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Who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the Truth?--Gal. iii. 1.









Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2007

Printed by Law and Gilbert, St. John's Square, Clerkenwell.

[3] THERE is something so unchristian in slighting the Ordinance of our blessed Saviour himself; something so contrary to that unity of Spirit and bond of Peace, which the Apostle recommends to us, in separating from that sound and pure part of Christ's Church, wherein ye were born and bred, that I cannot persuade myself any of you would knowingly and wilfully do either the one, or the other. But, it is possible you may be misinformed; and persuaded to do that blindfold, which, with your eyes open, you would shun as most foolish and wicked. That some of you have been so misled, I am well informed; and I hear it with the deepest sorrow; as it is a matter wherein the eternal welfare of your souls is more nearly concerned than perhaps you are aware. I do entreat you, therefore, in the Lord Jesus, to consider attentively what I here offer to remove such dangerous prejudices from your minds.

"Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matt. xxviii. 19)

[4] With these awful words did our Blessed Saviour institute Baptism, as the solemn Rite by which He would have all mankind admitted into covenant with God, through his Merits and atonement: and commissioned the Apostles and their Successors in the Church to administer the same. For, that the commission was not confined to the persons of the Apostles only, but to extend to their Successors, is evident, because our Saviour promised, at the same time, his presence and blessing on the Ministry to the end of the world. "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

Before we leave this important passage, I must apprize you that the word we here find rendered teach, according to its true meaning should be rendered make disciples of. For want of attending to this, our translators introduce a needless tautology, or repetition, in our Lord's words, which doth not belong to them, "Go, teach all nations, baptizing them and teaching them." Whereas our Lord saith--"Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them." As if he had said--The privileges of being [4/5] God's people are no longer confined to the nation of the Jews; go, therefore, and confer them on those of all nations by baptizing them, &c. I thought it necessary to clear up this point at setting out, as this oversight of our Translators hath been wrested to countenance a doctrine most contrary to the nature of the institution, and to the Spirit of the Gospel.--Now to proceed--

Baptism being thus appointed, by our Blessed Redeemer, if any have, agreeably in all points to the intent of this institution, been once admitted into the Gospel Covenant; and had their title to all the Benefits of Christ's Death and Passion thus sealed and confirmed, it must be allowed by all, there can be no necessity to repeat it. As far as externals go, our title once sealed, is as good as it can be. Moreover, to repeat it is evidently not only unnecessary and absurd, but wicked. It is to trifle with the ordinance of Christ, and in effect to introduce into his Church a sacrament which He hath not appointed.

But you have been told you were not at first admitted according to Christ's [5/6] Institution--You were sprinkled indeed with water--but it was when you were an infant, at a time when you knew not what was intended by it; that you were not in a capacity to stipulate any thing on your own part, nor to apprehend by Faith the mercies of God offered unto you in that Sacrament.--Besides, that the word baptize, the principal word in the command, was not complied with: that it does not mean sprinkling, but a total immersion or dipping over head and ears; and that the practice of Christ himself, and of his Apostles, was always agreeable to such a meaning.--The vanity of such objections will easily appear.

As to the words baptize and baptism, they are greek words, and consequently their meaning must be sought in that language. Now the most approved Dictionaries of the greek tongue show that the word Baptize signifies simply to wash. And it is used in Scripture for washing of any kind, and in instances where there was certainly no immersion.

Matt. iii. 11. "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire," which [6/7] promise is applied (Acts i. 5.) to the sending down of the Holy Ghost in the shape of fiery tongues; and was fulfilled (Act ii. 3.) when "there appeared unto the Apostles cloven tongues like as of Fire, and it sat upon each of them."

In St. Mark vii. 4 we read of the Pharisees, that when they come from the market, except they WASH (i. e. literally baptize themselves) they eat not. Now the manner of washing, before meat, we know to have been not by dipping, but by pouring water on the hands (2 Kings iii. 11.) And, in the same place of St. Mark, we read of the washing (baptism) of Brazen vessels and of Tables. (Heb. ix. 10.) of divers washings (baptisms) under the Law; some of which were not by dipping, but sprinkling (Numb. xix. 13, 18, &c.)

For the practice of Christ and his Apostles, I see not how it can be collected that it was certainly a total immersion in any one instance: and there are several, in which it is more than probable that it was not.

It is true Christ was baptized by John in the river, and so was the Eunuch by Philip; but the text doth not say that either Christ [7/8] or the Eunuch, or any one baptized either by John or by Christ's Disciples were plunged over head and ears. But allowing that it were so, the bare example in such a case could not bind without a precept. Provided the essentials of a Sacrament are preserved, the mere mode of application, unless limited by a positive restriction, must be free. In matters of this kind, what may be proper at one place, and one time, may in others become highly improper, and even impossible. At the beginning, Christians had no Churches with Fonts in them; besides, the multitudes of people to be baptized at one time, made it expedient to go down to rivers, and places where were many waters, as St. John did to Ænon beyond Salem; at which place, by the accounts of the most creditable travellers, there are indeed many waters, a great number of small rivulets, but so shallow as hardly to reach the ancles, and therefore could not well answer the purpose of dipping: but this by the bye.--In that climate, they might very well go to ponds and rivers, for the purpose; but in this, it would many times be attended with great danger. In some countries, they have scarce water [8/9] enough to drink, not a river nor a brook in many miles compass. What must be done in such places? Surely, dipping canot be necessary; since if it were, none could be baptized: and if not in such places, not essentially requisite any where; for, no situation can alter the essentials of a Sacrament. But if the examples of Scripture are to be our rule in this case, they must have been clearly uniform; whereas there are many baptisms recorded in Scripture, which, from the circumstances of the several cases, could not in any reasonable probability have been performed by dipping.

Acts ii. 41. We read of three thousand baptized in one day, and that in the city of Jerusalem, where water could not easily have been procured for the dipping of so many. Besides which, it must have taken up a much longer time in the performance than one day; hardly less than a week would have sufficed.

Read likewise the baptism of Paul by Ananias; (Acts ix. 18, 19, 20.) where from the whole passage it is next to certain that he was baptized in the lodging. Likewise in the house of Cornelius, St. Peter's words, "can any forbid water that these should not be [9/10] baptized?" (Acts x. 47) imply certainly that the Water was to be brought for the Baptism of the new Converts, and not that they were to go out to the Water.

The situation of St. Paul (Acts xvi. 37.) renders it extremely improbable that he should carry the jailer and all his family out at the dead of night to a pond or river to be baptized.

These instances are sufficient to show that no conclusive argument can be drawn from the cases recorded in Scripture, that a total immersion is of absolute necessity to baptism.

Neither is the spiritual act of Grace signified by baptism at all more lively represented by dipping than sprinkling.--For if dipping is said to represent the total burial of the old Man with the affections and lusts; and the emersion from the water, the being born again and becoming a new creature: on the other hand, the cleansing of the Soul from the guilt and filth of Sin, and putting away the filth of the flesh may be sufficiently expressed by sprinkling only. And we find accordingly that this outward act of baptism, representing the inward ablution of the Soul, is in Holy Scripture expressly styled sprinkling.

[11] Heb. ix. 13. "The blood of bulls and goats SPRINKLING the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh." Heb x. 22. "Having our hearts SPRINKLED from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." 1 Pet. i. 2. "Through the sanctification of the Spirit and SPRINKLING the Blood of Jesus Christ."

I know, in the early ages of the Church, a threefold immersion was practiced pretty generally, but as they had no precept for it any more than we, their example cannot of necessity oblige us. And it should be remembered, that the Church of England prescribes DIPPING though it allows SPRINKLING; and the latter is generally practiced, not to the exclusion of the former, (which would always be administered if required;) but only as in all other respects a matter of indifference, and for practice rather more convenient. Moreover, they who plead the authority of antiquity in this trifling instance (which by the by too was never practiced but with various exceptions) cannot expect their plea should have much weight; seeing they themselves reject the constant and uninterrupted [11/12] practice of the universal Church of Christ, in a point of much greater consequence, the baptism of Infants.

That the baptism of Infants is perfectly agreeable to the nature of the institution and to Scripture, I am now to show.

Baptism, as hath been observed, is the appointed rite of admission into covenant with God, through the Merits of Christ. By such admission, we are removed out of that state of nature, wherein we are born the children of wrath, subject to the doom of that original Sin, which we inherit from our first parents; and are placed in a state of Grace and Salvation and made heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. Children are just as capable of this benefit, from baptism, as persons of ripe age. Christ hath no where excluded them; for the words of the Institution are unlimited, "baptize all Nations." And he hath not only expressed his favour to them himself, but recommended little children as patterns to all who shall receive the Kingdom; they must therefore be themselves in the same capacity to receive it as others; that is, by use of the appointed means. Now that admission by baptism is generally necessary to the Salvation [12/13] of all, Christ's own words sufficiently prove, "Unless one be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." (John iii. 5.) I know our Translation reads "except a man be born, &c:" and the Anabaptists have argued from thence that none but a grown man should be baptized. But the word man is not in the original.

Observe, I say that Baptism is generally necessary to the salvation of all: but we are not thence to conclude, that all who die without Baptism, are consigned to eternal misery. We may in charity believe that God doth and will save thousands of such. But although He is not tied to his own ordinances, We are: and parents are guilty of an heinous crime before God, who in contempt of Christ's command take not care for their childrens baptism, thereby depriving them of the ordinary remedy of that original malady, in which they are conceived and born.

That God himself judges infants capable of being admitted into Covenant with him, is undeniable, from his own appointment of circumcision to be performed on the eighth day. They who wish to mislead you will say, I know, "Show us a like command for [13/14] baptism, and we shall be satisfied." You may tell them that the command of Christ is general "baptize all nations;" and to justify their practice, it is incumbent on them to show that infants are expressly excluded. Till they do this, their conduct is not better than presumption and blasphemy. For, all the arguments they can produce against the propriety of infant-baptism not only proceed on false grounds, but if they prove any thing, must conclude as strongly against the propriety of Infant-Circumcision as of infant-baptism. But God hath determined otherwise, and they make themselves wiser than God. Circumcision was the seal of the self-same covenant, as baptism is; that Covenant of Promise, which to Abraham was confirmed of God in Christ, and which the Law that was added, four hundred and thirty years afterwards, could not disannul (Gal. iii. 17.) Shall we say then, that they which were of the Seed of Abraham, according to the Flesh, were capable of being entitled to the blessedness of the Gospel; but they who are the seed of Abraham according to the promise, his children as he is Father of the faithful, [14/15] are in no better state than idolaters and infidels? this surely is to make those unclean and common, which the Apostle calleth holy (1 Cor. vii. 14.) "else were your children unclean but now are they holy." How could they be holy, but by the Grace of God? and if they have that, or are capable of it, who can deny water that they should not be baptized?"

Had our Saviour said "Go and disciple or proselyte all nations and circumcise them," none will pretend that in that case infants ought to be excluded. What reason then can there be that the milder ordinance of baptism, when appointed for the same purpose, should be denied them? Circumcision, it may be said, was known to the Jews, and had from the first been performed upon infants.--Neither was baptism a new Institution: as appears by that question of the Jews to John the Baptist "Why baptizest thou then if thou be not that Christ nor Elias." (John i. 25.) The truth is that baptism was constantly practiced by the Jews from the time of Moses. For they baptized as well as circumcised every proselyte, that came over to them from the nations. And this baptism, [15/16] it has been shown by those best skilled in jewish customs, was administered to infants as well as grown persons. It is further remarkable with regard to the jewish baptism of proselytes, that it was called new birth, regeneration, or being born again, which shews that the christian baptism, to which the same terms are applied, was derived from thence. This mode of admission our Saviour retained, as on many accounts better adapted to the spirit and design of the Gospel, than circumcision. "He took it into his hands" (says a learned Author) "such as he found it; adding only this, that he exulted it to a nobler purpose, and a larger use." It is therefore reasonable to imagine that such as it was in the jewish church, such it would continue in the christian, unless where a special alteration were prescribed: especially as the persons, to whom it was first committed were themselves Jews; and would at least practise it in all cases that the Jews did, and consequently extend it to infants.

An infant, we all allow, may have temporal privileges, and an interest in temporal estates conferred upon him, by legal [16/17] writings, and forms, and seals. These, I am sure, you would not withhold from your children. Much less should you be willing to deny them that seal which conveys unto them a title to an inheritance in Heaven, that fadeth not away.

You may still be told, that, whatever be the reasons one way or other, the Apostles, who should be our only guides in such a practice, actually baptized no infants. The contrary of this assertion is probable from what is said above; but will be still more evident from scripture facts. The Apostles baptized whole families; that of Lydia (Acts xvi. 15.) that of the Jailor (Acts xvi. 33.) that of Stephanas (1 Cor. i. 16.) Surely, it is hardly to be credited, that in all these families, there were no children. And, if there were any, and the Apostle had not baptized them, he would have made the exception, as he doth in a like case (1 Cor. i. 14.) "I thank God, I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius. I baptized also the houshold of Stephanas." The Apostle doth not here except sucklings and children, where his argument required that he should, if they had been in fact omitted. And [17/18] in the case of the jailor, it is said, that he and all that belonged to him, all his, were baptized.----But that the Practice of infant-baptism was actually derived to us from the Apostles, may be collected from testimonies immediately subsequent to the times, in which they lived. I shall mention only two instances of unquestionable authority.

Justin Martyr, in his Apology, takes occasion to say that "there were among Christians, at that time, many persons of both sexes, some sixty, some seventy years old, who had been made disciples to Christ from their infancy." Now he wrote this apology about the year of our Lord 140. Therefore, those persons, whom he speaks of, as baptized sixty or seventy years before, in their infancy, must have been baptized in the first age, while some of the Apostles were yet living.

At the same time with Justin Martyr, lived Irenæus Bishop of Lyons, who (it hath been proved) was born at the end of the first century, about the year 97; and was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John. About the year of our Lord 176, he wrote his book against the heretics, when he was [18/19] himself near 80 years old, and must needs be a competent judge of the Church's sense and practice in this point, during the second century. "The ordinary way of being freed from original sin (he says) is baptism, which is our regeneration (or new birth) unto God." And this he expressly affirms to be administered to children, as well as adult persons, "For," says he, "Christ came to save all persons by Himself, all I say who by him are regenerated unto God, infants, and little ones, and children, and youths and elder persons." Now Irenæus had before told us that baptism is our regeneration unto God, all, therefore, whom he here mentions, as regenerated unto God, must have been baptized.

Thus much may serve to prove beyond dispute that infant-baptism was an apostolical practice, and is derived to us without intermission from the Apostles themselves.

That from the time of Irenæus above quoted, it was the uniform practice of the Church till the reformation, is evident from the most authentic records of the acts and councils of the Church during that period. [19/20] After the reformation, all the protestant Churches, however they might differ in other points, agreed in the continuance of infant-baptism: one sect only excepted of mean and turbulent enthusiasts, whose doctrines were blasphemy, and their lives a continued series of the most flagitious crimes. These were the original Anabaptists. And the people, who would thus mislead you, are those who inherit the name, and in this instance the doctrine and practice of these men. I hope in God they have abandoned all the rest of their abominations, which were indeed blots in the reformation, and a disgrace to human nature. Shall the descendants of such men rise up in opposition to the whole Church of God, and charge it with impiety and profanation of the Sacraments?--Let me caution you against them, that they may not deceive you to the hazard of your precious souls, making you indeed blaspheme the ordinance of Christ and deny to your dear babes the seal of their redemption.

But besides that it cannot be delayed without danger, presumption and impiety, the practice of baptizing in infancy is attended [20/21] with very beneficial consequences. By this means, an additional obligation is laid by the Church for the bringing up of children so dedicated to God, in the ways of his Laws, and the works of his commandments. More over, all such shameful and scandalous neglects of baptism, and delays in the administration, are prevented, as would otherwise most certainly arise in the Church. Were persons wholly left to themselves, there would be much difficulty to bring many to baptism especially at a time, when they would be most strongly solicited by the allurements of the world, and the violence of their own inordinate passions. How averse men in general are to so strict and spiritual an engagement, is but too evident from the difficulty there often is to persuade them to come to the Lord's Supper. But when the engagement is laid upon them in their Infancy, and they are brought up with a due sense of the obligation upon themselves, they come into the world with great advantage, and an additional security against the first encroachments of Sin from the checks of their own Conscience, continually reminding them of [21/22] the solemn engagement they are under.--Let none, therefore, I entreat you, persuade you to deny your children this benefit, to turn out your dear lambs, without their Lord's mark, open, to be seized and branded by the watchful enemy of their salvation. Keep them, and yourselves, rather within the fold of that Church, where, under Christ the great Shepherd, your spiritual safety is provided for by the wisdom and piety of as wise and pious men as have lived upon the earth, since the days of the Apostles. And the advantage of what they planned and established is now confirmed by the experience of ages.--Here you are admitted into covenant with God by Baptism, soon after you are born, in the most decent and solemn manner, amidst the prayers of a devout congregation.--Here every means are provided for your proper instruction in the nature of the engagement your are under; and at such time as you are so instructed, you are directed to acknowledge yourself, in the most awful manner, to be bound by the Vows made for you by others at your Baptism. Here too a constant and regular public worship is prescribed, and pious [22/23] prayers provided, wherein all may join with their heart and understanding; which cannot be the case, where they have nothing to direct them but the effusions and raptures of a heated imagination. Such worship (if it can be called worship) may be downright madness in some, but in the rest it must be grimace and hypocrisy. Men may and ought to devise prayers suitable to their own particular situation and circumstances, in private: but our public relation to each other, and to the Church of Christ, is continually and invariably the same; the substance of our public worship and addresses, therefore, must be continually the same too. It is absurd then to say that the form need be varied, especially since if the form be known and agreed on by all, all may join in it with fervour and devotion. By the blessing of God, the Church of England is at this day in possession of a Form of Prayer as near perfection as I believe any human composition ever was.--But to proceed.--In this Church, care is taken that you shall hear constantly the pure word of God, and that it shall be expounded to you in sobriety and truth. The other [23/24] Sacrament too of the Body and Blood of Christ is duly and rightly administered. And lastly a regular ministry is appointed, most agreeable to the institution of the Apostles themselves, under the strictest engagements to watch over your souls with diligence and integrity, and guide you, as much as in them lieth, in the way of peace and salvation. In such a Church, if your souls are not safe, they can be safe no where.--Do not, therefore, for Christ's sake, and as you value your own eternal happiness, do not forego such advantages to follow whom and what ye know not.

May the God of all truth keep you in the way of truth, in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, in due reverence and observance of his ordinances, in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life; and finally bring you to everlasting joy, through the same Jesus Christ our Saviour, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth one God, blessed for ever. Amen.


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