a history of the english baptists
THE DIVINE RIGHT OF INFANT BAPTISM EXAMINED AND DISPROVED
By John Gill
Of the Antiquity of Infant Baptism; When First Debated; and Concerning the Waldenses
The minister, in the dialogue, in order to stagger his neighbour about the principle of adult baptism he had espoused, suggests to him, that infant baptism did universally obtain in the church, even from the apostles’ times; that undoubted evidence may be had from the ancient fathers, that it constantly obtained in the truly primitive church; and that it cannot be pretended that this practice was called in question, or made matter of debate in the church, till the madmen of Munster set themselves against it; and affirms, that the ancient Waldenses being in the constant practice of adult baptism, is a mere imagination, a chimerical one, and to be rejected as a groundless figment, p. 7,9.
I. This writer intimates, that the practice of infant baptism universally and constantly obtained in the truly primitive church. The truly primitive church, is the church in the times of Christ and his apostles. The first christian church was that at Jerusalem, which consisted of such as were made the disciples of Christ, and baptized; first made disciples by Christ, and then baptized by his apostles; for Jesus himself baptized none, only they baptized by his order. [John 4:1,2] This church afterwards greatly increased; three thousand persons, who were pricked to the heart under Peter’s ministry, repented of their sins, and joyfully received the good news of pardon and salvation by Christ, were baptized, and added to it; these were adult persons; nor do we read of any one infant being baptized while this truly primitive church subsisted. The next christian church was that at Samaria; for that there was a church there is evident from Acts 9:31. This seems to have been founded by the ministry of Philip; the original members of it were men and women baptized by Philip, upon a profession of their faith in the things preached by him, concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ. [Acts 8:12] Nor is there the least intimation given that infant baptism at all obtained in this church. Another truly primitive christian church, was the church at Philippi; the foundation of which was laid in the two families of Lydia and the gaoler, and which furnish out no proof of infant baptism obtaining here; for Lydia’s household are called brethren, whom the apostles visited and comforted; and the goaler’s household were such as were capable of hearing the word, and who believed in Christ, and rejoiced in God as well as he. [Acts 16:14,15,32,33,35,40] So that it does not appear that infant baptism obtained in this church. The next christian church we read of, and which was a truly primitive one, is the church at Corinth, and consisted of persons who, hearing the apostle Paul preach the gospel, believed in Christ, whom he preached, and were baptized; [Acts 18:8] but there is no mention made of any infant being baptized, either now or hereafter, in this truly primitive church state. These are all the truly primitive churches, of whose baptism we have any account in the Acts of the apostles, excepting Cornelius, and his family and friends, who very probably founded a church at Caesarea; and the twelve disciples at Ephesus, who very likely joined to the church there, and who are both instances of adult baptism. [Acts 10:48 and 19:1-7] Let it be made appear, if it can, that any one infant was ever baptized in any of the above truly primitive churches, or in any other during the apostolic age, either at Antioch or Thessalonica, at Rome or at Colosse, or any other primitive church of those times. But though this cannot be made out from the writings of the new Testament, we are told,
II. That undoubted evidence may be had from the ancient fathers, that infant baptism constantly obtained in the truly primitive church. Let us a little inquire into this matter.
1. The christian writers of the first century, besides the evangelists and apostles, are Barnabas, Hermas, Clemens Romanus, Ignatius and Polycarp. As to the two first of these, Barnabas and Hermas, the learned Mr. Stennet [Answer to Russen, p. 142,143] has cited some passages out of them; and after him Mr. David Rees; [Answer to Walker, p. 157, etc.] for which reason, I forbear transcribing them; (A) which are manifest proofs of adult baptism, and that as performed by immersion; they represent the persons baptized, the one [Barnabas Epist. c. 9. p. 235,236] as hoping in the cross of Christ, the other [Hermae Pastor, l. 1. viz. 3. s.7. and l.3. s. 16] as having heard the word, and being willing to be baptized in the name of the Lord; and both as going down into the water, and coming up out of it. Clemens Romanus wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, still extant; but there is not a syllable in it about infant baptism. Ignatius wrote epistles to several churches, as well as to particular persons; but makes no mention of the practice of infant baptism in any of them: what he says of baptism, favours adult baptism; since he speaks of it as attended with faith, love, and patience: "Let your baptism (says he) remain as armour; faith as an helmet, love as a spear, and patience as whole armour." [Ignatii Epist. ad Polycarp. p. 11] Polycarp wrote an epistle to the Philippians, which is yet in being; but there is not one word in it about infant baptism. So that it is so far from being true, that there is undoubted evidence from the ancient fathers, that this practice universally and constantly obtained in the truly primitive church, that there is no evidence at all that it did obtain, in any respect, in the first century, or apostolic age; and which is the only period in which the truly primitive church of Christ can be said to subsist. There is indeed a work called, The Constitutions of the Apostles, and sometimes the Constitutions of Clemens, because he is said to be the compiler of them; and another book of Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, out of which passages have been cited in favour of infant baptism; but these are manifestly of later date than they pretend to, and were never written by the persons whose names they bear, and are condemned as spurious by learned men, and are given up as such by Dr. Wall, in his History of Infant Baptism. [Part I. c. 23]
2. The christian writers of the second century, which are extant, are Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Theophilus at Antioch, Tatian, Minutius Felix, Irenaeus, and Clemens of Alexandria; and of all these writers, there is not one that says any thing of infant baptism; there is but one pretended to, and that is Irenaeus; and but a single passage out of him; and that depends upon a single word, the signification of which is doubtful at best; and besides the passage is only a translation of Irenaeus, and not expressed in his own original words; and the chapter from whence it is taken, is by some learned men judged to be spurious; since it advances a notion inconsistent with that ancient writer, and notoriously contrary to the books of the evangelists, making Christ to live to be fifty years old, yea, to live to a senior age: the passage produced in favour of infant baptism, is this: speaking of Christ, he says,
"Sanctifying every age, by that a likeness it had to him; for he came to save all by himself; all, I say, qui per cum renascuntur in Deum, who by him are born again unto God; infants, and little ones, and children, and young men, and old men; therefore he went through every age, and became an infant to infants, sanctifying infants; and to little ones a little one, sanctifying those of that age; and likewise became an example of piety, righteousness, and subjection." [Irenaeus adv. Haeres, l. 2. c.39. p. 191]
Now, the question is about the word renascunter, whether it is to be rendered born again, which is the literal sense of the word; or baptized; the true sense of Irenaeus seems to be this, that Christ came to save all that are regenerated by his grace and Spirit; and none but they, according to his own words; [John 3:3,5] and that by assuming human nature, and passing through the several stages of life, he has sanctified it, and set an example to men of every age.
And this now is all the evidence, the undoubted evidence of infant baptism, from the fathers of the first two centuries. It would be easy to produce passages out of the above writers, in favour of believer’s baptism; I shall only cite one out of the first of them; the account that Justin Martyr gave to the Emperor Antoninus Pius of the christians of his day, though it has been cited by Mr. Stennet and Mr. Rees, I shall choose to transcribe it; because, as Dr. Wall says [History of Infant Baptism, Part I. c. 2], it is the most ancient account of the way of baptizing next the scripture.
"And now, says Justin, we will declare after what manner, when we were renewed by Christ, we devoted ourselves unto God; lest, omitting this, we should seem to act a bad part in this declaration. As many as are persuaded, and believe the things taught and said by us, to be true, and promise to live according to them, are instructed to pray, and to ask fasting, the forgiveness of their past sins of God, we praying and fasting together with them. After that, they are brought by us, where water is, and they are regenerated in the same way of regeneration, as we have been regenerated; for they are then washed in water, in the name of the Father and the Lord God of all, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the holy Spirit."
There is a work, which bears the name of Justin, called Answers to the Orthodox, concerning some necessary questions; to which we are sometimes referred for a proof of infant baptism; but the book is spurious, and none of Justin’s, as many learned men have observed, and as Dr. Wall allows; and is thought not to have been written before the fifth century. So stands the evidence for infant baptism from the ancient fathers of the first two centuries.
3. As to the third century, it will be allowed that it was spoken of in it; though as soon as it was mentioned it was opposed; and the very first man that mentions it speaks against it, namely, TERTULLIAN. The truth of the matter is, that infant baptism was moved for in the third century; got footing and establishment in the fourth and fifth; and so prevailed until the time of the reformation. Though throughout these several centuries there were testimonies bore to adult baptism; and at several times, certain persons rose up, and opposed infant baptism; which brings me,
III. To consider what our author affirms, that is cannot be pretended that this practice was called in question, or made matter of debate in the church, until the madmen of Munster set themselves against it, [Divine Right of Infant Baptism, p. 7. Let us examine this matter, and,
1. It should be observed, that the disturbances in Germany, which our Pedobaptist writers so often refer to in this controversy about baptism, and so frequently reproach us with, were first begun in the wars of the Boors, by such as were Pedobaptists, and them only; first by the Papists, some few years before the reformation; and after that, both by Lutherans and Papists, on account of civil liberties; among whom, in process of time, some few of the people called Anabaptists mingled themselves; a people that scarce in any thing agree with us, neither in their civil nor religious principles, nor even in baptism itself; for if we can depend on those that wrote the history of them, and against them, they were for repeating adult baptism, not performed among them; yea, that which was administered among themselves, when they removed their communion to another society; nay, even in the same community, when an excommunicated person was received again; [Cloppenburg. Gangraena, p. 366; Spanhem, Diatribe Hist. Sect. 27] besides, if what is reported of them is true, as it may be, their baptism was performed by sprinkling, which we cannot allow to be true baptism; it is said, that when a community of them was satisfied with the person’s faith and conversation, who proposed himself for baptism, the pastor took water into his hand, and sprinkled it on the head of him that was to be baptized, using these words, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [Budneus apnd Meshov. Hist. Anabapt. l. 4. p. 96] And even the disturbances in Munster, a famous city in Westphalia, were first begun by Bernard Rotman, a Pedobaptist minister of the Lutheran persuasion, assisted by other ministers of the reformation, in opposition to the papists in the year 1532; and it was not till the year 1533, that John Matthias of Harlem, and John Bocoldus of Leyden came to this place; [Sleiden, Comment. l. 10. p. 267,269; Spauhem, Diatribe Hist. de Origine Anabaptist. Sect. 18] who, with Knipperdolling and others, are, I suppose, the madmen of Munster, this writer means; and he may call them madmen, if he pleases; I shall not contend with him about it; they were mad notions which they held, and mad actions they performed; and both disavowed by the people, who are now called Anabaptists; though it is not reasonable to suppose, that these were the only men concerned in that affair, or that the number of their followers should increase to such a degree in so small a time, as to make such a revolution in so large a city. However, certain it is that it was not their principle about baptism that led them into such extravagant notions and actions. But what I take notice of all this for, is chiefly to observe the date of the confusions and distractions in which these madmen were concerned, which were from the year 1533 to 1536.(B)
And our next inquiry therefore is, whether there was any debate about the practice of infant baptism before this time.
2. It will appear, that it was frequently debated, before these men set themselves against it, or acted the made part they did. In the years 1532 and 1528, there were public disputations at Berne in Switzerland, between the ministers of the church there and some Anabaptist teachers; [Spanhem. ibid. Sect. 13; Meshov. Anabapt. Histor. p. 3. p. 16,18] in the year 1529, 1527, and 1525, Oecolampadius had various disputes with people of this name at Basil in the same country; [Spanhem. Sect. 13; Meshovius, ibid. c. 2] in the year 1525, there was a dispute at Zurich in the same country about Pedobaptism, between Swinglius, one of the first reformers, and Dr. Balthasar Hubmeierus, [Spanhem. Sect. 11; Meshov. l. 2. c.4] who afterwards was burnt, and his wife drowned at Vienna, in the year 1528; of whom Moshovius, [Summa Coutrovera. l. 5. p. 356] though a Papist, gives this character:--that he was from his childhood brought up in learning; and for his singular erudition was honoured with a degree in divinity; was a very eloquent man, and read in the scriptures, and fathers of the church. Hoornbeck [Summa Controvers. l. 5. p. 356] calls him a famous and eloquent preacher, and says he was the first of the reformed preachers at Waldshut. There were several disputations with others in the same year at this place; upon which an edict was made by the senate at Zurich, forbidding rebaptization, under the penalty of being fined a silver mark, and of being imprisoned, and even drowned, according to the nature of the offence. And in the year 1526, or 1527, according to Hoornbeck, Felix Mans, or Mentz, was drowned at Zurich; this man, Meshovius says [Meshov. l. 2. c. 1], whom he calls Felix Mantscher, was of a noble family; and both he and Conrad Grebel, whom he calls Cunrad Grebbe, who are said to give the first rise to Anabaptism at Zurich, were very learned men, and well skilled in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages. And the same writer affirms, that Anabaptism was set on foot at Wittenberg, in the year 1522, by Nicholas Pelaragus, or Stork, who had companions with him of very great learning, as Carolostadius, Philip Melancthon, and others; this, he says, was done, whilst Luther was lurking as an exile in the castle of Wartpurg in Thuringia; and that when he returned from thence to Wittenberg, he banished Carolostadius, Pelargus, More Didymus, and others [Mehosv. l. 1. c. 2,3], and only received Melancthon again. This carries the opposition to Pedobaptism, within five years of the Reformation, begun by Luther; and certain it is, there were many and great debates about infant baptism at the first of the Reformation, years before the affair of Munster; and evident it is, that some of the first reformers were inclined to have attempted a reformation in this ordinance, though they, for reasons best known to themselves, dropped it; and even Zwinglius himself, who was a bitter persecutor of the people called Anabaptists afterwards, was once of the same mind himself, and against Pedobaptism. But,
3. It will appear, that this was a matter of debate, and was opposed before the time of the reformation.
There was a set of people in Bohemia, near a hundred years before that, who appear to be of the same persuasion with the people called Anabaptists; for in a letter, written by Costelecius out of Bohemia to Erasmus, dated Oct. 10, 1519 [Inter Colomes. Collect. apud Wall’s History of Infant Baptism, Part II. p. 200], among other things said of them, which agree with the said people, this is one: "such as come over to their sect, must every one be baptized anew in mere water;" the writer of the letter calls them Pyghards, so named, he says, from a certain refugee that came thither 97 years before the date of the letter. Pope Innocent the third, under whom was the Lateran Council, A.D. 1215, has, in the Decretals a letter, in answer to a letter from the bishop of Arles in Provence, which had represented to him [Opera Innocent. Tertii, Tom. II. p. 776. apud Wall, ibid. p. 178], that "some hereticks there had taught, that it was to no purpose to baptize children, since they could have no forgiveness of sins thereby, as having no faith, charity, &c." So that it is a clear point, that there were some that set themselves against infant baptism in the thirteenth century, three hundred years before the reformation; yea, in the twelfth century there were some that opposed Pedobaptism.
Mr. Fox, the Martyrologist, relates from the history of Robert Guisburne [Acts and Monuments, vol. i. p. 262], that two men, Gerhardus and Dulcinus in the reign of Henry the second, about the year of our Lord 1158: who, he supposes, had received some light of knowledge of the Waldenses, brought thirty with them into England; who, by the king and the prelates, were all burnt in the forehead, and so driven out of the realm; and after were slain by the pope. Rapin [History of England, vol. i. p. 233] calls them German hereticks, and places their coming into England, in the year 1166; but William of Newbury [Neubrigensis de Rebus Anglicanis, l. 2. c. 13. p. 155] calls them Publicans, and only mentions Gerhardus, as at the head of them, and whom he allows to be somewhat learned, but all the rest very illiterate, and says they came from Gascoigne; and being convened before a council, held at Oxford for that purpose; and being interrogated concerning articles of faith, said perverse things concerning the divine sacraments, detesting holy baptism, the eucharist and marriage: and his Annotator Picardus, out of a MS. of Radulph, the monk, shews that the hereticks, called Publicans, affirm, that we must not pray for the dead; that the suffrages of the saints were not to be asked; that they believe not purgatory; with many other things; and particularly, asserunt isti Parvulos von baptisandos donec ad intelliigibilem perveniant Aetatem. "They assert that infants are not to be baptized, till they come to the age of understanding." [Not. in ibid. p. 720-723]
In the year 1147, St. Bernard wrote a letter to the Earl of St. Gyles, complaining of his harbouring Henry, a heretick; and among other things he is charged with by him, are these; "the infants of christians are hindered from the life of Christ, the grace of baptism being denied them; nor are they suffered to come to their salvation, though our Saviour compassionately cries out in their behalf, Suffer little children to come to me, &c." and about the same time, writing upon the Canticles in his 65th and 66th sermons, he takes notice of a sort of people, he calls Apostolici, and who, perhaps, were the followers of Henry; who, says he, laugh at us for baptizing infants [Wall, ibid. p. 165,176]; and among the tenets which he ascribes to them and attempts to confute, this is the first; "Infants are not to be baptized:" in opposition to which, he affirms, that infants are to be baptized in the faith of the church; and endeavours by instances to show, that the faith of one is profitable to others [Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. Cent. XII, c. 5. p. 338,339]; which he attempts from Matt. 11:2 and 15:28, 1 Tim. 2:15.
In the year 1146, Peter Bruis, and Henry his follower, set themselves against infant baptism. Petrus Cluniacensis, or Peter the abbot of Clugny, wrote against them; and among other errors he imputes to them are these: "That infants are not baptized, or saved by the faith of another, but ought to be baptized, and saved by their own faith; or that baptism without their own faith does not save; and that those that are baptized in infancy, when grown up, should be baptized again; nor are they then rebaptized, but rather rightly baptized:" [Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. Cent. XII. c. 5. p. 332] and that these men did deny infant baptism, and pleaded for adult baptism, Mr. Stennet [Answer to Russen, p. 83,84] has proved from Cassander and Prateolus, both Pedobaptists: and Dr. Wall [History of Infant Baptism, Part II, p. 184] allows these two men to be Antipedobaptists; and says, "they were the first Antipedobaptist preachers that ever set up a church, or society of men, holding that opinion against infant baptism, and rebaptizing such as had been baptized in infancy;" and who also observes [Ibid. p. 179], that the Lateran council, under Innocent the second, 1139, did condemn Peter Bruis, and Arnold of Brescia, who seems to have been a follower of Bruis, for rejecting infant baptism: moreover, in the year 1140, or a little before it, Evervinus, of the diocese of Cologn, wrote a letter to St. Bernard, in which he gives him an account of some hereticks lately discovered in that country, of whom he says, "they condemn the sacraments, except baptism only; and this only in those who are come to age; who, they say, are baptized by Christ himself, whoever be the minister of the sacraments: they do not believe infant baptism, alleging that place of the gospel, he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved." [Wall, ibid. p. 172] These seem also to be the disciples of Peter Bruis, who began to preach about the year 1126; so that it is out of all doubt, that this was a matter of debate, four hundred years before the madmen of Munster set themselves against it: and a hundred years before these, there were two men, Bruno, bishop of Angiers, and Berengarius, archdeacon of the same church, who began to spread their particular notions about the year 1035, which chiefly respected the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What they said about the former, may be learned from the letter sent by Deodwinus, bishop of Liege, to Henry I. King of France; in which are the following words: [Apud Wall, ibid. p. 159]; -- "There is a report come out of France, and which goes through all Germany, that these two (Bruno and Berengarius) do maintain, that the Lord’s body (the Host) is not the body, but a shadow and figure of the Lord’s body; and that they do disannul lawful marriages: and as far as in them lies, over throw the baptism of infants:" and from Guimundus, bishop of Aversa, who wrote against Berengarius, who says, "That he did not teach rightly concerning the baptism of infants, and concerning marriage." [Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. Cent. XI. c. 5. p. 116] Mr. Stennet relates from Dr. Allix, a passage concerning one Gundulphus and his followers in Italy; divers of whom, Gerard, bishop of Cambray and Arras, interrogated upon several heads in the year 1025: and among other things, that bishop mentions the following reason, which they gave against infant baptism; "because to an infant, that neither wills nor runs, that knows nothing of faith, is ignorant of its own salvation and welfare, in whom there can be no desire of regeneration or confession; the will, faith and confession of another seem not in the least to appertain." Dr. Wall, indeed, represents these men the disciples of Gundulphus, as Quakers and Manichees in the point of baptism, holding that water baptism is of no use to any: but it must be affirmed, whatever their principles were, that their argument against infant baptism was very strong. So then, we have testimonies that Pedobaptism was opposed five hundred years before the affair of Munster. And if the Pelagians, Donatists, and Luciferians, so called from Lucifer Calaritanus, a very orthodox man, and a great opposer of the Arians, were against infant baptism, as several Pedobaptist writers affirm; this carries the opposition to it still higher; and indeed it may seem strange, that since it had not its establishment till the times of Austin, that there should be none to set themselves against it; and if there were none, how comes it to pass that such a canon should be made in the Milevitan council, under Pope Innocent the first, according to Carrauza [Summa Concil. p. 122,123]; and in the year 402, as say the Magdeburgensian Centuriators [Cent. V. c. 9. p. 468]; or be it in the council at Carthage, in the year 418, as says Dr. Wall [History, &c. Part II. p. 172,276], which runs thus; "Also, it is our pleasure, that whoever denies that new-born infants are to be baptized; or says, they are indeed to be baptized for the remission of sins; and yet they derive no original sin from Adam to be expiated by the washing of regeneration; (from whence it follows, that the form of baptism for the forgiveness of sins in them, cannot be understood to be true, but false) let him be anathema:" but if there were none that opposed the baptism of new-born infants, why should the first part of this canon be made, and an anathema annexed to it? To say that it respected a notion of a single person in Cyprian’s time, 150 years before this, that infants were not to be baptized until eight days old; and that it seems there were some people still of this opinion, wants proof. But however, certain it is, that Tertullian, [De Baptismo, c. 18] in the beginning of the third century, opposed the baptism of infants, and dissuaded from it, who is the first writer that makes mention of it: so it appears, that as soon as ever it was set on foot, it became matter of debate; and sooner than this it could not be: and this was thirteen hundred years before the madmen of Munster appeared in the world. But,
IV. Let us next consider the practice of the ancient Waldenses, with respect to adult baptism, which this author [of "The Divine Right of Infant Baptism] affirms to be a chimerical imagination, and groundless figment. It should be observed, that the people called Waldenses, or the Vaudois, inhabiting the vallies of Piedmont, have gone under different names, taken from their principal leaders and teachers; and so this of the Waldenses, from Peter Waldo, one of their barbs, r pastors; though some think this name is only a corruption of Vallenses, the inhabitants of the vallies: and certain it is, there were a people there before the times of Waldo, and even from the apostles’ time, that held the pure evangelic truths, and bore a testimony to them in all ages, and throughout the dark times of popery, as many learned men have observed; and the sense of these people concerning baptism may be best understood [Dr. Allix’s Remarks on the Ancient Churches of Piedmont, p. 183,207,210,286. Morland’s History of the evangelical churches of the vallies of Piiedmont. B. 1. c. 3. p. 8, &c. Et Bezae Ieoues apud ibid. Introduction to the History, p. 7],
1. By what their ancient barbs or pastors taught concerning it. Peter Bruis, and Henry his successor, were both, as Morland affirms [History, B. 1. ch. 8. p. 184], their ancient barbs and pastors; and from them these people were called Petrobrusians and Henricians; and we have seen already that these two men were Antipedobaptists, denied infant baptism, and pleaded for adult baptism. Arnoldus of Brixia, or Brescia, was another of their barbs, and is the first mentioned by Morland, from whom these people were called Arnoldists. Of this man Dr. Allix says, [Remarks, &c. p. 171,172] that besides being charged with some ill opinions, it was said of him, that he was not sound in his sentiments concerning the sacrament of the altar, and the baptism of infants; and Dr. Wall allows, [History of Infant Baptism, Part II, p. 179] that the Lateran council, under Innocent the second, 1139, did condemn Peter Bruis, and Arnold of Brescia, who seems to have been a follower of Bruis, for rejecting infant baptism. Lollardo was another of their barbs, who, as Morland says, was in great reputation with them for having conveyed the knowledge of their doctrine into England, where his disciples were known by the name of Lollards; who were charged with holding, that the sacrament of baptism used in the church by water, is but a light matter, and of small effect; that christian people be sufficiently baptized in the blood of Christ, if their parents be baptized before them. [Fox’s Acts and Monuments, vol. i. p. 868] All which seem to arise from their denying of infant baptism, and the efficacy of it to take away sin.
2. By their ancient confessions of faith, and other writings which have been published. In one of these, bearing date A.D. 1120, the 12th and 13th articles run this: "We do believe that the sacraments are signs of the holy thing, or visible forms of the invisible grace; accounting it good, that the faithful sometimes use the said signs, or visible forms, if it may be done. However, we believe and hold, that the abovesaid faithful may be saved without receiving the signs aforesaid, in case they have no place, nor any means to use them. We acknowledge no other sacrament but baptism and the Lord’s Supper." [Morland’s History, &c. B. I. ch. 4. p. 34]
And in another ancient confession, without a date, the 7th article is: "We believe that in the sacrament of baptism, water is the visible and external sign, which represents unto us that which (by the invisible virtue of God operating) is within us; namely, the renovation of the Spirit, and the mortification of our members in Jesus Christ; by which also we are received into the holy congregation of the people of God, there protesting and declaring openly our faith, and amendment of life." [Morland’s History, p. 38]
In a tract, written in the language of the ancient inhabitants of the vallies, in the year 1100, called the Noble Lesson, are these words; speaking of the apostles it is observed of them, "they spoke without fear of the doctrine of Christ; they preached to Jews and Greeks, working many miracles, and those that believed they baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." [Ibid. ch. 6. p. 99,112]
And in a treatise concerning antichrist, which contains many sermons of the barbs, collected in the year 1120, and so speaks the sense of their ancient pastors before this time, stands the following passage: "The third work of antichrist consists in this, that he attributes the regeneration of the holy Spirit unto the dead outward work (or faith) baptizing children in that faith, and teaching, that thereby baptism and regeneration must be had, and therein he confers and bestows orders and other sacraments, and groundeth therein all his christianity, which is against the holy Spirit." [Ibid. ch. 7. p. 112,118]
There are indeed two confessions of theirs, which are said to speak of infant baptism; but these are of a late date, both of them in the sixteenth century; and the earliest is not a confession of the Waldenses or Vaudois in the vallies of Piedmont, but of the Mohemians, said to be presented to Ladislaus, king of Bohemia, A.D. 1508, and afterwards amplified and explained, and presented to Ferdinand king of Bohemia, A.D. 1435; and it should be observed, that those people say, that they were falsely called Waldenses; [Morland’s History, ch. 4. p. 43] whereas it is certain there were a people in Bohemia that came out of the vallies, and sprung from the old Waldenses, and were truly so, who denied infant baptism, as that sort of them called Pyghards or Picards; who, near a hundred years before the reformation, as we have seen by the letter sent to Erasmus out of Bohemia, rebaptized persons that joined in communion with them; and Scultetus, [Apud Hoornbeck. Summa Controvers. l. 5. p. 387] in his annals on the year 1528, says, that the united brethren in Bohemia, and other godly persons of that time, were rebaptized; not that they patronized the errors of the Anabaptists, (meaning such that they were charged with, which had no relation to baptism) but because they could not see how they could otherwise separate themselves from an unclean world. The other confession is indeed made by the ministers and heads of the churches in the vallies, assembled in Angrogue, Sep. 12, 1532. [Morland, ibid. ch. 4. p. 39] Now it should be known, that this was made after that "Peter Masson and George Morell were sent into Germany in the year 1530, as Morland says, to treat with the chief ministers of Germany, viz. Occolampadius, Bucer, and others, touching the reformation of their churches; but Peter Masson was taken prisoner at Dijon." However, as Fox says, Morell escaped, and returned alone to Merindol with the books and letters he brought with him from the churches of Germany; and declared to his brethren all the points of his commission; and opened unto them, how many great errors they were in; into the which their old ministers, whom they called barbs, that is to say uncles, had brought them, leading them from the right way of true religion." After which, this confession was drawn up, signed, and swore to: from hence we learn where they might get this notion, which was now become matter of great debate in Switzerland and Germany; and yet after all this, I am inclined to think that the words of the article in the said confession, are to be so understood as not to relate to infant baptism: they are these: "We have but two sacramental signs left us by Jesus Christ; the one is baptism, the other is the eucharist, which we receive, to shew that our perseverance in the faith is such as we promised when we were baptized, being little children." This phrase, being little children, as I think, means their being little children in knowledge and experience, when they were baptized; since they speak of their receiving the eucharist, to shew their perseverance in the faith they then had promised to persevere in: besides, if this is to be understood of them as infants in a literal sense, what promise were they capable of making when such? Should it be said, that they promised by their sureties, it should be observed, that the Waldenses did not admit of godfathers and godmothers in baptism; this is one of the abuses their ancient barbs complained of in baptism, as administered by the papists. [Morland, ibid. c. 7. p. 173] Besides, in a brief confession of faith, published by the reformed churches of Piedmont, so late as A.D. 1655, they have these words in favour of adult baptism; "that God does not only instruct and teach us by his word, but has also ordained certain sacraments to be joined with it, as a means to unite us unto Christ, and to make us partakers of his benefits: and there are only two of them belonging in common to all the members of the church under the new testament; to wit, baptism and the Lord’s supper; that God has ordained the sacrament of baptism to be a testimony of our adoption and of our being cleansed from our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ, and renewed in holiness of life:" [Ibid. c. 4. p. 61,67] nor is there one word in it of infant baptism.
Upon the whole, it will be easily seen what little reason the writer of the dialogue under consideration had to say, that the ancient Waldenses, being in the constant practice of adult baptism, is a chimerical imagination, and a groundless fiction; since there is nothing appears to the contrary, but that they were in the practice of it until the sixteenth century; for what is urged against it, is since that time: and even at that time there were some that continued in the practice of it; for Ludovicus Vives, who wrote in the said century, having observed, that "formerly no person was brought to the holy baptistry till he was of adult age, and when he both understood what that mystical water meant, and desired to be washed in it, yea, desired it more than once," adds the following words; "I hear in some cities in Italy, the old custom is still in a great measure preserved." [Audio in quibusdam Italiae Urbibus morem veterem magna ex parte adhuc conservari. Comment. in Aug. de Civ. Dei, Lib. I. c. 27] Now, what people should he mean by some cities of Italy, unless the remainders of the Petrobrussians, or Waldenses, as Dr. Wall observes, who continued that practice in the vallies of Piedmont: and it should be observed, that there were different sects that went by the name of Waldenses, and some of them of very bad principles; some of them were Manichees, and held other errors: and indeed it was usual for the papists in former times, to call all by this name that dissented from them; so that it need not be wondered at, if some, bearing this name, were for infant baptism, and others not. The Vaudois in the vallies, are the people chiefly to be regarded; and it will not be denied, that of late years infant baptism has obtained among them: but that the ancient Waldenses practised it, wants proof.
But it will be necessary to say a little "concerning the mode of administering the ordinance of baptism, whether by immersion or by sprinkling."
The author of the dialogue under consideration affirms that there is not one single lexicographer or critic upon the Greek language, he has ever seen, but what agrees, that though the word baptizo sometimes signifies to dip, yet it also naturally signifies to wash; and that washing, in any mode whatsoever, is the native signification of the word baptismos; that the words baptize and baptism, (as used in the new testament) do not, from their signification, make dipping or plunging the necessary mode of administering the ordinance.
As to the lexicographers and critics on the Greek language, they agree that the word baptizo signifies, in its first and primary sense, to dip or plunge, and only in a secondary and consequential sense, to wash, but never to pour or sprinkle, there being no proper washing, but what is by dipping; and for this we appeal to all the writers of this kind, and even to those this author mentions.
Scapula, the first of them, renders baptizo by mergo, seu immergo, ut quae tingendi, aut abluendi gratia aquae immergimus, "to dip or plungs into, as what for the sake of dying or washing we dip into water;’ item mergo, submergo, obruo aqua, "also to plunge, plunge under, overwhelm in water;’ item abluo, lavo, also to wash off, wash;" and baptizomai, he renders, by mergor, submergor, "to be plunged, plunged under;" and observes, that it is used metaphorically for obruor, to be overwhelmed; and baptismos, and baptisma, he says, is mersio, lotio, ablutio, ipse immergendi, item lavandi, seu abluendi actus, "plunging, washing, ablution." In all which, he makes dipping, or plunging, to be the first and preferable sense of the words.
Stephens gives the same sense of the words, and so Schrevelius, who renders baptizo, mergo lavo, baptize, plunge, wash. Pasor only renders it baptizo, baptize, without determining its sense. And Leigh, in his Critica Sacra, observes, that "the nature and proper signification of it is, "to dip into water, or to plunge under water;" and refers to John 3:22,23; Matt. 3:16; Acts 8:38. And cities Casaubon, Bacanus, Bullinger, and Zanchy, as agreeing and testifying to this sense of it; and baptisma, he says, is "dipping into water, or washing with water." And these are the lexicographers and critics our author refers us to: to which I may add the lexicon, compiled by Budaeus, Constantine, and others, who render the word baptizo, by immergo, mergo, intingo, lavacro tingo, abluo, madefacio, lavo, mundo; plunge, plungs into, dip into, dip in a laver, wash off, make wet, wash, cleanse: and baptismos, they say, is tingendi, hoc est mergendi, Actio, in quo significatu Tinctura dicitur. "The action of tinging, that is, of plunging; in which signification it is called a tincture," or dying; and another by Hadrian Junius, who renders baptizo, by immergo, to plunge into; and baptismos, by immersio, lotio, baptismus, immersion, washing, baptism.
As for other critics on the Greek language, who assert, that the proper signification of the word baptizo, is to dip, or plunge; they are so numerous, that it would be tedious to reckon them up: I shall only mention a few of them, and their words. Calvin says, "Ipsum baptizandi Verbum mergere significat, & mergendi Ritum veteri Ecclesic observatum fuisse constat. The word, baptize, signifies to plunge; and it is plain that the rite of plunging was observed in the ancient church." Beza, who must be allowed to be a learned critic in the Greek language, says on Mark 7:4, "Neque vero to baptizein, significat lavare, nisi a consequenti, nam proprie declarat tingendi Causa immergere. Neither does the word baptizo signify to wash, unless consequentially; for it properly signifies, to plunge into, for the sake of tinging," or dying; and "on Matt. 3:11, he says, significat autem to baptizein, tingere, quum para to baptein, dicatur, & quum tingenda mergantur. The word baptizo, signifies to dip (as dyers in the Vatt) seeing it comes from bapto, to dip, and seeing things, that are to be dyed, are dipped." Casaubon, another great critic on the Greek language, has these words on Matt. 3:6, "Hic emim fuit baptizandi Ritus ut in Aquas immergerentur, quod vel ipso Vox baptizein, declarat salis--unde intelligimus non esse ab re, quod jam pridem nonnulli dispatarant de toto Corpore immergendo in Ceremonia baptismi; vocem enim baptizein, urgebant. For this was the rite of baptizing, that persons should be plunged into water, which the word baptizo sufficiently declares; hence, we understand, that it was not foreign from the matter, which some, sometime ago, disputed, concerning plunging the whole body in the ceremony of baptism; for they urged the signification of the word, baptizo." And, that this is the proper signification of the word, he observes, in his notes on Acts 1:5 and 2:4.
To which I shall only add one more critic, and that is Grotius; who, on Matt. 3:6, thus writes; "Mersatione autem non perfusione agi solitum hunc Ritum indicat & Vocis proprietas, & Loca ad eum Ritum delecta, (John 3:23; Acts 8:38) & Allusiones multae Apostolorum quae ad Aspersionem referri non possunt, (Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12). That this rite used to be performed by plunging, and not by pouring, both the propriety of the word, and the places chosen for this rite show, (John 3:23; Acts 8:38) and the many allusions of the apostles, which cannot be referring to sprinkling, (Rom. 6:3,4; Col. 2:12)." I might have here subjoined some instances of the use of the word in Greek authors, by which it appears to have the sense of dipping and plunging, and not of pouring or sprinkling; but this has been largely done by Dr. Gale and others.(D)
Wherefore, upon the whole, let the reader judge which is the most proper and significative rite, used in the administration of the ordinance of baptism; whether immersion, which is the proper and primary sense of the word baptism, and is confirmed to be the rite used, by the places in which baptism was administered; and by several scriptural instances and examples of it, as well as by allusive expressions; and which fitly represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ: or, sprinkling, which the word baptism never signifies, and is not confirmed by any of the said ways; nor does it represent any thing for which baptism is administered. Let it be therefore seriously considered, what a daring thing it is to introduce into this ordinance subjects which Christ never appointed, and a mode of administering it, never used by him or his apostles. In matters of worship, God is a jealous God. The case of Nadab and Abihu ought to be remembered by us, who offered strange fire which the Lord commanded not. In things relating to religious worship, as this ordinance of baptism is a part of divine worship, we ought to have a direction from God, either a precept or a precedent: and we ought to keep to the rule, both as to matter and manner, and not dare to innovate in either, lest it should be said to us, Who hath required this at your hands? and become chargeable with will-worship, and with teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
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