had a long debate. Why? Dr. Lightfoot, who is the only extant authority in the case, tells us very explicitly why. "Whereupon," says he, "it was fallen upon, sprinkling being granted, WHETHER DIPPING After long dispute for so many were unwilling to have DIPPING EXCLUDED it was at last put to the question," &c. This was the reason, according to Lightfoot, (and no one else knows anything in the case,) why there was a long debate, and why there were 24 to 25, "THE 24 FOR THE RESERVING OF DIPPING, AND THE 25 AGAINST IT."
Such, Mr. Editor, is the plain and evident statement of this matter, as found in Dr. Lightfoot; and whatever may be his "unhallowed and false assertions, and which Dr. S. appears to endorse with a zest amounting even to greediness”—they are
the only assertions now extant in reference to this debate; and all the affirmations and arguments of Mr. K. as to what must have been the nature and cause of the debate, are perfectly beside the question of fact.
There are many points in this article which I would feel called upon very openly and confidently to contradict, were they not irrelevant to the question at stake. "Pedobaptist brethren" do not, as is affirmed, frequently "preach" in favor of the lawfulness or propriety of dipping. "All, all the more learned, pious and candid of the Pedobaptists" would not, as is here. declared, "unhesitatingly admit that to dip is the primary and proper meaning of the word baptize, and that dipping was the Apostolic practice." "Macknight and Campbell" are not "among the learned and pious," nor is Dr. Chalmers any authority upon a question of exegetical or historical research. The Old Testament is, I believe, the very best and only authoritative guide, next to the New, for determining the usus loquendi of the word baptize, and the true and only proper purport, nature, and mode of baptism. Sprinkling and pouring I believe to have been THE ONLY mode of baptism under the Old Testament economy, and the ONLY method applied to our Saviour, to infants, and to adults, by John the Baptist and the Apostles. Immersion I believe to have come into the Church with naked baptism, and all the other heathen and Polish ceremonies with which Scripture baptism was early encrusted. The original meaning of the word baptize, as used by the Holy Ghost, through inspired men of God, and even by profane writers, is not to dip, but is in the former case to pour and sprinkle, and in the latter to pour, to sprinkle, to dip, and various other acts. And if dipping is essential to baptism, as Baptists affirm, then there never was an individual yet who was truly baptized, since even in immersion churches the individual immerses his own body in the pool or river up to the middle, and has only his head and shoulders turned under, but not dipped or immersed in the water. So that no part of his body is really and truly baptized.
In conclusion, I would say, in reply to Mr. K.'s cautionary advice, that I would much rather "undertake to defend all or the hundredth part, of the improper conduct of our brethren of that day," than "all, or the hundredth part, of the improper conduct" of the Anabaptists of a former period.