He, that is, Dr. Gill, refers for proof to the text in Matthew 19:14, which speaks of Christ’s’ blessing the little children, and tries to show that there is no precept in these words for infant baptism whatsoever. His arguments are as follows:
1) “Let the words be said to or of whom they may, they are not in the form of a precept, but of a permission or grant, and signify not what was enjoined ‘as necessary, but what was allowed of, or which they might be.”
2) ‘These children do not appear to be newborn babes. The words used by the (evangelists, neitherpaidia nor brephee, (that is: ‘children” or ‘babes”), do not always signify such; but are sometimes used of such who are capable of going alone, and of being instructed, and of understanding the Scriptures, and even of one of twelve years of age.”
3) “It cannot be said whose children these were; whether they belonged to those who brought them, or to others; and whether the children of believers, and of baptized persons, or not; and if of unbelievers, and of unbaptized persons, the pedo-baptists themselves will not allow such children to be baptized.”
4) “It is certain they were not brought to Christ to be baptized by Him, but for other purposes.”
5) “This passage rather concludes against pedo-baptism than for it, and shows that this practice had not obtained among the Jews, and had not been used by John, by Christ, and by His disciples; for then the apostles would scarcely have forbade the bringing of these children, since they might readily suppose that they were brought to be baptized.”
6) “The reason given for suffering little children to come to Christ, for of such is the kingdom of heaven, is to be understood in a figurative and metaphorical sense; of such who are comparable to children for modesty, meekness, and humility, and for freedom from. rancor, malice, ambition, and pride.”
Next Dr. Gill refers to Matthew 28:19, to prove that also in this text there is no precept for infant baptism. He argues as follows:
1) “The baptism of all nations is not here commanded; but the baptism only of such who are taught; for the antecedent to the relative them, cannot be all nations; since the words panta ta ethnee, all nations, are of a neuter gender; whereas autous, them, is of masculine.”
2) “If infants, as part of all nations, and because they are such, are to be baptized, then the infants of heathens, Turks, and Jews, ought to be baptized, since they are part, and a large part, of all nations.”
3) “Disciples of Christ and such who have learned to know Christ, and the way of salvation by Him, and to know themselves, and their need of Him, are characters that cannot agree with infants; and if disciples and learners are the same, as is said, they must be learners or they cannot be disciples; and they cannot be learners of Christ unless they have learned something of Him.”
4) “These two acts, teaching, or making disciples, and baptizing, are not, to be confounded, but are two distinct acts, and the one is previous and absolutely necessary to the other: Men must first be made disciples, and then baptized.”
Next, Dr. Gill proceeds to show that there is no precedent for baptism of infants in the Word of God. He refers to the baptism of John, and argues that among those “who flocked to John’s baptism from all parts, we read of no infants that were brought with them for that purpose, or that were baptized by him. And though more were baptized by Christ than by John, that is, by the apostles of Christ, at His order, yet no mention is made of any infants baptized by them.” And again, he refers to the three thousand persons that were baptized on the day of Pentecost, and argues that there was not a single infant among them. Nor is there in all the accounts of baptism in the Acts of the Apostles in different parts of the world mention of a single instance of infant baptism. He admits that there is indeed mention made of households or families baptized, but there is no certainty that there are any infants in these families and that they were baptized or else must be baptized. He argues that there certainly were no infants in the household of the jailer at Philippi, but only adult persons, for the apostle spoke the Word of the Lord to all that were in his house, “which they were capable of hearing, and it seems of understanding; for not only he rejoiced at this good news of salvation by Christ, but all in his house hearing it, rejoiced likewise; which joy of theirs was the joy of faith; for he and they were believers in God, Father, Son, and Spirit.” The same, he argues, is true of the household of Stephanas. Also of that household it is certain that it consisted of adult persons, “believers in Christ, and very useful in the service of religion; they were the firstfruits of Achaia, the first converts in those parts, and who addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints”; and therefore they must be adult persons, and not infants. In the third place, Dr. Gill argues that no “infant baptism is to be concluded from any things or passages recorded either in the Old or in the New Testament.” He argues that since baptism is an ordinance peculiar to the New Testament, it cannot be expected that there should be any directions about the observance of baptism in the Old Testament. There is nothing there that is in favor of infant baptism. And also for this Dr. Gill offers several attempts to prove his proposition.
1) “It is n0t.a fact, as has been asserted, that the infants of believers have, with their parents, been taken into the covenant of God in the former ages of the church, if by it is meant the covenant of grace; the first covenant made with man, was that of works, made with Adam, and which indeed included all his posterity, to whom he stood as a federal head, as no one ever since did to his natural offspring; in whom they all sinned, were condemned, and died; which surely cannot be pleaded in favor of the infants of believers. After the fall, the covenant of grace, and the way of life and salvation by Christ, were revealed to Adam and Eve, personally, as interested therein; but not to their natural seed and posterity, and as interested therein; for then all mankind ‘must be taken into the covenant of grace, and so nothing peculiar to the infants of believers, of which not the least syllable is mentioned throughout the whole age of the church, reaching from Adam to Noah.” A similar argument is made with regard to the covenant of God with Abraham: “The next covenant is made with Abraham and his seed, on which great stress is laid, Genesis 17:10-14. And this is said to be ‘the grand turning point on which the issue of the controversy very much depends; and that if Abraham’s covenant, which included his infant children, and gave them a right to circumcision, was not the covenant of grace, then it is confessed, that the main ground is taken away, on which ‘the right of infants to baptism is asserted; and consequently the principal arguments in support of the doctrine are overturned.'” And then Dr. Gill continues: “Now that this covenant was not the pure covenant of grace, in distinction from the covenant of works, but rather a covenant of works, will soon be proved; and if so, then the main ground of infant baptism is taken away, and its principal arguments in support of it overturned: and that it is not the covenant of grace is clear.” For this proposition Dr. Gill offers the following arguments: a) “From its being never so called, nor by any name which shows it to be such; but the covenant of circumcision, Acts 7:8. Now nothing is more opposite to one another than circumcision and grace; circumcision is a work of the law, which they that sought to be justified by it, fell from grace, Gal. 5:2, 3, 4. Nor can this covenant be the same as we are now under, which is a new covenant, or a new administration of the covenant of grace, since it is abolished, and no more in being and force.” b) “It appears to be of a covenant of works, and not of grace, since it was to be kept by men, under a severe penalty. Abraham was to keep it, and his seed after him; something was to be done by them, their flesh to be circumcised, and a penalty was ‘annexed, in case of disobedience or neglect; such a soul was to be cut off from his people: all which shows it to be, not a covenant of grace, but of works.” c) “It is plain, it was a covenant that might be broken; of the uncircumcised it is said, he hath broken my covenant, Gen. 17:14, whereas the covenant of grace cannot be broken; God will not break it; and men cannot; it is ordered in all things, and sure, and is more immovable than hills and mountains,Ps. 89:34.” d) “It is certain it had things in it of a civil and temporal nature; and a multiplication of Abraham’s natural seed, and a race of kings from him, a promise of his being the father of many nations, and a possession of the land of Canaan by his seed: things that can have no place in the pure covenant of grace, and have nothing to do with that, any more than the change of his name from Abram to Abraham.” e) “There .were some persons included in it, who cannot be thought to belong to the covenant of grace; as Ishmael, not in the same covenant with Isaac, and a profane Esau: and on the other hand, there were some who were living when this covenant of circumcision was made, and yet were left out of it; who nevertheless, undoubtedly, were in the covenant of grace; as Shem, Arphaxad, Melchisedec, Lot, and others; wherefore this can never be the pure covenant of grace.”
f) Dr. Gill has still more arguments. And the next argument he makes against-infant baptism is, to my mind, rather absurd. He argues that the covenant mentioned in Galatians 3, which could not be disannulled by the law, cannot have been the covenant of grace, but must have been some other covenant, because “the distance of time between them does not agree, but falls short of the apostle’s date 24 years.” g) Also the next argument is of little force. He argues, namely, that the covenant of grace was made with the elect in Christ as the Head of the covenant, while the covenant with Abraham was made with Abraham as the head of that covenant; and so, seeing that the covenant cannot have two heads, it cannot have been the same covenant. h.) The same is true of the next argument. The covenant with Abraham cannot have been the covenant of grace because it was made with Abraham and his carnal seed, and therefore included such men as Ishmael and Esau, and others. i) The next argument is of a similar nature. The covenant with Abraham cannot have been the covenant of grace; because it would then have excluded from the covenant of grace some persons that belonged in that covenant and that were still living at the time when the covenant was made with Abraham, such as Shem, Arphaxad, Lot, and others. j) Also the next argument is rather silly, and really defeats his own purpose. For it tells us that after all the covenant with Abraham was not made with children, but with adults: for it was made as the covenant of circumcision, and children certainly could not circumcise themselves.
2) Dr. Gill also argues that no command was given to baptize infants in the New Testament, that therefore it could not possibly be the will of God to baptize infants. Under this head he also has several sub-arguments, which, however, we will not relate, because they are too well known. He refutes some of the arguments from the New Testament that claim that baptism is come in the place of circumcision, such as the arguments fromActs 2:39, Romans 11:16, ff., I Corinthians 7:14, in order to show that in the New Testament no grounds can possibly be found for infant baptism. And finally, he refutes some arguments that are objections against adult baptism exclusively. Under this head he argues especially from the word baptizoo, “to baptize,” to show that immersion is the only proper mode of baptism.
We will not try to reply to all these arguments of Dr. Gill and of the Baptists in general in, detail. The crux of the question is, after all, whether or not children belong to the covenant and to the church of God, and therefore should be baptized. And this again is based on another question, whether or not the covenant is the same throughout the ages of the old dispensation and of the new, and whether, therefore, circumcision is essentially the same as baptism.
The Heidelberg catechism, in Question and Answer 74, mentions, three grounds: for infant baptism: 1) that the children are included in the covenant and church of God; 2) that the promise of the covenant is for them as well as for the adult, that is, the promise of redemption and of the Holy Ghost; 3) that baptism as a sign of the covenant, like circumcision,, must therefore be applied to infants as well as to adults. In the Netherland Confession, Article 34, virtually the same grounds for infant baptism are mentioned: “Therefore we believe that every man, who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal, ought to be but once baptized with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same: since we cannot be born twice. Neither dot11 this baptism only avail us at the time when the water is poured upon us, and received by Gs, but also through the whole course of our life; therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, whom we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the heathen in Israel formerly were circumcised, upon the same promises which are made unto our children. And indeed Christ shed his blood no less for the washing of the children of the faithful, than for the adult persons; and therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of that, which Christ hath done for them; as the Lord commanded in the law, that they should be made partakers of the sacrament of Christ’s suffering and death, shortly after they were born, by offering for them a lamb, which was a sacrament of Jesus Christ. Moreover, what circumcision was to the Jews, that baptism is to our children. And for this reason Paul calls baptism the circumcision of Christ.” And once more, essentially the same argument is followed in “The Form for the Administration of Baptism.” There we read: “And although our young children do not understand these things, we may not therefore exclude them from baptism, for as they are without their knowledge partakers of the condemnation in Adam, so are they again received unto grace in Christ; as God speaketh unto Abraham, the father of all the faithful, and therefore unto us and our children (Gen. 17:7), saying, ‘I will establish, my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.’ This also the apostle Peter testifieth, with these words (Acts 2:39), ‘For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Therefore God formerly commanded them to be circumcised, which was a seal of the covenant, and of the righteousness of faith; and therefore Christ also embraced them, laid his hands upon them, and blessed them (Mark 10). Since then baptism is come in the place of circumcision, therefore infants are to be baptized as heirs of the kingdom of God and of his covenant. And parents are in duty bound further to instruct their children herein, when they shall arrive to years of discretion.”
But the question naturally arises: why are children included in the covenant of God? And the answer to this question must be: because God establishes his covenant in the line of continued generations. And this leads us to what may be considered the chief ground for infant baptism, namely, that throughout the ages of history there is only one covenant, one people, and one sign of the covenant, even though the latter was circumcision in the old dispensation and is baptism in the new. After all; the deepest reason why all Baptists reject the baptism of infants is that they fail to recognize the truth that the people of God are one and the same throughout all ages, and that de same covenant is established with them and with their seed throughout their generations, both in the old and in the new dispensation. This failure is also apparent from all the arguments which Dr. Gill produced to combat infant baptism.
The Word of God knows of only one people, the seed of Abraham, the spiritual seed, the elect, the children of the promise. This is true both of the old and the new dispensation. It is by no means correct to say that in the old dispensation the Jews were the seed of Abraham, while in the new dispensation believers are his seed. The Jews as such never were the seed of Abraham. It is indeed correct to say that for a time the seed of Abraham were found exclusively among Abraham’s descendants, as they are found now among all nations. But Scripture never identifies Abraham’s descendants with the seed of Abraham. The latter, the children of the promise, are at all times only the believers. In the times of the old dispensation they are found in the generations of Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Israel. In the new dispensation they are among all nations, there being no difference any more between Jew and Gentile. But wherever. they are found, the children of the promise, named after Abraham as the father of believers, are always the true children of God, the believers, the elect. These, and these only, are the seed of Abraham.