Whosoever reads, and impartially considers what we have in our forgoing confession declared, may readily perceive, that we do not only consent with all other true Christians on the Word of God (revealed in the Scriptures of truth) as the foundation and rule of our faith and worship. But that we have also industriously endeavored to manifest, that in the fundamental articles of Christianity we mind the same things, and have therefore expressed our belief in the same words, that have on the like occasion been spoken by other societies of Christians before us.
This we have done, that those who are desirous to know the principles of Religion which we hold and practice, may take an estimate from ourselves (who jointly concur in this work) and may not be misguided, either by undue reports; or by the ignorance or errors of particular persons, who going under the same name with ourselves, may give an occasion of scandalizing the truth we profess.
And although we do differ from our brethren who are paedobaptists; in the subject and administration of baptism, and such other circumstances as have a necessary dependence on our observance of that ordinance, and do frequent our own assemblies for our mutual edification, and discharge of those duties, and services which we owe unto God, and in his fear to each other: yet we would not be from hence misconstrued, as if the discharge of our own consciences herein, did any ways disoblige or alienate our affections, or conversation from any others that fear the Lord; but that we may and do as we have opportunity participate of the labors of those, whom God hath indued with abilities above ourselves, and qualified, and called to the ministry of the Word, earnestly desiring to approve ourselves to be such, as follow after peace with holiness, and therefore we always keep that blessed Irenicum, or healing Word of the Apostle before our eyes; “if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you; nevertheless whereto we have already attained; let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” Phil 3. v. 15, 16.
Let it not therefore be judged of us (because much hath been written on this subject, and yet we continue this our practice different from others) that it is out of obstinacy, but rather as the truth is, that we do herein according to the best of our understandings worship God, out of a pure mind yielding obedience to his precept, in that method which we take to be most agreeable to the Scriptures of truth, and primitive practice.
It would not become us to give any such intimation, as should carry a semblance that what we do in the service of God is with a doubting conscience, or with any such temper of mind that we do thus for the present, with a reservation that we will do otherwise hereafter upon more mature deliberation; nor have we any cause so to do, being fully persuaded, that what we do is agreeable to the will of God. Yet we do heartily propose this, that if any of the servants of our Lord Jesus shall, in the spirit of meekness, attempt to convince us of any mistake either in judgement or practise, we shall diligently ponder his arguments; and account him our chiefest friend that shall be an instrument to convert us from any error that is in our ways, for we cannot wittingly do any thing against the truth, but all things for the truth.
And therefore we have endeavored seriously to consider, what has been already offered for our satisfaction in this point; and are loath to say any more lest we should be esteemed desirous of renewed contests thereabout: yet forasmuch as it may justly be expected that we show some reason, why we cannot acquiesce in what has been urged against us; we shall with as much brevity as may consist with plainness, endeavor to satisfy the expectation of those that shall peruse what we now publish in this matter also.
1. As to those Christians who consent with us, That Repentance from dead works, and Faith towards God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, is required in persons to be Baptized; and do therefore supply the defect of the (infant being incapable of making confession of either) by others who do undertake these things for it. Although we do find by Church history that this hath been a very ancient practice; yet considering, that the same Scripture which does caution us against censuring our brother, with whom we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, does also instruct us, That every one of us shall give an account of himself to God, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Rom. 14:4, 10, 12, 23. Therefore we cannot for our own parts be persuaded in our own minds, to build such a practice as this, upon an unwritten tradition: but do rather choose in all points of faith and worship, to have recourse to the holy Scriptures, for the information of our judgment, and regulation of our practice; being well assured that a conscientious attending thereto, is the best way to prevent, and rectify our defects and errors. 2 Tim. 3.16,17. And if any such case happen to be debated between Christians, which is not plainly determinable by the Scriptures, we think it safest to leave such things undecided until the second coming of our Lord Jesus; as they did in the Church of old, until there should arise a priest with Urim and Thummim, that might certainly inform them of the mind of God thereabout, Ezra 2.62,63.
2. As for those our Christian brethren who do ground their arguments for Infants baptism, upon a presumed federal holiness, or church-membership, we conceive they are deficient in this, that albeit this covenant-holiness and membership should be as is supposed, in reference unto the Infants of Believers; yet no command for Infant baptism does immediately and directly result from such a quality, or relation.
All instituted Worship receives its sanction from the precept, and is to be thereby governed in all the necessary circumstances thereof.
So it was in the covenant that God made with Abraham and his seed. The sign whereof was appropriated only to the male, notwithstanding that the female seed as well as the male were comprehended in the covenant and part of the Church of God; neither was this sign to be affixed to any male infant till he was eight days old, albeit he was within the covenant from the first moment of his life; nor could the danger of death, or any other supposed necessity, warrant the circumcising of him before the set time, nor was there any cause for it; the punishment of being cut off from his people, being only upon the neglect, or contempt of the precept.
Righteous Lot was nearly related to Abraham in the flesh, and contemporary with him, when this covenant was made; yet inasmuch as he did not descend from his loins, nor was of his household family (although he was of the same household of faith with Abraham) yet neither Lot himself nor any of his posterity (because of their descent from him) were signed with the signature of this covenant that was made with Abraham and his seed.
This may suffice to show, that where there was both an express covenant, and a sign thereof (such a covenant as did separate the persons with whom it was made, and all their offspring from all the rest of the world, as a people holy unto the Lord, and did constitute them the visible Church of God, (though not comprehensive of all the faithful in the world) yet the sign of this covenant was not affixed to all the persons that were within this Covenant, nor to any of them till the appointed season; nor to other faithful servants of God, that were not of descent from Abraham. And consequently that it depends purely upon the will of the Law-giver, to determine what shall be the sign of his covenant, unto whom, at what season, and upon what terms, it shall be affixed.
If our brethren do suppose baptism to be the seal of the covenant which God makes with every believer (of which the Scriptures are altogether silent) it is not our concern to contend with them herein; yet we conceive the seal of that covenant is the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ in the particular and individual persons in whom he resides, and nothing else, neither do they or we suppose that baptism is in any such manner substituted in the place of circumcision, as to have the same (and no other) latitude, extent, or terms, then circumcision had; for that was suited only for the male children, baptism is an ordinance suited for every believer, whether male, or female. That extended to all the males that were born in Abraham’s house, or bought with his money, equally with the males that proceeded from his own loins; but baptism is not so far extended in any true Christian Church that we know of, as to be administered to all the poor infidel servants, that the members thereof purchase for their service, and introduce into their families; nor to the children born of them in their house.
But we conceive the same parity of reasoning may hold for the ordinance of baptism as for that of circumcision; i.e., one law for the stranger, as for the home born (Exodus 12:49). If any desire to be admitted to all the ordinances, and privileges of God’s house, the door is open; upon the same terms that any one person was ever admitted to all, or any of those privileges, that belong to the Christian church; may all persons of right challenge the like admission.
As for that text of Scripture, Rom. 4.11, “He received circumcision a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised;” we conceive if the Apostle’s scope in that place be duly attended to, it will appear that no argument can be taken from thence to enforce infant baptism; and forasmuch as we find a full and fair account of those words given by the learned Dr. Lighfoot (a man not to be suspected of partiality in this controversy) in his Horae Hebrai, on the I Cor. 7.19 (p.42, 43) we shall transcribe his words at large, without any comment of our own upon them.
Circumcision is nothing, if we respect the time, for now it was without use, that end of it being especially fulfilled; for which it had been instituted: this end the Apostle declares in these words, Rom. 4.11. σφραγίδα. But I fear that by most translations they are not sufficiently suited to the end of circumcision, and the scope of the Apostle whilst something of their own is by them inserted.
And after the Doctor has represented diverse versions of the words agreeing for the most part in sense with that which we have in our Bibles he thus proceeds:
Other versions are to the same purpose; as if circumcision was given to Abraham for a Seal of that Righteousness which he had being yet uncircumcised, which we will not deny to be in some sense true, but we believe that circumcision had chiefly a far different respect.
Give me leave thus to render the words; And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the Righteousness of Faith, which was to be in the uncircumcision, Which was to be (I say) not which had been, not that which Abraham had whilst he was yet uncircumcised; but that which his uncircumcised seed should have, that is the Gentiles, who in time to come should imitate the faith of Abraham.
Now consider well on what occasion circumcision was instituted unto Abraham, setting before thine eyes the history thereof, Gen. 17.
This promise is first made unto him, Thou shalt be the Father of many Nations (in what sense the Apostle explaineth in that chapter) and then there is subjoined a double seal for the confirmation of the thing, to wit, the change of the name Abram into Abraham, and the institution of circumcision. v4. Behold as for me, my Covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the Father of many Nations. Wherefore was his name called Abraham? for the sealing of this promise. Thou shalt be the Father of many Nations. And wherefore was circumcision instituted to him? For the sealing of the same promise. Thou shalt be the Father of many Nations. So that this is the sense of the Apostle; most agreeable to the institution of circumcision; he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the Righteousness of Faith which in time to come the uncircumcision (or the Gentiles) should have and obtain.
Abraham had a twofold seed, natural, of the Jews; and faithful, of the believing Gentiles: his natural seed was signed with the sign of circumcision, first indeed for the distinguishing of them from all other Nations whilst they as yet were not the seed of Abraham, but especially for the memorial of the justification of the Gentiles by faith, when at length they should become his seed. Therefore circumcision was of right to cease, when the Gentiles were brought in to the faith, forasmuch as then it had obtained its last and chief end, & thenceforth circumcision is nothing.
Thus far he, which we earnestly desire may be seriously weighed, for we plead not his authority, but the evidence of truth in his words.
3. Of whatsoever nature the holiness of the children mentioned, 1 Cor. 7.12, be, yet they who do conclude that all such children (whether infants or of riper years) have from hence an immediate right to baptism, do as we conceive put more into the conclusion, then will be found in the premises.
For although we do not determine positively concerning the Apostle’s scope in the holiness here mentioned, so as to say it is this, or that, and no other thing; yet it is evident that the Apostle does by it determine not only the lawfulness but the expedience also of a believers cohabitation with an unbeliever, in the state of marriage.
And we do think that although the Apostles asserting of the unbelieving yokefellow to be sanctified by the believer, should carry in it somewhat more then is in the bare marriage of two infidels, because although the marriage covenant have a divine sanction so as to make the wedlock of two unbelievers a lawful action, and their conjunction and cohabitation in that respect undefiled, yet there might be no ground to suppose from thence, that both or either of their persons are thereby sanctified; and the Apostle urges the cohabitation of a believer with an infidel in the state of wedlock from this ground that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; nevertheless here you have the influence of a believers faith ascending from an inferior to a superior relation; from the wife to the husband who is her head, before it can descend to their off-spring. And therefore we say, whatever be the nature or extent of the holiness here intended, we conceive it cannot convey to the children an immediate right to baptism; because it would then be of another nature, and of a larger extent, then the root, and original from whence it is derived, for it is clear by the Apostles argument that holiness cannot be derived to the child from the sanctity of one parent only, if either father or mother be (in the sense intended by the Apostle) unholy or unclean, so will the child be also, therefore for the production of an holy seed it is necessary that both the Parents be sanctified; and this the Apostle positively asserts in the first place to be done by the believing parent, although the other be an unbeliever; and then consequentially from thence argues, the holiness of their children. Hence it follows, that as the children have no other holiness then what they derive from both their Parents; so neither can they have any right by this holiness to any spiritual privilege but such as both their Parents did also partake of: and therefore if the unbelieving Parent (though sanctified by the believing Parent) have not thereby a right to baptism, neither can we conceive, that there is any such privilege, derived to the children by their birth-holiness.
Besides if it had been the usual practice in the Apostles days for the father or mother that did believe, to bring all their children with them to be baptized; then the holiness of the believing Corinthians’ children, would not at all have been in question when this epistle was written; but might have been argued from their passing under that ordinance, which represented their new birth, although they had derived no holiness from their parents, by their first birth; and would have lain as an exception against the Apostle’s inference, “else were your Children unclean…” But of the sanctification of all the children of every believer by this ordinance, or any other way, then what is before mentioned, the Scripture is altogether silent.
This may also be added; that if this birth holiness do qualifie all the children of every believer, for the ordinance of baptism; why not for all other ordinances? for the Lords Supper as was practiced for a long time together? for if recourse be had to what the Scriptures speak generally of this subject; it will be found, that the same qualities which do intitle any person to baptism, do so also for the participation of all the Ordinances, and privileges of the house of God, that are common to all believers.
Whosoever can and does interrogate his good conscience towards God when he is baptized (as every one must do that makes it to himself a sign of salvation) is capable of doing the same thing, in every other act of worship that he performs.
4. The arguments and inferences that are usually brought for, or against infant baptism from those few instances which the Scriptures afford us of whole families being baptized; are only conjectural; and therefore cannot of themselves, be conclusive on either hand: yet in regard most that treat on this subject for infant baptism, do (as they conceive) improve these instances to the advantage of their argument: we think it meet (in like manner as in the cases before mentioned so in this) to show the invalidity of such inferences.
“Cornelius worshipped God with all his house,” the jailor, and Crispus the chief ruler of the Synagogue, “believed God with each of their houses.” “The household of Stephanus addicted themselves to the Ministry of the Saints:” so that thus far worshipping, and believing runs parallel with baptism. And if Lydia, had been a married person, when she believed, it is probable her husband would also have been named by the Apostle, as in like cases, inasmuch as he would have been not only a part, but the head of that baptized household.
Who can assign any probable reason, why the Apostle should make mention of four or five households being baptized and no more? or why he does so often vary in the method of his salutations, (c.f., Rom. 1. 6), sometimes mentioning only particular persons of great note, other times such, and the Church in their house? The saints that were with them; and them belonging to Narcissus, who were in the Lord; thus saluting either whole families, or part of families, or only particular persons in families, considered as they were in the Lord, for if it had been an usual practice to baptize all children, with their parents; there were then many thousands of the Jews which believed, and a great number of the Gentiles, in most of the principle cities in the world, and among so many thousands, it is more than probable there would have been some thousands of households baptized; why then should the Apostle in this respect signalize one family of the Jews and three or four of the Gentiles, as particular instances in a case that was common? Whoever supposes that we do willfully debar our children, from the benefit of any promise, or privilege, that of right belongs to the children of believing parents; they do entertain over severe thoughts of us: to be without natural affections is one of the characters of the worst of persons; in the worst of times. We do freely confess ourselves guilty before the Lord, in that we have not with more circumspection and diligence trained up those that relate to us in the fear of the Lord; and do humbly and earnestly pray, that our omissions herein may be remitted, and that they may not redound to the prejudice of ourselves, or any of ours: but with respect to that duty that is incumbent on us, we acknowledge ourselves obliged by the precepts of God, to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to teach them His fear, both by instruction and example; and should we set light by this precept, it would demonstrate that we are more vile then the unnatural heathen, that like not to retain God in their knowledge, our baptism might then be justly accounted, as no baptism to us.
There are many special promises that do encourage us as well as precepts, that do oblige us to the close pursuit of our duty herein: that God whom we serve, being jealous of His worship, threatens the visiting of the father’s transgression upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him: yet does more abundantly extend His mercy, even to thousands (respecting the offspring and succeeding generations) of them that love Him, and keep His commands.
When our Lord rebuked His disciples for prohibiting the access of little children that were brought to him, that He might pray over them, lay His hands upon them, and bless them, does declare, “that of such is the Kingdom of God.” And the Apostle Peter in answer to their enquiry, that desired to know what they must do to be saved, does not only instruct them in the necessary duty of repentance and baptism; but does also thereto encourage them, by that promise which had reference both to them, and their children; if our Lord Jesus in the forementioned place, do not respect the qualities of children (as elsewhere) as to their meekness, humility, and sincerity, and the like; but intend also that those very persons and such like, appertain to the Kingdom of God, and if the Apostle Peter in mentioning the aforesaid promise, do respect not only the present and succeeding generations of those Jews, that heard him, (in which sense the same phrase does occur in Scripture) but also the immediate offspring of his auditors; whether the promise relate to the gift of the Holy Spirit, or of eternal life, or any grace, or privilege tending to the obtaining thereof; it is neither our concern nor our interest to confine the mercies, and promises of God, to a more narrow, or lesser compass then he is pleased graciously to offer and intend them; nor to have a light esteem of them; but are obliged in duty to God, and affection to our children; to plead earnestly with God and use our utmost endeavors that both ourselves, and our offspring may be partakers of his mercies and gracious promises: yet we cannot from either of these texts collect a sufficient warrant for us to baptize our children before they are instructed in the principles of the Christian Religion.
For as to the instance in little children, it seems by the disciples forbidding them, that they were brought upon some other account, not so frequent as Baptism must be supposed to have been, if from the beginning believers’ children had been admitted thereto: and no account is given whether their parents were baptized believers or not; and as to the instance of the Apostle; if the following words and practice, may be taken as an interpretation of the scope of that promise we cannot conceive it does refer to infant baptism, because the text does presently subjoin; Then they that gladly received the word were baptized.
That there were some believing children of believing parents in the Apostles’ days is evident from the Scriptures, even such as were then in their father’s family, and under their parents tuition, and education; to whom the Apostle in several of his epistles to the Churches, gives commands to obey their parents in the Lord; and does allure their tender years to hearken to this precept, by reminding them that it is the first command with promise.
And it is recorded by him for the praise of Timothy, and encouragement of parents betimes to instruct, and children early to attend to godly instruction, that ἀπὸ βρεφους from a child, he had known the holy Scriptures.
The Apostle John rejoiced greatly when he found of the children of the Elect Lady walking in the truth; and the children of her Elect Sister join with the Apostle in his salutation.
But that this was not generally so, that all the children of believers were accounted for believers (as they would have been if they had been all baptized) may be collected from the character which the Apostle gives of persons fit to be chosen to eldership in the Church which was not common to all believers; among others this is expressly one, i.e., “If there be any having believing, or faithful children,” not accused of riot or unruly; and we may from the Apostle’s writings on the same subject collect the reason of this qualification, i.e., that in case the person designed for this office to teach and rule in the house of God, had children capable of it; there might be first a proof of his ability, industry, and success in this work in his own family; and private capacity, before he was ordained to the exercise of this authority in the Church, in a public capacity, as a bishop in the house of God.
These things we have mentioned as having a direct reference unto the controversy between our brethren and us; other things that are more abstruse and prolix, which are frequently introduced into this controversy, but do not necessarily concern it, we have purposely avoided; that the distance between us and our brethren may not be by us made more wide; for it is our duty, and concern so far as is possible for us (retaining a good conscience towards God) to seek a more entire agreement and reconciliation with them.
We are not insenible that as to the order of God’s house, and entire communion therein there are some things wherein we (as well as others) are not at a full accord among ourselves, as for instance; the known principle, and state of the consciences of diverse of us, that have agreed in this Confession is such; that we cannot hold church-communion, with any other then baptized believers, and churches constituted of such; yet some others of us have a greater liberty and freedom in our spirits that way; and therefore we have purposely omitted the mention of things of that nature, that we might concur, in giving this evidence of our agreement, both among our selves, and with other good Christians, in those important articles of the Christian Religion, mainly insisted on by us: and this notwithstanding we all esteem it our chief concern, both among our selves, and all others that in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours, and love him in sincerity, to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace; and in order thereunto, to exercise all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.
And we are persuaded if the same method were introduced into frequent practice between us and our Christian friends who agree with us in all the fundamental articles of the Christian faith (though they do not so in the subject and administration of baptism) it would soon beget a better understanding, and brotherly affection between us.
In the beginning of the Christian Church, when the doctrine of the baptism of Christ was not universally understood, yet those that knew only the baptism of John, were the disciples of the Lord Jesus; and Apollos an eminent minister of the Gospel of Jesus.
In the beginning of the reformation of the Christian Church, and recovery from that Egyptian darkness wherein our forefathers for many generations were held in bondage; upon recourse had to the Scriptures of truth, different apprehensions were conceived, which are to this time continued, concerning the practice of this ordinance.
Let not our zeal herein be misinterpreted: that God whom we serve is jealous of His worship. By his gracious providence the Law thereof, is continued amongst us; and we are forewarned by what happened in the church of the Jews, that it is necessary for every generation, and that frequently in every generation to consult the divine oracle, compare our worship with the rule, and take heed to what doctrines we receive and practice.
If the Ten Commands exhibited in the popish idolatrous service books had been received as the entire law of God, because they agree in number with his Ten Commands, and also in the substance of nine of them; the second Commandment forbidding idolatry had been utterly lost.
If Ezra and Nehemiah had not made a diligent search into the particular parts of Gods law, and his worship; the Feast of Tabernacles (which for many centuries of years, had not been duly observed, according to the institution, though it was retained in the general notion) would not have been kept in due order.
So may it be now as to many things relating to the service of God, which do retain the names proper to them in their first institution, but yet through inadvertency (where there is no sinister design) may vary in their circumstances, from their first institution. And if by means of any ancient defection, or of that general corruption of the service of God, and interruption of His true worship, and persecution of His servants by the Antichristian Bishop of Rome, for many generations; those who do consult the Word of God, cannot yet arrive at a full and mutual satisfaction among themselves, what was the practice of the primitive Christian Church, in some points relating to the Worship of God: yet inasmuch as these things are not of the essence of Christianity, but that we agree in the fundamental doctrines thereof, we do apprehend, there is sufficient ground to lay aside all bitterness and prejudice, and in the spirit of love and meekness to embrace and own each other therein; leaving each other at liberty to perform such other services, (wherein we cannot concur) apart unto God, according to the best of our understanding.