AN ANSWER To the Fore-going LETTER.
Oxford,Feb. 28. 1695/6
I Received last Night, from I know not whom, a Letter (concerning Infant-Baptism) Dated Feb. 25. and Signed C. C.......... Whether this be a true Name, or but a feigned one, I am not cer∣tain. But guess it to be the latter; because I do not remember that I have ever heard of any Man of that Name.
And, as I do not know from whom; so, neither do I know, how qualify'd: Whether with a modest Desire to be informed; or a captious Humour, to quarel or cavil at a received Truth, as being pre∣possessed with a Prejudice to the contrary.
Page 10 If the latter; I might answer as the Apostle doth in a like Case; If any man list to be Contentious, we have no such custome, nor the Churches of God. And the Scripture seems to me to be written in such a stile, not as to gratify the nicely Captious, but to give a reasonable Satisfaction to such as are mo∣destly willing to be taught. If any man will do his Will, he shall know of the Doctrine, whether it be of God. And, The meek he will teach his way. And I do not find that Christ thought fit to comply with those who would be curiously inquisitive for a Sign from Heaven (when and in what manner they pleased) to confirm his Doctrine: Or, with the Rich Glutton, who would have one sent from the Dead to warn his Brethren: But would take his own time, and his own way, to satisfy those who were wil∣ling to be taught. And, in Matters of Fact, we must content our selves with a Moral Certainty, though we have not always a Mathematical Demon∣stration. And if, then, any doubt remain, as to Matter of Fact, we must content our selves with such reasonable Satisfaction, as God thinks fit to give us, what is most likely to be true.
But I am willing to understand the Writer in the other Sense; as content (without cavilling) with a reasonable Satisfaction.
And then, as to this Question, concerning Matter of Fact; Whether Christ and his Apostles, or the Church in their time, did Baptize Infants: 'Tis clear, on the one hand, that we cannot be certain that they did not, (there being no intimation to that purpose;) and it is much more reasonable to think they did; and to practise accordingly.
Page 11 I shall parallel this with another Question of like Nature. Whether Women did then, and ought now, to partake of the other Sacrament.
If it be objected; that Christ at first did celebrate it with Men only, (the Twelve Apostles;) and the Apostle directs, Let a Man (not Woman or Child) examine himself, (not her self) and so let him (not her) eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. Nor do we any where, in Scripture, find any ex∣press mention of Women receiving it.
Yet I am satisfy'd, notwithstanding this Ob∣jection, (and so, I hope, are you) that they did then, and ought now to receive it. Because there is no intimation of the contrary; and there seems to be the same reason for the Women, as for the Men, and the like benefit to each; And Women were Baptized (though not formerly Circumcised;) and did (as we have reason to presume, though I do not remember that it is expresly said so) eat of the Pass-over (notwithstanding it be expresly said Exod. 12. 48. No Vncircumcised Person shall eat thereof;) The words House and Houshold being reasonably supposed to include Women and Children also; and that the whole Family is to be reputed as a Circumcised Family, wherein all the Males are Circumcised. And, the Practice of the Church, (which is a great Presumption) hath been always consonant, to admit Women, as well as Men, to the Lord's Table.
And, in many other cases, particular Circum∣stances may be presumed to be supplied (from the Reasonableness of the thing, and parallel Cases,) though not distinctly expressed in the History of the Page 12 Fact; as may be amply shewed, if that were ne∣cessary.
Now (to apply this to the present Case) we are first to consider, what Baptism is. It is a solemn Rite, appointed by Christ, for the solemn Ad∣mission or Incorporation, of the Person Baptized, into the Christian Church; (as Circumcision was, into that of the Iews;) and, a Consecration or Dedication of the Person Baptized, to the Service or Worship of the Father, Son, and Holy-Ghost. And consequently, those who have right to be so admitted, and so dedicated, have right to the so∣lemn Rite of such Admission, and Dedication.
Next we are to consider, that the Children of Christians now, have as well a right to be reputed Members of the Christian Church, as the Children of Iews, of the Jewish Church; and consequently to be solemnly received into it: that is, into God's visible Church, both of them; and both a like Ob∣ligation to be offered or dedicated to the Service of the True God.
And it is not reasonably to be supposed, that God would so often, and so emphatically make Pro∣mises to the Righteous, and their seed, if there was not somewhat of peculiar Preference intend∣ed them, beyond those of the Wicked, or those that are out of God's Visible Church.
For if no more be intended, than such a Con∣ditional Promise, If they repent and believe; this is equally true of the Children of the most Profligate; and of Heathens, as of Jews or Christians. How great that is, I will not now dispute; but what Preference did then belong to the Jews, I think is now common to Christians.
Page 13 Otherwise, Christ's Coming would render the Condition of Children, worse than before. And particularly, those very Children, who in the Jewish Church were Members of the visible Church of God, must have ceased to be so, when the Christian Church took place.
Contrary to what Christ seems to intimate, in that of, Suffer little Children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Which intimates a Capacity in Children of an In∣terest in Heaven hereafter, and in the visible Church here; (especially if by Kingdom of Heaven, be here meant, the Gospel Church.)
As likewise to that of, Else were your Children unclean, but now are they holy. Which implies a cer∣tain Holiness, as to the Children of One, though not of both, Believing Parents; which they would not have, if neither of the Parents were Believers. Which seems to me so clear an Evidence, of some relative Holiness, or Interest in the visible Church, or Dedication to the Service of God; as is not easy to be avoided.
And that slight Evasion, as if it were meant as to Bastardy, is so weak, as (with me) bears no weight at all. For, though both Parents were Hea∣then, the Child would not be a Bastard.
And it is to be considered, that, in all Religions, the Children are reputed as of the same Religion with the Parents (while under their Care) till they do by some act of their own manifest the contrary. The Child of a Jew is reputed a Jew; of a Christian, a Christian; of a Heathen, a Heathen; of a Papist, a Papist; and so of others.
Page 14 Now what belongs to a Church, as a Church, doth equally belong to the Jewish and Christian Church, and needs no new Institution: And con∣sequently, that of having their Children in the visible Church-Communion with themselves; and the Blessing appertaining to that visible Commu∣nion; as that of, I will be a God of thee, and of thy Seed: And this Blessing of Abraham, is come upon the Gentiles also.
And though it is true, that this doth not present∣ly intitle them to Heaven (unless their Life be an∣swerable, as neither did that of being the Seed of Abraham,) yet it is to be reputed a real Advan∣tage, as putting them into a fairer Prospect of Heaven, and in a greater Probability of obtaining saving Grace, than if out of the Church.
And this Advantage of the Iew above the Gentiles which they then had; the Apostle tells us, is much every way: (Yet not so, but that a Believer, though not a Jew, might be saved by Faith; and an Unbe∣liever, though a Jew, would be damned without it.) And what Advantage was then to the Jews, (as God's visible Church,) is now common to the Gen∣tiles also.
So that the Right of Believers Children, to be within the Church, is not a new Institution, (as if we should now look for a distinct Institution of Infant-Baptism, beside that of Baptism;) but as old as Adam, for ought I know; But the solemn Rite of Admission into this Church, (to which the Child hath a Right to be admitted) is a new Institution; then by Circumcision, appointed to Abraham; and now, by Baptism, upon a new Institution, appoint∣ed by Christ.
Page 15 By being Believers Children, they have Ius ad rem; and by being Baptized, they have Ius in re; whatever be the Priviledge of being within the Pale and Promise of the visible Church. And so long as, by our fault, we debar them from Baptism; we do, so much as in us lyeth, debar them of that Advantage, whatever it be.
Nor is it only a Priviledge of the Children (to be thus early admitted into the visible Church, with the Benefits thereto appertaining, and thus dedicated to the Service and Worship of God;) but a Duty of Parents, and other Superiors, thus to dedicate them, and (so far as in them lyeth) give them up to God. And we need not doubt, but that the Parent hath a natural Right over the Child of so doing.
And we do not know how soon the Effect of such Dedication (upon God's acceptance) may operate. Samson, before he was born, was devoted by Ma∣noah, to be a Nazarite. And Samuel was, by his Mother, vowed before he was born, and after pre∣sented while an Infant, to the special Service of God: Ieremy is said to be sanctified from his mothers womb; and Paul likewise; and Iohn the Baptist, while yet unborn; and Timothy, from a Child.
And we have no reason to doubt, but many Children very early, and even before their Birth, may have the habits of Grace infused into them, by which they are saved, though dying before the Years of Discretion. My meaning is, That God may, by his Grace, so pre-dispose the Soul, to an aptness for Good; as (by our natural Corruption) we are supposed to be Habitually inclined to Evil, though not yet in a Capacity to act either.
Page 16 For as the habits of Corruption, which we call Original Sin, by Propagation; so may the habits of Grace, by Infusion, be inherent in the Soul, long before (for want of the use of Reason) we are in Capacity to act either; as is also the rational Fa∣culty, before we are in a Capacity to act Reason.
And we may have Incouragement to expect, or hope for, such Work from God on the Heart of a Child, from our early devoting him to God's Ser∣vice. And the proper way, by Christ appointed, for thus devoting, or offering up persons to God, is Baptism, into the Name, and to the Service of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
I am loth to charge it, as a just Judgment of God, for such neglect; when we see the unbap∣tized Children, of Faulty Parents, prove lewd and debauch'd Persons; though we have reason to fear, it may be an Effect of not devoting them to God by Baptism, and a neglect of suitable Education. For as we find Corruption doth, so (through God's Blessing) Grace may begin to act very early; And if we may do it, certainly we ought to do it.
And as Persons, when they be come to Age, ought themselves, to give up themselves, and (as it were) enter into a sacred Covenant with God; (and renew it, from time to time;) so may the Parents (and ought to do it, so far as in them lyeth) give up their Children to God, and ingage them in such a Covenant with him.
We know, amongst our selves, a Child by his Guardians, or his Parents, may be put into the Possession of an Estate, and engaged to the Homage and Fealty thereunto appertaining, before himself do understand what is done.
Page 17 And in such a Covenant we find the Israelites to enter (Deut. 29. 10. &c.) in the Name of them∣selves, their Wives, and their little ones, and even of those then present, and those not present at that Day. And of a like Tenour we suppose to be those mention'd of Ioshua, Asa, Iehojada, Iosiah, That God should be a God to them, and they a People to him. Which is the same, for Substance, which a Person of Age makes for himself, and the Parent for the Child in Baptism.
And if Children be thus capable, or their Parents for them, of entering thus into Covenant with God; why not of receiving the Seal of such Co∣venant? And why not that of Baptism now, as well as of Circumcision before? For the Child is passive in both.
And, if Capable, you admit it to be a Duty. For your Exception is, that it is to be understood of Persons in a capable Condition. Now, that Infants are capable of being admitted Members of God's Visible Church; and capable of being dedicated to God's Service, I think is no Question; which are the Business of Baptism.
I know it is objected, that it is said Matth. 28. 19. Go teach all Nations, Baptizing them &c. and there∣fore they are first to be Taught (which Child•en cannot be) before they are Baptized. And others (who put a greater force upon the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) chose rather to render it, Go make Disciples all Na∣tions, baptizing them &c. and therefore (say they) they are to be made Disciples (by Faith and Re∣pentance) before they are Baptized.
Page 18 Now I can well enough admit, that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 may there be rendered by make Disciples (and per∣haps better than Teach;) But their Inference from thence, is a great Mistake.
For, Go make Disciples by Faith and Repentance; will not be good Sense. For Faith and Repentance are to be Works of the Persons Baptized, not of the Baptizer.
And 'tis preposterous to think Faith and Repent∣ance intended in the word Matheteusate. For Christ is here speaking to his Apostles; instructing them, what They are to do in Planting a Christian Church. (Not what each respective Christian is to do in a Church thus planted: For that is to come-in after, amongst the things that are to be taught.)
And the words lie plainly thus; Go, Disciple all Nations, (that is, Gather Disciples of all Nations, or indifferently of any Nation, Jews or Gentiles, all the World over,) Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.
Or thus, (those who are here called Disciples, being after called Christians; The Disciples were called Christians first in Antioch, Act. 11. 26.) Make Christians of all Nations, Baptizing them—and Teaching them—. And, (if we would lay stress upon the order of the Words, Baptizing is to go before Teaching.)
The word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉(make Disciples) is here a Verb Imperative, or Preceptive; and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉(Baptizing and Teaching) are Participles, Exegetical or Declarative, how that Precept is to be discharged.
Page 19 And it is in a like Form as this, (if the Founder of a Free-School should thus give Instructions to him that he makes School-Master,) Make Latinists of any Parish in London, taking them into the School, and there teaching them the Latin Tongue. Or, in the Lan∣guage of the University (to the Governours there) Make Scholars, or Learned Men, of any County in England, admitting them into the Vniversity, or a College, and teaching them what is to be there learned. Or, in the Language of the City (to the Gover∣nours, suppose, of the Merchants Company) Make Merchants of any Country; taking Apprentices; and teaching them the Trade. (For 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a Disciple, sig∣nifies the same as a Scholar, a Learner, an Appren∣tice.)
Would any Man now think, that the Boy must first be a Latinist, before he may be taken into the School? Or, the Academick must be a Philosopher, or Learned Man, before he may be admitted in the University? Or, the Citizen a skilful Merchant, before he may be bound Apprentice? No; but the quite contrary. So here, he is to be entered a Scholar in Christ's School, in order to be farther instructed in the Christian Religion, according to the capacity wherein he is.
But, whether one do put himself an Apprentice (if a Man, and at his own Disposal) or be put an Apprentice by his Parents or Guardians (at whose Disposal he is) if a Child, is all one, as to learning a Trade: And it is all one, whether (be∣fore he be thus put an Apprentice) he have some little Skill in the Trade, or none at all. And so here; whether he be of such Years (if not the Page 20 Child of a Christian, or have been before neglect∣ed) as to have been taught somewhat of Christi∣anity; or yet an Infant, and to know nothing of it. And whether (as in the former case) he offer him∣self to Baptism; or (as in the latter) he be ten∣der'd to it by his Parents; he is to be Baptized, and to be Instructed, each according to the capacity wherein he is.
But why it should be neglected, when it may be had sooner, I see no reason; at least if it be allow∣ed to be a thing desirable, and advantageous.
Now this, for the most part, was the case of the Apostles, when they converted Jews or Heathens to the Christian Faith. It was not to be expected, that Men at Age, and at their own Disposal, and brought up in another Religion, would be willing to declare themselves Christians, and be Baptized as such, before they knew somewhat of it; (And therefore I would not lay so much stress upon the Order of Words, as if a Person Unbaptized might not be taught, if capable of it.)
But when they were so perswaded as to them∣selves, they did (with themselves) bring in those who were under their Power. As Lydia, and all her Houshold; the Iaylor, and all his; the Hou∣shold of Stephanas, Cornelius, and all his; and the like, I suppose, of others.
And to this purpose I understand that of Act. 2. Repent, and be Baptized every one of you, whether Jews or Gentiles, (this being a mixture of many Nations) for the remission of sins,—For the promise is to you, and to your Children, (as well as to A∣braham, and his Children,) and to as many as our Page 21 Lord shall call, (and to their Children; for this I suppose to be understood.)
For, though I know that Children doth not al∣ways signify Infants; yet, if no more were meant of their Children, than of all the World beside, there was no occasion of Naming Children, but the Sense had been as full without it.
Now it cannot reasonably be supposed, but that there were Children in some of those Houses; (at least it is more likely that there were in some, than that there were none in any of them;) and there∣fore that Children were then Baptized, as well as others; especially when there is no Intimation to the contrary.
And in such Cases, where there is a silence in matter of Fact; it is reasonable to think, it was so, as was most likely to be; especially when no∣thing appears to the contrary, and great Presump∣tions of it.
I know there is sometime mention of Faith, in order to being Baptized; but it is of grown Persons.
Nor is it always meant of saving Faith, and a cordial Conversion; but a Profession of Faith, or a professed willingness to be Baptized, and declaring themselves Christians.
For 'tis said, Simon himself believed also, and was baptized: Which cannot be meant of saving Faith, and a real Conversion; for we find him afterward, in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity.
And when so many Thousands were Baptized in one Day, we cannot think they were all singly Examined, so as to give (at least a probable) Evi∣dence of saving Grace: But, their willingness to Page 22 be Baptized, was a sufficient Evidence of their declaring themselves Christians, or professing Chri∣stianity.
And when all Ierusalem, and all Iudea, and all the region about Iordan (that is, great Multitudes from all those Parts,) went out to Iohn Baptist, and were baptized of him, confessing their sins; it cannot be supposed that such Multitudes were all singly Examined, and made particular Confessions of their Sins; But, the Verbal Expressions of many, with the silent Consent of the rest, and the concurrent Actings of all, was an evident Declaration of their common Sentiments.
And it can hardly be thought, that they did not (many of them) bring Children with them; since we know they had then an Opinion, that Chil∣dren were capable of Benefit from the Benediction of Prophets, and Persons extraordinary; as ap∣pears by their bringing of little Children to Christ, (such as to be taken up in Arms) for him to lay his hands on them and bless them.
Now if each of these Considerations be not, singly, convictive: Yet so many together, of which each is highly probable, and when as nothing (so much as probable) doth appear to the contrary: It seems to me so great an Evidence (in Matter of Fact,) that Children were then Baptized; that I do not at all doubt, but that we are rather to think, that Infants were then Baptized, than that they were not.
To which we may add, the continual concur∣rence of the Churches Practice, for near Sixteen Page 23 Hundred Years; which, in Matter of Fact, is a great Evidence.
For I do not know, that in any Age of the Church, it was ever so much as questioned, or at all doubted, (but that the Children of Christians might be lawfully Baptized,) till that about 100 Years since (in our Grandfathers time) the Ana∣baptists in Germany did (amongst many other ex∣travagant Notions) begin to cavil at it. When as, in all the former Ages of the Church, nearer to the Apostles time, I do not know that any History doth mention, that it was ever questioned.
Whereas a thing of such Daily Practice, if at any time, in any part of the Christian Church, it had received any considerable Opposition; it could not be, but that some History would have taken notice of it.
And, in such a Case, a constant Silence is, to me, a sufficient Evidence, that it hath been a constant Practice (even from the Apostles time) without any Opposition. And, if so, no doubt, but by them also. And I do not know of any thing alleged, with any shew of Evidence, why we should think the contrary.
If any (who were not the Children of Christi∣ans, but converted from Heathenism) have defer'd their Baptism too long; I think they were faulty in so doing.
But if any will obstinately think, that Paul and Peter had not, each of them, Two Hands, and on each Hand Five Fingers, because it is no where in Scripture (that I know of) said that they had so: And, that therefore, we are rather to Page 24 think they had not, than that they had; I cannot help it.
These are my Thoughts, hastily drawn up; and I pray God they may (through his Blessing) be ef∣fectual to your Satisfaction.
Yours, Iohn Wallis.For Mr. C— to be left with Mr. — at the — in St. Paul's Church-yard, till it be called for.