William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

On Infant Baptism

by George Gillespie
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 Pdobaptism 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

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, neid: -

Durum a stirpe genus, natos ad fumina primum
Deferimus, svoque geluduramus, et stu.
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

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,
Budus, 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 aqu, &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 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 qu
ethnici in mysteriis suis, et hretici pollicentur, qui omnes
lavant, sed non lavant in salutem. Propterea additum est, et aqua
non es lota in salutem: Quod quidem non solum de hreticis, 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 Israelit 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 prter diem unicum, fmin 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 tatem 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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