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Infant Baptism

George Gillespie (1613-1648)

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“It is the privilege of the new Jerusalem which is above, that there is no temple therein, Rev. 21.22, no ministry, no preaching, no sacraments in heaven, but God shall be all in all. An immediate enjoyment of God in this world without ordinances is but a delusion. In the church triumphant prophecies shall fail, 1 Cor. 13.8; but in the church militant, “despise not prophesyings,” 1 Thess. 5.20.

Gillespie answers John Tombes concisely in this short Miscellany.

Scottish Commissioner To the Assembly of Divines At Westminster.

Mr. Tombes, in his Apology for the two treatises, and appendix concerning infant baptism, inserts a letter to Mr Selden, p. 90, in which he intimateth his opinion, that Pædobaptism did not succeed into the room of circumcision, wherein he saith he was the more confirmed, having read of baptism used among the Jews before the time of John Baptist, in their admitting of proselytes, and that therefore John was not accused for baptising, as if that had been an innovation or new rite introduced, but for baptising without authority.

I do not marvel that Mr. Tombes is so cautious that baptism should not be thought to succeed into the room of circumcision, for so he should make baptism more like to the circumcision of the Arabians, who are not circumcised till they be thirteen years of age (as Zonaras, Annal., tom. 1, de Rebus Judaicis, p. 13, tells us), because their forefather Ishmael was circumcised about that age, than to the circumcision of the eighth day, ordinarily used among the people of God, under the Old Testament. For my part, I think the Apostle, Col. ii. 11, 12, doth plainly hold forth that baptism hath succeeded into the room of circumcision, which is also the common and received opinion of divines. However, because Mr. Tombes doth rather think that the Christian baptism succeedeth to that baptism used among the Jews in their admission of proselytes, this hath given occasion to me to apply my thoughts to search a little into the original of baptism by water; and whether the original thereof, or that which God had respect unto in the institution thereof, maketh anything against, or for, infant baptism.

That baptising with water is a divine institution, is plain from John i. 33, “He that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending,” &c. As for that which this institution had reference unto in the Old Testament or Jewish customs, first of all consider Ezek. xvi. 4, “As for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee,” &c. Where the Chaldee salth, “The congregation of Israel was like unto a child cast out into the open field, whose navel is not cut, and it is not washed in water, that it might be cleansed.” The Septuagint, whom Jerome followeth, “And thou art not washed in water unto salvation:” eis swthrian, in salutem. Jerome1 applieth it to baptism, as being necessary even to infants who are in their blood and sinful pollution, and have therefore need to be washed in the laver of regeneration, and baptised.

Not only the Hebrews, but the heathens had a custom of washing infants soon after their birth, in those hot countries. Hence that of Virgil., lib. 9, Æneid: –

Durum a stirpe genus, natos ad fumina primum
Deferimus, sævoque geluduramus, et æstu.
Pineda, de Rebus Solomonis, lib. 1, cap. 13, noteth, that from the Hebrews and Egyptians this custom of washing new-born babes was derived almost to all nations, for which purpose he citeth many testimonies.

In the next place consider, that as the institution of baptism by water related to that in Ezek. xvi. 4, so also to the typical baptism of all the children of Israel, men, women, and children, in the Red Sea and in the cloud; 1 Cor. x. 1, 2, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” The Apostle, speaking there of the church which was brought out of Egypt (whom he calls “our fathers,” because they were the people and church of God long before us, and from them the law and service of God was transmitted and propagated to us), showeth, that as their sacraments could not profit them to salvation, they living in sin and provoking God after they had received those sacraments, no more can our sacraments profit us if we sin as they did; for their privileges were the same with ours. The manna and water out of the rock was the same for substance and signification to them which the supper of the Lord is to us; the same spiritual meat, the same spiritual drink, was given both to them and us. So likewise their passing through the sea, and under the cloud, was the very same for substance and signification with our baptism, and they were externally baptised with a true sacrament of baptism as well as we. That baptism of theirs did fitly resemble this baptism of ours in divers respects. For instance, 1. They were first brought out of Egypt before they were brought through the sea, so we are first redeemed by Christ, and find grace and favour in his eyes, before we receive the seals of the covenant of grace. Baptism is intended only for the redeemed of the Lord. 2. They were baptised unto Moses (or as the Syriac and Arabic, as likewise Augustine, by Moses), that is, Moses was the leader and commander of the people (so Theophylact), and he the captain of their salvation, or rather Moses was a typical mediator, typifying Christ; or they were baptised unto Moses, that is, they were by baptism dedicated and consecrated to that covenant, promise of life, faith and obedience, which God revealed by the hand of Moses; so are we baptised unto Christ, or unto his death, and the benefits and fruits thereof. The same covenant of grace, for substance, was sealed by their baptism and ours. 3. That baptism of theirs did visibly separate between them and the Egyptians, for the cloud divided them from the Egyptians, and the sea drowned the Egyptians; so our baptism, which is unto us a token of salvation, is unto aliens, and those without, a token of perdition, and distinguisheth between the church and the rest of the world. 4. Their baptism was by water, both in the sea and cloud (it being also probably conceived that they were sprinkled with drops both of the sea and cloud); so is ours by water. 5. The sea resembleth the water, the cloud resembleth the Spirit, in our baptism (so Athanasius); that is, beside the water in baptism, the Spirit is also poured out from on high, and there is an influence of grace from above, according to the good pleasure of God’s will, upon so many as are ordained to eternal life. That the cloud did typify the Spirit, was Damascenus’ observation, who is herein followed by some interpreters. 6. They passed but once through the Red Sea, but the cloud continued always with them in the wilderness. So the external baptism is a transient action, and but once used to one person, not reiterated; but the Spirit and gracious presence of God continueth ever with them in this world. 7. They passed through the sea, and were under the cloud, and so baptised, before they did eat of the manna, or drink of water out of the rock; so must we be baptised before we be fit to receive the Lord’s supper. 8. All that were baptised in the sea and cloud were not acceptable to God, for with many of them God was not well pleased, and he sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest; so of those that are now baptised many are excluded from the heavenly Canaan.

For these and the like respects the Apostle compareth, paralleleth and equalleth, their sacramental privilege of baptism with ours. And as P. Martyr observeth upon the place, the Apostle doth not give instance in their circumcision, but in their baptism, that his parallel and comparison with our baptism might be the more evident. Now, therefore, if this parallel hold so fully, then add two considerations more to make it yet more full: they are both of them against the Anabaptists. First, They were truly baptised with water, when but wet or besprinkled under the cloud (and therefore the Apostle saith, they were baptised “in the cloud”); so are we and our children truly baptised with water, when sprinkled as well as dipped, which is not at all inconsistent, but most agreeable to the signification of the verb baptizein. For although it signifieth, immergere, tingere, in which sense Julius Pollux, lib. 1, cap. 9, reckoneth among the passions of a ship, tizesqai , submergi, to be drowned or run under water (and if any shall contend that the native signification of baptizw is mergo or tingo, I neither think it can be convincingly proved, nor that it maketh against sprinkling though it were proved), this I hope cannot be denied, that baptizw doth also signify abluo, lavo, and so is used for any manner of washing by water, which whosoever will deny shall contradict Hesychius, Budæus, Stephanus, Scapula, Arias Montanus, Pasor, in their lexicons, and the Holy Ghost himself, 1 Cor. x. 2; Heb. ix. 10; Luke xi. 38, with Mark vii. 3, 4. Secondly, I observe, that though the infants of the people of Israel were not fit to eat of the manna, and drink of the water out of the rock, as those of some age did, yet the youngest of their infants were baptised, and received a sacramental seal of their interest in Christ and the covenant of grace, which is a notable precedent to our infant baptism; and it must needs hold, unless we weaken, yea, subvert, the Apostle’s argumentation in that place. For what more certain than that among so many hundred thousand people there were divers infants who had not yet the use of reason, nor were able to give an account of their faith? What more uncontrovertible than that these infants were, with the rest of the congregation, baptised in the sea and under the cloud, being externally incorporated in the commonwealth of Israel and the seed of Abraham? What more manifest than that the Apostle holds forth to us that their baptism was materially or substantially the same with ours, both for the grace signified and sealed, and for the very element of water? So that this infant baptism of theirs is (upon the matter, and according to the Apostle’s doctrine) a good warrant for infant baptism among us, as well as if the New Testament had expressly told us that some infants were baptised by Christ or his apostles. This argument hath taken deep impression in my thoughts, and while I look after the suffrage of divines, I find some of very good note have had the same notion from this text against the Anabaptists, showing also that their objections against infant baptism fall as heavy upon that baptism of the children of Israel.2 My reverend brother, Mr. Baillie, hath drawn an argument from the same text for infant baptism, see Anabaptisme, p. 149, 150.

But now, thirdly, whereas it is stood upon that the original of baptism was derived from the baptism used among the Jews in the admission of proselytes, first, it must be proved by those who are of this opinion, that the Jewish custom of baptising with water the proselytes whom they received, is older than John Baptist, which I find supposed, yet not proved. Mr. Ainsworth, on Gen. xvii. 12, is indeed of that opinion, that the custom of baptising proselytes is older than John Baptist, but he brings no testimony for this older than Moses Maimonides. Mr. Marshall, in his defence of infant baptism, p. 170, yieldeth to Mr. Tombes, that baptism was a known rite among the Jews at their admitting of proselytes long before it begun to be a sacrament of divine institution. And so from Mr. Tombes own supposition, he argueth for infant baptism, which he had reason to do. Nevertheless I have never yet read proof or testimony brought to prove the baptism of proselytes, which is not far short of John Baptist or Christ’s days. The Scripture mentions no sign, or seal, or ceremony, of the initiation of proselytes, but circumcision, after profession of their faith and desire to worship the true God, and to be of his people. The baptising of proselytes was one of the Jewish traditions and inventions, in their latter and declining times. When it began I have not yet found, neither have I yet seen any proof which can make that custom older than John Baptist, or as old as Christ’s baptism. Next, let it be proved to be as old as it can, yet the greatest searchers of the Jewish antiquities have observed, that the baptism of proselytes was administered not only to those who were grown up and of age, but to children also under age. So Dr. Buxtorf and Mr. Selden.3

Such a proselyte under age the Hebrew writers call wfq rg, ger katan; and they reckon a son to be minor et puer from his nativity till he be thirteen years old (for which see Buxtorf on the word wfq), so that by their principles a child one or two years of age might be baptised as a proselyte upon the consent of the father or of the court.

I conclude, that since the institution of baptism by water hath respect unto those baptisings or washings in the Old Testament, which are mentioned Ezek. xvi. 4; 1 Cor. x. 1, 2, whereof infants as well as aged persons were partakers, and since the very Talmudists admit the infants of proselytes as well as themselves to baptism, surely Mr. Tombes hath gained nothing, but lost much, by starting this question.

I add another text, Eph. v. 26, where the Apostle (having respect, as I conceive, to those passages in the Old Testament) saith, that Christ “loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it,” &c. Are not the children of the faithful parts of this church which Christ loved, and for which he might give himself, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle? If so, then remember that whole text is copulative; and none that belong to the church and body of Christ may be secluded from any part of the text. We may as well hold that the children of believers not yet grown up to knowledge and the use of reason, are incapable of the love of Christ, or of justification, sanctification and glorification by Christ, as to hold that they are incapable of the “washing of water by the word,” i.e., of baptism, which cannot be made void, but is efficacious to all the members of Christ, young and old, by virtue of the word of promise and covenant of grace sealed in that sacrament; according to that of Augustine, Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum. The washing of water by the word can no more be restricted to the church of aged or actual believers than Christ’s love and death, with the ends and effects thereof, can be restricted to such. The complication of these benefits is clearer in the original; the nearest rendering whereof is thus, That cleansing it with the laver of water, by the word, he might sanctify. it. The Tigurine version thus, Ut illam sanctificaret, mundatam lavacro aquœ, &c.


1. Jer. in Ezek. xvi.; et in aqua non es lota in salutem: Cruenta infantium corpora, statim ut emittuntur ex utero lavari solent. Ita ut generatio spiritualis, lavacro indiget salutari. Nullus enim mundus à sorde nec si unius quidem diei fuerit vita ejus, et in Psalmis legitur: In iniquitatibus conceptus sum, et in delictis concepit me mater mea. Secunda nativitas solvit primam nativitatem. Scriptum est enim. Nisi quis renatus fuerit ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto, non potest intrare in regnum Dei. Multaque sunt lavacra quæ ethnici in mysteriis suis, et hæretici pollicentur, qui omnes lavant, sed non lavant in salutem. Propterea additum est, et aqua non es lota in salutem: Quod quidem non solum de hæreticis, sed de ecclesiasticis intelligi potest; qui non plena fide accipiunt baptismum salutare.

2. Synops. Purior. Theol., disp. 44, thes. 48: Item exempla infantium Israeliticorum, qui non minus quam Israelitæ adulti, sub nube et in mari rubro fuerunt baptizati, teste apostolo, 1 Cor. x. Gualther. Archetyp. in 1 Cor. x. 1, 2: Confutantur anabaptistarum errores. Negant infantibus baptismum, quia nuspia legatur esse baptizatos, et quia mysterium non intelligant. At baptizati sunt omnes qui mare transierunt, inter quos infantes quoque fuerunt. Exod. xx. Deinde neque isti intellexerunt mysteria, nec ideo symbola prophauata sunt.

3. Buxt. Lex. Chald. Rabb. et Talmud., p. 407: Proselyto minorem; conferunt baptismum ex decreto domus judicii, hoc est, senatus. M. Selden, de Jure Nat. et Gent., lib. 2, cap. 2: Ut Gentiles majores ad hunc modum ex animi sui sententia proselyti fiebant, ita minores (masculi ante annum decimum tertium præter diem unicum, fœminæ ante annum duodecimum et diem insuper expletum) ex sententia sive patris sive fori cui suberant in Judaismum pariter cooptati. Atque actus tam forensis quam paternus assensum eorum tum in circumcisione et baptismo, tum in sacrificio offerendo quod sequebatur, supplebat. Si vero minor, simul ac ætatem compleverat, Judaismo renunciasset, nec eum omnino postquam major erat, fuisset amplexus, ita dein evanuit, quicquid per initiamenta quibus ex assensu sive paterno, sive forensi cooptatus est, ut in Gentilis plane conditionem rediret.

4. Filius ex quo natus est, dum fuerit tredecim annoram vocatur minor et puer.

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