Mr. Bridgman: “However, to be serious, the preacher was conscience that what he required of others he could not give himself, and that if we cannot (as we think we can) produce instances from the New Testament of infant baptism, neither can you produce one plain command, or one evident instance, for and of believers only to be immersed; you are well aware it is not a matter of certainty, but of doubtful disputation; were it a matter of certainty, and a thing so plain that he who runs may read, it would be as evident to one man of common understanding as another.”
1. You say, To be serious. If you have not been serious, you ought to have been, my brother, and not to have trifled with the breathings of the Holy Spirit by Paul, as you have in the foregoing paragraph of your letter. If you have not been serious, you ought to have been, to charge me as you have in your letter with sophistry, willful lying, foolishness and dishonesty, &c, in my pulpit labors. If you have not been serious, I have, and whatever may be my natural mode of opposing what in my soul I believe to be of Satan, and not of God, or of commending what I believe to be eternal truth, the Lord is my witness, that I am no trifler with the scriptures, nor have I been since the quickening power of grace reached my heart in the year of my Lord and my God, 1812.
2. ” The preacher was conscious that what he required of others, he could not give himself.”
I was conscious of no such thing, nor am I now; and the public shall be judge, whether I have not produced from the current testimony of the New Testament for exclusive believers’ baptism, all that I ever required of you, for plainness only in one text for infant sprinkling. I was and am conscious that believers were baptized, and that that confession was required of them previous to their baptism, which gave God’s ministers satisfaction that they were believers; and that upon such confession only they baptized them; and this fact you have first to deny in as plain texts of the word of God’s truth, as I have stated it for a fact, and so remote it out of your way, before you can find any scripture place, name, meaning, breast, or bread, for infant sprinklings admitting it was then allowable in the shape of an ordinance of God, with some benefit connected with it. And I was and am conscious that there is no spiritual relation between a believer’s faith, and an infant’s flesh; and that so there can be no relation between the believer’s baptism, as an act of obedience and profession of faith, and the sprinkling of as unconscious babe; and that so they cannot be one and the same ordinance; and that as there is but one baptism, one of these must be wrong, and let that be expelled for ever that is without one either perceptive or practical text. And I was and am conscious, that as a confession of a vital change of heart to God was required in some instances, it is dispensable in no instance by any scripture example, to be the same ordinance. And I was and am conscious, that to make use of water for baptism on a subject known to be unconscious of what is done, or on any subject known to be without the grace of repentance, attaching some benefit and importance to the act, is putting water in a place that belongs only to the life, power, and interest of the saving grace of God in the heart; and it is placing an importance to water without the Spirit, that the word of God has never done, and which is the great delusion of millions in what is called Christendom, and is a practical denial of the great leading and vital sentiment of the word of God, that no spiritual benefit from Christ can accrue to any soul by any act of man done upon him without the Spirit of Christ be in that soul, and that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, or enter, to receive any spiritual benefit whatever therein. And it is making that of a little water, which we, who believe in the baptism of believers only, have never once dared to think of making of much water.
The necessity of repentance and faith on the part of the candidate as accompaniments to baptism, is what most, if not all, national churches have always been obliged by the plain word of God to admit, ever since they have had a being, and as they could not well be national churches without taking in infants, and it appeared too much to presume that infants had repentance and faith in themselves, or that they could make the necessary confession according to scripture, while these were nevertheless seen to be indispensable—they have got persons in the name of sureties and sponsors, or godfathers and god- mothers, to be foolish and wicked enough, in their blindness, to stand and falsely vow and promise, as solemnly as on oath before God, that the child shall be a penitent and godly believer when it grows old enough and big enough. This is admitting that repentance and faith are indispensable in baptism, but as here are subjects brought in that the scriptures know nothing about, so, to look anything like self- consistent, here is obliged to be a providing for repentance and faith, in a way that the scriptures know nothing about. And supposing to meet the objections to this key-stone in the arch of popish mockery of all vital and true godliness, this spiritual wickedness in high places, Mr. A. Bedford makes the following blind and untrue defense, saying, “Little children are believers by the faith, which either of their parents possess, imputed to them.” Scrip. Cron. page 322. Now, if you will find but one text of scripture, as plain and as pointedly expressive of infant sprinkling, as the many are, that are set down on these papers, for believers’ baptism only, as a New Testament ordinance, consistent with the spirituality of the gospel kingdom of God, you will do all that I required of you, and shall then receive my concession.
3. “And if we cannot (as we think we can) produce instances from the New Testament of infant baptism.”
If you think you can produce instances from the New Testament for infant sprinkling, why has not the thing been honestly, and as a matter of duty, done long ago, and the question settled? Mere human thinking as a point of conclusion, without better evidence, is but a traitor, and is as partial, treacherous, and delusive, as Satan himself is, and it breeds its thousands of ills in its thousands of ways; but as a laborer in search of evidence, and as a handmaid to acknowledge on fair and reasonable evidence acquired, and subject to that evidence, thought is good, and such a thinking man is wise and useful too. But Saul of Tarsus thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus, and so he persecuted the saints. And Abraham thought the fear of God was not in the land, and so he denied what God had joined together. Gen. 20:2, 9, 10. But David said, I thought on my ways, and turned my feet to thy testimonies. Ps. 119:59. While people can be kept thinking as you think, without requiring evidence for decision of conduct, they can hold infant sprinkling just as quietly as ignorantly; but it is all vanity, unless it can be found in God’s revealed thoughts; and therefore it is no wonder that you should be so concerned about the weak minded of your people when I spoke out so plain.
4. “Neither can you produce one plain command, or one evident instance for and of believers only to be immersed.”
In reply to this requirement of plain command with evidence, I would say, John’s being sent of God to baptize, and his baptizing consequently, is plain command, and his rejecting all who could not produce the satisfactory evidence of repentance, is plain evidence for believers only; and John’s baptizing them in the river of Jordan, is plain evidence for immersion, and the total silence about infants on baptism, and on all others but believers, is plain evidence that infants never had in scripture days anything to do with baptism any way, and never would have been brought into the professing church, if but one tenth of the evidence had been waited for from the word of God, that we have therein for the baptism of believers only. Annanias had a plain command to go and command Saul, as a praying man and chosen vessel, to be baptized, calling on the name of Lord. Acts ix. Peter had a plain command from the Lord to go to the house of Cornelius, to tell him what he ought to do, and Peter’s command of them who were in the house, to be baptized, was as plainly of believers only, on whom the Holy Ghost had descended; and his question as evidently excluded all else. Acts 10. Philip had a plain command to go and minister to the eunuch, and he has plainly declared to him, that he had no authority to dare to baptize him but as a believer: and it is equally plain that he took the eunuch down into the water to baptize him, and this is plain enough that he was immersed; unless in the light of all fair reasoning and conclusion on other subjects, we argue and quibble ourselves on this, into a figure far below childishness. And it is equally plain that no evidence whatever can be adduced from the word of God, that there was more than one mode of baptizing, any more than there is of more than one qualification of subject,} or of that being less than the grace of God vitally in the heart.
5. “You are aware it is not a matter of certainty, but of doubtful disputation.”
I am aware that believers’ baptism is a matter of disputation; but I am not aware that it is a doubtful matter, if the sacred text and self-consistency in spiritual things be to decide. I know it is not so with my soul before God, nor has it been for all the years that I have read the scriptures for myself with no man’s eyes but my own, and have been induced by the great and tender mercies of our God, to take my great Master’s rule of thus it is written, and thus it behoveth me. But you seem fond of anticipating my mind, by the true state of your own, for it is evident that the subject is doubtful with yourself. But if you omit believers’ baptism, because it is doubtful, with so much evidence as it has in sacred text, how is it that you can practice infant sprinkling, when by the same rule it cannot be better than doubtful, having no account upon the sacred page? This looks like inclining to side instead of center. You fully acknowledge the poor plight that your own soul is in as a minister of the New Testament, by confessing that the revealed will of God, touching the way of obedience in one of his most public ordinances of the gospel dispensation, is with you but a matter of doubtful disputation. You, as a public minister, are a professed guide, and a pilot; but with yourself it seems the way and the seas are but doubtful. A doubtful guide in soul matters of godliness, is rather a queer thing my brother; but your confession shews, however, that your infant sprinkling is but like a poor culprit at the bar, whose miserable existence hangs only on the slender thread of a disputed doubt. But there is something which strikes me very solemnly from your remark, because it goes to say, that while the God of all grace hath revealed his gracious will clear enough for the forgiveness, the peace, the hope, and salvation of poor, lost, and miserable sinners, that they should shew forth his praise; his will as to how he will be feared and worshipped as the King of kings, and God of so great a salvation, is not revealed more connectedly and uniformly clear and decisive than a doubtful disputation. But although it may appear so to you, it evidently is not so in reality; because there was a time when they that believed were of one heart and of one soul, (Acts 4:32) according to the Lord’s own promises, saying, I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever. Jer. 32:39. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new heart within you, and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them. Ex. 11:19, 20. And the apostle commends the Corinthians because, notwithstanding their contentions, they had kept the ordinances as they were delivered unto them. 1 Cor. 11:2. And so there must have been a sufficiently clear and evident a standard of divine will originally in the ordinances, for all them that believed to be of one heart and of one soul therein. And although seas of corruption have rolled in their floods of hostile and crafty disputation, to so great a perversion of this ordinance, yet the sacred text on the subject is not in the least doubtful now more than then. For if there be any partiality in the translation on this subject, it is turned all on your side of the question, because the translators were not Baptists themselves, and it was the side also on which the court that employed them wished them to bend all they could, by leaving some words not translated, because that would have otherwise spoke too plain for the times on our side. But the will of God is plain enough on the subject, for us to know and to be satisfied, that believers’ baptism only, and that by immersion only, may be disputed till time ends, but cannot be denied by one fairly read passage in the sacred word; it is like its great Master, it cannot be hid; nor its opposite supported by any one fairly read text on the subject of baptism. The baptism of believers by immersion only, cannot be twisted into a commendation to the passions of man, nor to the fine feelings of human nature; and therefore every method of art devisable has been had recourse to, to get rid of it; so that if you wade through the thousands of streams of human argument and far-fetched subtleties, instead of coming impartially to the scriptures, in their self-interpreting order, you may well be doubtful, while the subject is in itself doubtless. Put not confidence in a guide. Mic. 7:5. Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of? Isa. 2:22. Our Lord’s whole life was, as it is written, and that the scriptures might be fulfilled. And the apostles’ preaching was, as they had received of the Lord, and according to the scriptures. And our orders are to search the scriptures, to study, and to preach the word. And when we have the written word in its most uniform and agreed sense for what we believe, preach, and do, we have then some good reason for our sentiments, and meaning for our acts.
6. “Were it a matter of certainty, and a thing so plain that he who runs may read, it would be as evident to one man of common understanding as another.”
How is it, my brother, that believers’ baptism by immersion, must, to be received, be so plainly written that you may read it as you run—while infant sprinkling can be so readily received without any thing written in sacred page, to read at all on the subject? How many points of the revealed will of God are there, when all the readings and circumstances of the New Testament connected therewith, are considered, that are more full and plainly written, than the exclusive baptism of believers, and the evidence of its being immersion only? Is it not plain that a confession of godliness was required personally of some candidates? And will you point me out the place where it is written, that any others were ever baptized without it? Is it not plain that some candidates did go down into the water to be baptized? And will you point out the place where it is recorded in the holy word, that others were baptized without going into the water at all? And, as you dispute the immersion of believers, upon the word being used for washing, and may be applied to the washing of the hands or the face—did all Jerusalem, Judea, and all the regions round about, go down into the river of Jordan, to wash their hands’ and their faces, and that too before the days of John? And if not, then why did the candidates from all those parts go there to be baptized therein, or John go there to minister baptism therein, if the use of a little water in a basin, as in the washing of the face and the hands, would have been one and the same thing, as the appointed ordinance of God? As the scriptures must have self-consistent and sound reason for their statements, no fair and conclusive answer to these questions can be found, on the principle of unconscious infant sprinkling.
And as to the subject of believers’ immersion being as evident to one man of understanding, as another, if it were plainly written, is altogether a false conclusion, as to & practical admission and reception of it; unless you can prove that there is not one plainly written scripture truth under the whole heavens. For there is not a divine truth, even to the being of God, but what has been disputed and denied; and that not by idiots, but by men of the greatest natural or common understanding! The greatest errors on some of the plainest points of truth, have been brought in and defended by some of the greatest of men, to the astonishment of others, who have lamented that such should be the case. Aaron was not void of common understanding, when he practically denied the living God, made a golden idol calf, and ascribed a kind of omnipotent self-existence to it, saying, I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf. Ex. 32:24. The professing world was not void of common understanding, through the several ages in which the plainest truths were perverted and denied, until Antichrist, with all its corruptions, arrived at its full stature. There is no dependence whatever to be placed on common understanding, for many of those who have, with all their powers of mind, opposed believers’ immersion at one time, have at another, been, with all their hearts for conscience’s sake, obliged to embrace and defend it: and that has not been because the sacred text has been altered into plainer record, nor yet that they have become idiots. Common understanding constitutes no authority or rule in this case; but what saith the scriptures is the test, and not what they do not say, nor what any man may say without their authority.
Having now made my observations on the principal things in your letter on baptism, and that so plainly, that you may see that no subject is more simple and doubtless to my mind than that in all the scriptures— I shall, before proceeding to the other part of your letter, namely, on Communion, subjoin a few remarks on circumcision.
The circumcision of the male children of the seed of Abraham, affords no true argument in favor of infant sprinkling, although it has often been referred to for that purpose. For
1. The Lord by a covenant commanded circumcision to Abraham, and his house only, and not to the whole world at large. Gen. xvii. And Abraham and his house were not a figure of the whole natural world, but of Christ, and his chosen, redeemed, and called church. And in this figure, Abraham is called the father of all them that believe. Rom. 4:11, 16. And they that are of the faith only, are blessed with faithful Abraham. Gal. 3:9. And are called Abraham’s seed according to the promise, ver. 29. And this has nothing to do with natural babes, as such only, of any nation or circumstances; but with the believing, of whatever age or nation they may be. And therefore, circumcision can be no authority for infant sprinkling, until it can be proved that all infants stand in the same relation to Christ in his spiritual church, and equally interested in the everlasting covenant of his blood and redemption, as infants in the house of Abraham did to him in the figure, and were interested in the covenant of circumcision.
2. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant of circumcision, and of interest therein to the circumcised; and they carried that sign in their flesh through life, and by it could refer to that covenant as the children of its interests. Rom. 4:11. Phil. 3:4. But infant sprinkling is no sign, given of and from God, of the sprinkled infant’s interest in the everlasting gospel covenant of life and peace. And while it bears no such sign to the sprinkled at any after period, either in flesh or Spirit— so neither is there any covenant to which by it as a sign, the sprinkled can with any divine authority be referred as a covenantee. For there is no gospel interest in God’s everlasting covenant of salvation, but in Christ, and there is no scripture sign to any soul of personal interest in Christ, but by the circumcision of the heart by the renewing and consecrating power of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 5:17. And as sprinkling has been spoken of as of so much importance, as though it put the child into a covenant relation to God, that it did not stand in until sprinkled—that the child is to be brought to Christ by means of sprinkling—that it is not our heavenly Father’s will that any of those little ones that are sprinkled, should perish—and that it is the procurement and insurance of bread, they would be denied if not sprinkled [Jazer Vind., p. 25]—my enquiry is, wherein lieth all this virtue, without any thing of the Spirit of grace in the candidate? Is it in the water sprinkled—or in the act of sprinkling—or in the man that sprinkles? And on what ground does all this benefit of infant sprinkling rest — the covenant of works, or the covenant of grace, as there is not one word about it either way in the word of God? And if all this benefit belongs to sprinkling, and which cannot be by any qualification in one infant candidate, more than in another, where is the evidence of it in the thousands, and tens of thousands, of drunken, swearing, lying, thieving, and debauched ones, who were sprinkled when infants, dying as they lived, some in exile, some in the prison cell, and some hanged for crimes against the laws of both God and man? And what is any child, sprinkled or not sprinkled, without the Spirit of Christ in him, any more than any man, without the Spirit of Christ in him? 2 Cor. 13:5. There is no such virtues ascribed to believer’s baptism; but which is on the believing candidate’s part, a profession of repentance, of faith; in Christ—an act of obedience, and of the worship of God, according to the New Testament word of God—creating no rights of covenant interest, nor securing any, but is a profession of the hope of them, as all secured in Christ.
3. Circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of the faith to Abraham as the head, in a figure of Christ; and to his seed and house as the body, in the figure of the church. And Christ, whom God the Father hath sealed, is the head of the true household of faith, and of whom the whole saved family of God is named— as the circumcised family and house of Abraham, and not the whole world of the heathen, as such, were named of and after Abraham in the figure. And the true circumcision is that of the heart, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit (Phil. 3:3. Rom. 2:29); whereby the redeemed are circumcised unto Christ, as his true and living household—as the house of Abraham was with and unto him in the figure. And circumcision was a seal of confirmation, and an earnest given of interest in the promises, privileges, laws, and ordinances of that covenant to the family and household of Abraham, for their fathers sake in the figure (Deut. 7:12), and the Holy Spirit’s work and witness in the heart of believers for Christ’s sake, is the antitypical seal of confirmation to their interest in Christ, and is the earnest of the inheritance of eternal life. Eph. 1:13, 14. And this is rightly and obediently professed and declared in believer’s baptism, but can in no way apply to infant sprinkling, nor to sprinkled infants. For an infant can profess nothing of faith and obedience therein, and it can be no seal of interest in Christ, nor earnest of eternal life to the child from God, as the Lord’s sealing’s and earnests are in the hearts of believers. It is the believer’s duty as well as privilege, by the saving mercy he hath obtained, to observe and keep the Lord’s commands, devolving on him as a believer; but Christ is vitally all, and he may be entirely all of hope of eternal life, in thousands of instances where the water in the ordinance is never observed at all; but water can never mean anything in the gospel, without Christ in the power of endless life in the heart. Therefore we say, Christ formed in the heart the hope of glory first, and then profess him as such by baptism; for anything short of this to be called baptism, has no meaning with the subject, nor any authority of ministration by the written word of God.
4. All the household of Abraham had a hereditary and common right to all the immunities of the Lord’s typical economy with him; and circumcision was the distinguishing initiation of them into those rights and immunities. But we are nowhere authorized to conclude anything of the interest of infants in the gospel rights of the election of grace by faith in Christ. And therefore infant sprinkling cannot in any way be a similar rite of initiation into the New Testament economy of salvation; nor have any such appointment as circumcision had in its own economy; while according to the New Testament, the circumcision of the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the true initiation of the chosen into the hidden blessings of their covenant interest; and baptism, on a profession of faith and repentance, is rightly so, into the visible fellowship of the gospel. But it may be said of infants, “They may have an interest, and we cannot tell who of them have not.” That is all very true, but if any man be in Christ he is a new creature, and Paul knew no man after the flesh, and how shall we know children, by any right of interest after the flesh? Neither can we know any one after the flesh by any right to baptism. 2 Cor. 5:16. The true church of God is not national, nor hereditary by blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of such as are personally born of God. John 1:13. For the Abraham-days of natural family figure being now past, and the true light shining, no claims can be justly made to any of the eternal blessings of the spiritual kingdom of God, nor to those particular ordinances which are intended to represent an interest in them, by any relationship or parentage whatever; but there must be personal repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:21. All void of repentance will perish. (Luke 13:3) : and faith being the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1), without faith it is impossible to please God (ver. 6), and therefore he that believeth not shall be damned, sprinkled or not sprinkled (Mark 16:16): and begin not to say, We have Abraham to our father, for the axe is laid at the root of the tree; and every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire. Luke 3:8, 9. Now, as the blessings of God’s salvation are in no way hereditary by family, blood, or nation, but individually as the Lord our God shall call, there is not the least authority to treat and minister the ordinances that are intended to represent them, in that way, as though they really were hereditary. And whatever may be said for infant sprinkling, it is impossible to give it any other countenance, than that of something hereditary after the flesh, without the Spirit, and contradictory to the personality and sovereignty of election, the particularity of redemption, and the undeniable truth from the lips of Christ, that the personal new birth work of the eternal Spirit in the soul, is the perfect and entire original of all vital godliness, and that without that, all signs put upon either man, woman, or child, are but worse that nothing, being a mockery, and if to anything, they lead to hypocrisy and false hope. Consequently, regeneration by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, is the only true and real initiation into the spiritual kingdom of God, with the blessings thereof; and of which believers’ baptism, according to the word of God, is a true representation, and a just and consistent profession, with faith and obedience.
5. Circumcision being altogether another thing, it neither recommended nor hindered baptism: for it continued in authority with all other figures of that economy, until the death of Christ; so that while John and the apostles of our Lord were baptizing Jewish believers, the Jews were circumcising their infants and proselytes, John 7:23. And the circumcised Jews were rejected from baptism, although they were circumcised, and where the natural seed of believing Sarah and faithful Abraham, the friend of God, because they could not give evidence of repentance towards God; and Paul was baptized when he believed, although he was circumcised at eight days old. And although our Lord was circumcised on the eighth day to keep the Law, he was at about thirty years of age baptized unto his work and into his public declaration of character, as the Christ of God, and the Savior of the chosen of all nations to the ends of the earth. And he declared baptizing in the river to be becoming, but sinful worms have since that, in their pride called it indecent, and by many other foul epithets, although the great Lord of their being, and Savior of the lost, so walked in it. There appears in these considerations not the least divine countenance for infant sprinkling from the circumcision of Jewish infants. For the proper subjects for circumcision were rejected as improper for baptism, until they were the subjects of faith and repentance; and they who had been circumcised, were nevertheless baptized when they believed. And as it was no recommendation to baptism that the Jews were the seed of faithful Abraham, for they were desired not to name that as any argument in favor; where is the authority for the infant seed of believer’s now to be sprinkled or baptized anyway? And as our Lord was baptized into a public declaration of his character, so baptism is for the believers’ profession and declaration of character, as the subject of repentance towards God, and a believer in the Savior’s name.
6. Circumcision had much profit attached to it in the keeping of the Law, Rom. 11:25. And chiefly because unto them were committed the oracles of God. Cha. 3:2. The economy of circumcision had divine authority, and it had the law of divine will in ordinances to be observed, and with the observance thereof, they had the ensured privileges of that economy, by the promissory oracles of God. And the covenant and law of the spirit in Christ Jesus touching baptism, is repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38. Now where there is no law there is no right or interest, and where there is no promise there is no privilege; but here is divine law and divine promise; and when by the grace of God, this order of things meets in any soul, as it does in all the lawful subjects for baptism, there is much profit with, it every way, because of the oracles of God that are given therewith. But there is no such parallel for infant sprinkling, as there is no such law for it, nor promises to it, and so no such profit attached to it; and it is therefore by the conferment of the name and the forming a plea for Christians without truth in the inward, parts by the Holy Spirit, Psalm 51:6. John 8:37. and without Christ by faith, Eph. 2:12. unprofitable many ways, because it is not given in one single oracle of God. For if we take it to the scriptures for a character, the only one it can have from them is a sought out invention contrary to uprightness, Eccles. 7:29. If we consider it a representation, there is no truth in it, nor authority for it, for it cannot represent any spirituality about the unconscious infant; nor is there any given authority to conclude that it represents any vital godliness that it ever will have, for such is an untold secret with God only; and the Lord has nowhere authorized his New Testament ordinances to be personally ministered upon one person or order of persons, to represent the true and spiritual New Testament religion of another person, or persons. Natural birth gave the Jewish infants right to circumcision, and circumcision to all the promised immunities of that economy. But nothing of this can in truth be said of the natural birth, or of the sprinkling of infants, relative to the eternal blessings of the everlasting gospel and covenant of salvation. For the regeneration birth of the soul, of God, and to God, by the power of the Holy Spirit only, gives right to baptism, and all the promised blessings of the gospel, as the true antitype of the Jewish figure. If we call infant sprinkling a profession of Christ in distinction from, and as an elevation of them above the heathen and heathenism, then it is all false and without any foundation in truth, for infants can profess nothing, nor is there one promise of interest in Christ that can be claimed for them therein, whereby for them justly to wear such a pretention, for that is all governed alone by the evidence of, as many as the Lord our God shall call; and the word of God reckons no one in distinction from a heathen man, without the faith and truth of Christ, Mat. 18:17. If we call it a dedication, then it may be justly asked, who hath required it? for there is not a word for it in all the word of God as an ordinance. Nor is it harmless, and therefore to be allowed as a matter of indifference, claiming liberty; because it is a carnal, antichrist substitute in the place of God’s own New Testament ordinance. It is a piece of false piety like that of the Jews, who would not go into the judgment hall lest they should be defiled; while they chose the release of a common thief rather than not have Christ crucified out of their way. For it is in the gratification and pious figure of religious flesh without the Spirit, an open hostility against that scripture order as altogether hateful, which says when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women, Acts 8:12, there not being an infant named or thought of in the baptism; and its chief aim is that that more lovely order to carnal flesh hypocrisy and pride, may in the course of time be established altogether that without believing all infants may be sprinkled, scripture baptism be crucified by the very pious hands which dedicate by sprinkling, and there be no believing men and women baptized at all. If the word of sacred writ be our only authority, standard, and rule, this must be wrong, and will have no place in the church of Christ, when he shall drive all pious deism out. If we call infant sprinkling a mode of instruction, then the question is, who have ever been instructed to profit in godliness by it, and in what way? While thousands have been instructed by means thereof, to determine themselves Christians while dead in sin and buried in the lusts of the flesh and of the world. If we call it a means to bring children to Christ, what children are there who are really brought to Christ by it? And what difference for the better is there now or for eternity between a sprinkled infant and one that is not sprinkled? No man loves his children more than I do mine, or feel more prayerful concern for their welfare, but the heavens forbid that I should so much mock God as to impose such a cheat upon them in the name of a godly ordinance.
7. In the economy of circumcision, the man child that was not circumcised, was to be cut off from the people of that economy. Gen. 17:14. And how will this apply to infant sprinkling? Does sprinkling unite the infant to, and interest it with, the saints of God in the covenant blessings of eternal life? And does the omission of sprinkling bar the infant at any time, in whole or in part, or in any way, from all or any of those blessings? Ignorant and blind superstition, and perhaps something in man worse than both, have said, and do now say as much. And our brother Irons, flatly contradicting the great doctrines he preaches, must mean something of this—or what does he mean, when he reckons those who do not sprinkle infants to be worse than sea monsters? If it be not in this, then wherein lies our worse than monstrous? Our streets are flooded with the wickedness of those who were sprinkled when infants, while many are mercifully called savingly to know the Lord, who were never sprinkled. This shews that infant sprinkling cannot stand in the New Testament, as in the place of circumcision in the Old. And as we have plenty of woeful proof that it does not regenerate the infant, to say nothing of the sacred word, nor ensure the regeneration of it, nor make it in part a bible Christian, nor help it in one bible step towards it ; and as the omission of it does not hinder the outstretching of the saving arm of the Lord upon the not sprinkled, and as the sprinkled do not, by any virtue thereof, worship and fear the Lord any more than those do by nature who are not sprinkled—what, on the fair reading of any one passage in the whole scriptures, does sprinkling infants do? What godly end has it to answer? And what place does it fill for spiritual good? And how can it be reconciled with, or be made to mean anything consistent with the doctrines of a settled covenant, a determined and particular mediation-ship, a completed, particular, and eternal redemption— the all- divine, unconditional, and personal regeneration of the chosen, by the eternal Spirit—and the salvation of all the foreknown church of God, by distinguishing, free, omnipotent, determined, and eternal favor— while the whole world of infants are born into the world alike, without any mark of difference for human discrimination? For infant sprinkling to be consistent with itself, it must be universal, because there is no difference to distinguish subjects; and then it must be contrary to the bible statements, and the operative displays of the salvation favor of God; and so to be consistent, we must drop infant sprinkling altogether, as irreconcilable with any one truth in the vital and Spirit-wrought religion of the New Testament.
We have been charged with making too much of water, and too little of the Spirit’s work, in believers’ baptism; but we do not baptize in much water, to make people Christians, or anything else in the renewing of the heart for the kingdom of God; but, as in the Lord’s commanded way, publicly, gratefully, and obediently, on their own profession, to declare them so, to the honor and praise of the God of all grace, who in his love, wisdom, and power, hath made them so. We ask, who makes most of the water, and less of the Spirit’s work in that ordinance—we, who require a testimony of the Spirit’s regeneration of the soul as a qualification for baptism, holding baptism as a declarative ordinance of obedience to God, by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, in hope of eternal life by the Spirit’s witness of adoption—or those who sprinkle infants, and attach great importance to it, without such work of the Spirit being even considered to be done at all, and without any one known personal promise to such infants |n the flesh, that such divine work will ever be wrought in them at all; while without that all is death, though sprinkled as many times as there are stars in the heavens, or drops of water in the great seas? And we would again ask, who makes most of the water, and least of the Spirit’s work—we who reckon no man a monster because he does not baptize, nor because he is not baptized in much water—or he who reckons us worse than sea monsters because we cannot sprinkle a little water on the face of unintelligent infants, in the name of God, until we have his word to do so?
8. Having observed in seven particulars that circumcision is no authority and can afford no sort of fair argument for the sprinkling of infants—I would just in a word or two observe, that in one point, infant sprinkling and circumcision do agree: and that is, in the making a fair shew in the flesh, and the avoiding of suffering persecution for the cross of Christ. Gal. 6:12. When circumcision, with all other types of that economy, had by the death of Christ no longer any divine authority, many people liked it because they could, apart from its own economy, make something of a fair show out of it for the flesh; and those who, contrary to the mind of the Spirit, still observed it, moved very respectably thereby: much the same as is now the case with infant sprinkling, which has not one text in God’s word to support it, and never had. For it is corruption’s own offspring, is pleasing to the flesh, is of the world, and the world loves its own accordingly; because that is their own way of being Christians without Christ; that standing for everything without any thing of the Spirit. And it throws a kind of cloak over many other things, which without it, would be so seen as to be much more offensive. And so the sprinkling minister is all that the more respectable, and less subject to persecution for the cross of Christ, because the Pope, and church of Rome, the kings, queens, and the nobility of nations, together with the rulers of national synagogues, all hold infant sprinkling with a high hand, and have established it by law. And therefore it is accordingly a shocking thing not to sprinkle infants; and we may well be reckoned worse than sea monsters, because for the want of one word for it from the mouth of God, together with the impossibility of reconciling it with the Spirit of truth in general, and the spiritual origin, nature, and character of all true godliness for the kingdom of God on earth, or in heaven, we cannot do it; even as those who could not circumcise without divine authority, and who did according to the mind of the Spirit in sacred text, discard it as a thing of naught; but who had to suffer persecution for the cross of Christ thereby; as we are by many reckoned the worst of all people, for no other cause than because mercy hath made us bible Baptists, and would not let us be popish sprinklers!
But to conclude on this subject—I am no enemy to infants, nor to the salvation of infants dying in their infancy, as I have stated in my “Thoughts on Heaven;” for my belief is, that they are taken away as the chosen of God, from the evil to come. But my opposition is to the putting an unmeaning ceremony upon them, falsely in the name of something of the religion of Christ. Many blessed men of God have, and many do now practice infant sprinkling, but the word of God is our standard—shew me authority from that, and I will then do it too. I contend for mastery with no man, but the promotion of truth is my sole desire and only aim. I hope in the fear of God, that I am no man’s enemy, but opposed to what the greatest of good men may hold without sacred text; and my contention is not against persons, but things. I shall now proceed to the second part of your letter, namely, on Communion.
John Foreman (1792-1872) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Hill Street Chapel, Marylebone, serving this position for close to forty years.