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ments: they shall therefore have a solid reply. The principal command which Christ here gives to his apostles, is to preach the gospel, to which he subjoins the administration of baptism as an appendage. Besides, he says nothing of baptism, any otherwise than as its administration is subordinate to the office of teaching. For Christ sends his apostles to promulgate the gospel to all the nations of the world, that by the doctrine of salvation they may collect, from every land, men who before were lost, and introduce them into his kingdom. But what men, or men of what description? It is certain that there is no mention of any, but those who are capable of receiving instruction. He afterwards adds, that such persons, when they have been instructed, are to be baptised, and subjoins a promise; “ He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved." Is there even a single syllable in the whole discourse respecting infants? What kind of argumentation, then, is that with which they assail us? Persons of adult age are to be instructed, in order that they may believe before they are to be baptised: therefore it is unlawful to administer baptism to infants. It will be impossible for them, with all their ingenuity, to prove any thing from this passage, except that the gospel is first to be preached to those who are capable of hearing it, before they are baptised: for it relates to no others. Let them raise an obstacle from this, if they can, to exclude infants from baptism.
XXIX. But to render their fallacies still more palpable, I will shew the absurdity of them by a very plain similitude. The apostle says, “ that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (a) Now if any man should pretend to infer from this, that infants ought to be deprived of food, would he not deserve universal contempt? Why so? Because it would be a perverse application to all men indiscriminately, of what was spoken of men of a certain class and a certain age. Nor is there any greater propriety in their reasoning in the present case. For what every one sees to belong exclusively to persons of adult age, they apply to infants, in order to make them subject to a rule, which was only prescribed for persons of riper years. The example of Christ is far from affording any sup
(a) 2 Thess. iii. 10.
port to their cause. He was not baptised till he was “about thirty years of age.” That is true indeed; but the reason is obvious; because he then intended to lay a solid foundation for baptism in his preaching, or rather to establish that which had a little before been laid by John. Intending, therefore, to institute baptism in his doctrine, in order to conciliate the greater authority to his institution, he sanctified it in his own body, and that at the point of time which he knew to be most proper, namely, when he was about to commence his ministry. In short, they can prove nothing else from this circumstance, except that baptism derived its origin and commencement from the preaching of the Gospel. If they approve of fixing the thirtieth year, why do they not observe it, but admit every one to baptism as soon as he is in their judgment sufficiently qualified for it? And even Servetus, one of their leaders, though he pertinaciously insisted on this age, yet began to boast of being a prophet himself when he had only attained his twenty-first year. As though it ought to be tolerated, for a man to arrogate the office of a teacher in the Church before he is a member of it.
XXX. At length they object, that there is no more reason why infants should be admitted to baptism than to the Lord's Supper, which however is not administered to them. As though the Scriptures did not make a considerable difference between the two cases in every respect. Infant communion was practised indeed in the ancient Church, as appears from Cyprian and Augustine: but the custom has very properly been discontinued. For if we consider the nature and property of baptism, we find it to be an entrance or initiation into the Church, by which we are enrolled among the people of God; a sign of our spiritual regeneration, by which we are born again as the children of God; whereas on the contrary, the Supper is appointed for those of riper years, who having passed the tender state of infancy, are capable of bearing solid meat. This difference is very evidently marked in the Scripture; in which, as far as relates to baptism, the Lord makes no distinction of age: whereas he does not present the Supper to the participation of all alike, but only to those who are capable of discerning the Vol. III.
body and blood of the Lord, of examining their own consciences, of shewing forth the Lord's death, and considering the power of it. Do we wish for any thing plainer than what the apostle inculcates in the following exhortation? “ Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”(6) It must therefore be preceded by examination, which would in vain be expected from infants. Again: “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.” (c) If no persons can be worthy partakers of it, except those who can truly distinguish the holiness of the body of Christ, why should we give to our tender infants poison instead of salutary food? What is that precept of the Lord; “This do in remembrance of me?" (d) What is the inference which the apostle deduces from it? “ As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." (e) What remembrance, I ask, shall we require from infants of that event, of which they have never attained any knowledge? What preaching of the cross of Christ, the virtue and benefit of which their minds are not yet capable of comprehending? Not one of these things is prescribed in baptism. Between these two signs, therefore, there is a considerable difference; such as we observe also between similar signs under the Old Testament. Circumcision, which is known to correspond to our baptism, was destined for infants. The Passover, which has now been succeeded by the sacred Supper, did not admit guests of all descriptions promiscuously, but was rightly eaten only by those who were of sufficient age to be able to inquire into its signification. If our opponents had a grain of sound sense, would they shut their eyes against a thing so clear and obvious?
XXXI. Though I am sorry to burden my readers with such an accumulation of reveries, yet it will be worth while to refute the specious arguments adduced in this controversy by Servetus, one of the most eminent of the Anabaptists, and even the chief glory of that sect. 1. He pretends that the symbols appointed by Christ, as they are perfect, require also
(6) 1 Cor. xi. 28.
(c) 1 Cor. xi. 29.
those who receive them to be perfect, or persons capable of perfection. But the answer is easy; that the perfection of baptism reaches even to death, and cannot with propriety be restricted to one instant of time. I observe also that it is foolish to expect a man on the first day to attain perfection, towards which baptism invites us to proceed by continual advances as long as we live. 2. He objects, that the symbols of Christ were instituted as memorials, that every one may remember that he has been buried with Christ. I answer, that what he has framed in his own head requires no refutation; and that he applies to baptism what the language of Paul shews to be peculiar to the sacred Supper, namely, that every one should examine himself; but that nothing like this is any where said of baptism: from which we conclude, that though by reason of their age, infants are not capable of examination, it is nevertheless right to baptise them. 3. He adduces the declaration of Christ, that “he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him;” (8) and concludes that infants who are incapable of believing, remain in their condemnation. I answer, that in this passage Christ is not speaking of the general guilt in which all the descendants of Adam are involved, but only threatening the despisers of the gospel, who proudly and obstinately reject the grace which is offered to them: and this has nothing to do with infants. I likewise oppose a contrary argument: all those whom Christ blesses are exempted from the curse of Adam and the wrath of God; and as it is known that infants were blessed by him, it follows that they are exempted from death. He falsely alleges, as a passage of Scripture, that “Whosoever is born of the Spirit, heareth the voice of the Spirit;” which though we were to admit as a genuine text, yet he could infer nothing more from it, than that the faithful are formed to obedience as the Spirit operates within them. But that which is affirmed of a certain number, it is wrong to apply equally to all. 4. He objects, that because “that is first which is natural," (h) we ought to wait the proper time for baptism, which is spiritual. Now, though I grant that all the descend
ants of Adam, being carnal, bring their condemnation into the world with them, yet I deny that this is any impediment to the communication of a remedy, as soon as ever God is pleased to impart it. For Servetus can shew no divine appointment, that many years shall elapse before the newness of spiritual life can begin: for according to the testimony of Paul, though the infant children of believers are in a ruined condition by nature, yet they are sanctified by supernatural grace. (i) 5. He next produces an allegory, that when David went up to the fortress of Zion, he took with him neither the blind nor the lame, but hardy soldiers. (k) And what if I oppose him with a parable, in which God invites the blind and the lame to the celestial feast,(?) how will he extricate himself from this difficulty? I ask, also, whether the blind and the lame had not previously served as soldiers with David. But it is useless to insist longer on this argument, which the readers will discover from the sacred history to be founded on mere falsehood. 6. Then follows another allegory, that the apostles were “fishers of men,” (m) not of infants. I ask, what is the meaning of that declaration of Christ, that “the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.” (n) But as I am not fond of allegorical trifling, I answer, that when the apostles were appointed to the office of teaching, they were not forbidden to baptise infants. I would further wish to be informed, since the evangelist uses the word afganos (a word which comprehends all the human race without any exception) why infants should be denied to be awt8s (human beings?) 7. He pretends, that as spiritual things belong to spiritual persons (6) infants who are not spiritual are not fit subjects of baptism. But here it is evident that he is guilty of a gross perversion of that passage of Paul, the subject of which relates to doctrine. When the Coriathians discovered too much complacency in a vain subtilty, the apostle reproved their stupidity, because they still required to be taught the first principles of Christian doctrine. Who can infer from this, that baptism ought to be denied to infants, whom, though they are born of the flesh, yet God consecrates.
(i) 1 Cor. vii. 14.
(k) 2 Sam. v. 6–8.
(1) Luke xiv. 21.